The governor called it an “unexpected storm,” but thousands of state residents thought different as weather forecasts rolled in for days beforehand, indicating the possibility that Tuesday’s arctic conditions existed. Public school systems in Atlanta, Fulton County, and DeKalb County began sending their kids home early on Tuesday afternoon, notifying parents by phone to arrange for someone to meet them. Around this same time businesses began closing.
A quarter of a million people all hit the strained highway system of Atlanta at the same time. Kids on school buses were stranded, many overnight in schools, many more on the buses that headed into the thick of things. People abandoned their cars in parking lots and subdivisions, even alongside the road, choosing to walk for miles in sub-freezing weather to get home. Some slept in the aisles of a Publix grocery store, at a community center, a neighborhood clubhouse, and restaurants. Others chose wisely and stayed the night in their workplace, while some braved the nightmare to get to children only to wind up sleeping in their cars.
Emergency workers spent long hours, often hampered by the same snarls that stranded thousands of motorists. With limited resources to de-ice the airplanes, even the airport was affected, stranding thousands of people in the busiest airport in the world.
SO, WHO’S TO BLAME?
Mayor Reed blames the disastrous day on timing. Parents blame the school systems for sending their kids out into the mess. Employees blame their employers for not taking the weather reports to heart and closing their doors earlier.
I saw many foolish drivers clogging intersections as they tried to force their way through to a street that — you got it — wasn’t moving. Are they to blame? Individually, no. Collectively, they sure didn’t help.
In the end, we have to face the ugly truth — for a city the size of Atlanta to be so very vulnerable to two piddly inches of snow is unacceptable. Our population has grown, but our infrastructure hasn’t. Face it people, we’ve fussed about Atlanta’s traffic for decades, but it’s only gotten worse. Atlanta’s road system, highways, surface streets, all of it, cannot support the sheer volume of traffic. And shame on us for allowing it to continue and grow worse.
I said many times after the Katrina disaster that regular folks will always step up and help out. Why should we wait for an incompetent government to take charge? They’re like a monster ship that can’t respond quick enough. But we can. And do.
I heard stories of a China Wok feeding hungry school kids stranded when their bus could no longer traverse the hills. Men–regular Joe’s– who used their trucks and even four-wheelers to ferry stranded motorists to safety. Stores, restaurants, and businesses that opened their doors for overnight guests, offering shelter and whatever food they had. Heroes everyone; not expecting anything in return.
Sure, we have some rotten apples in the barrel, but I still believe in the innate goodness of mankind. There are way more who care and are willing to help than those who kill and maim innocents. Kudos to Atlanta’s heroes who stepped up when they didn’t have to.