I was born in New York and lived there until I was 6 years old. I still call myself a Yankee even though I’ve lived in Georgia since that time. I can remember one of my first snows on Long Island, NY. I was about as tall as the snow was deep, and a neighbor decided to throw me into the air so that I could land in that very snow. It was awesome. Since my early years in New York, I’ve been in Georgia where snow is a rarity. Try every 5 or 6 years for a light dusting. I can recall each and every time it has legitimately snowed where I was in Georgia since 1996. It’s been three times. Two extra if you count some wicked ice storms. Now, Georgia has never handled snow well, but it’s never been horribly debilitated by it. At least, not like this time.
At approximately 10AM on January 28th, 2014, snow started falling in the Metro Atlanta area. At first, it was thought that we’d just get a light dusting of one to two inches. By 2PM, the entire state decided to leave their current locations and head home when the weather service deemed it to be more dangerous than a light dusting. By 2:45PM, Metro Atlanta was in gridlock. Normal treks home were extended to incredulous hours. Some people spent 8 hours or more in their cars. Some people never made it home. A tremendous number of people ran out of gas, slid off to the side of the road, or simply crashed at the home of a friend, neighbor, or co-worker. After a failed 4-hour excursion to go 3 miles to Zaxby’s for lunch, I decided to wait at work for the gridlock to die down. My usual 20-minute commute took 7 tries up a hill, 3 uncontrolled slides down hills, 4 dodged accidents, 1 blown red light, and a 2 hour total commute. I consider myself very fortunate considering what the rest of the state dealt with. What was really amazing was seeing how many people were offering help to the stranded. A number of people were walking back and forth from their homes, or making deliveries on 4-wheel ATVs to people stuck in cars or out of gas. As a cynical person, it was truly incredible to see this touch of humanity.
Since the weather conditions remained heinous, I was allowed to skip work today. Naturally, I spent it taking pictures. I really wanted to go to Kennesaw Mountain, but the road conditions and my lack of all-wheel drive prohibited that, much to my dismay. So instead, I used my two feet and walked about. My apartment complex was certainly entertaining, but what interested me the most was the highway. I wanted to see if it was still gridlocked. One mile later and I was within spitting distance of the overpass. I had stopped to get an image of the on-ramp when another photographer passed by me and asked if I’d seen the highway yet. He stated that they were about to start moving the trucks in a few minutes, so I had better run down the hill quickly to get the shots. Halfway down the hill, I realized that the story wouldn’t be the up-close shot, but the wide-open, environmental image. I quickly jumped the guardrail and got to the center of the overpass to see this.
I was completely dumbfounded by the magnitude of what still remained of yesterday’s traffic jam. It was just completely mind-blowing. I’m incredibly proud of these images, and even more thankful of how fortunate I was to make it home in one piece and have plenty of food and drink in the fridge. I can’t even being to imagine how long it will take to sort out this mess, assuming the weather cooperates. My thoughts go out to all the people who are still stuck in their cars without food, bathrooms, and probably fuel as well. If you’re at home, stay there, and try to help those in need. If you’re not in the state of Georgia and are laughing at a bunch of Southerners who can’t drive in the snow, know this: Even people from the North would be screwed in this. There is almost nothing but ice out now and Georgia as a state was not prepared for this catastrophe. As a Northerner at heart, I hope that Georgia gets its act together to prevent this insanity in the future. In the mean time, I’ll be spending my free time in pajamas, watching Netflix.
Stay warm and good luck, Georgia.