It’s been a weird day and it’s not over yet. It started with just a little snow and some disappointment about a change of birthday plans for the week.
Then things got weird. All of the schools and all of the businesses that weren’t smart enough to close for the day when snow was forecast? They let all their students and all their employees home at once – about 1:30 this afternoon. At that point it had been snowing for nearly 2 hours in some parts of the city. And not just any snow, but a wet, sticky snow that stuck and quickly began to form a layer of ice.
Now a lot of people from colder climes like to make fun of those of us in the South who freak out when it snows. They laugh that we close streets, shut down schools, and send people home over 1-2 inches of snow. But what many people don’t realize is that when it snows in the South, it’s not just snow. It almost immediately turns to slush and then freezes into sheets of solid ice. And because it’s a rare occurrence, we don’t have the infrastructure to salt and sand all the roads. So if you’re away from home when it starts snowing, you stand a really good chance of being stuck on slick, icy roads in a car without proper tires and surrounded by people who have never had to learn to drive on ice (either).
As of right now (a little after midnight), H has been trying to get home from work (15 miles from here) since a little after 5 p.m. He pulled off the road for a while when people started sliding into each other, and get back on around 7 when a couple of accidents had been pushed off the road. Now, 5 hours into his drive, he’s a little over halfway home, but still has to cross the river – and I strongly suspect the bridge is frozen, if not completely closed down.
There are no hotels available – I’ve looked. Home Depot is keeping it’s doors open and offering shelter to people who are stranded. So are several churches along the way. H has elected not to stop at any of those places – instead putting his Colorado-learned winter driving skills into practice and trying to avoid the abandoned cars, fender benders, and worst of the hills and overpasses.
My disappointment over my altered birthday plans has been eclipsed by fear and worry – not just for H but for the hundreds of people who are still stranded on icy highways here in Atlanta. I have several friends who have run out of gas while sitting on the road. I know one person who is sheltering in a church 6 miles from her home after being in the car for 8 hours. I know one person who is sleeping in his office (without badly needed meds) because all the overpasses have been shut down and he has no way to cross the highway to get home tonight.
It’s not supposed to rise above freezing tomorrow, but there is supposed to be sunlight. I only hope that enough of the slick, icy streets will thaw that people can get home and be safe.
A couple of inches of snow is nothing when you’re used to it and when you have the infrastructure and experience to deal with it. It’s pretty damn scary when you don’t.