Whatever you want to call it, this thing was bad. So, for the first time in 3 years it snowed in Atlanta on Tuesday, and guess what, oh yes, I got stuck in it! It’s resulted in a very interesting 24 hours, that, of course, I have to tell you guys about! Before we start, I’d like to point out that Tuesday officially marked one year since we stepped off the plane and arrived in Atlanta (read more about that here!) and this is gift it gave me to celebrate…
Atlanta doesn’t do snow. There, I’ve said it! It’s in the south, snow doesn’t hit the south apart from once every 3 years or so when there’s a freak winter storm like the one this week, and, despite the warnings, the city simple cannot deal with it. It doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with it, I think the whole of the city has around 30 to 40 snow ploughs, bearing in mind this place is massive with about 6 million people living in it that really isn’t enough. But, seen as though they very rarely have this weather I can kind of understand why!
The snow was forecast to hit on Tuesday afternoon, on Tuesdays I volunteer at the German Cultural Center in Midtown, did I just say I wasn’t going to go in because of the snow, erm no. I’m European, we’re used to the snow and when I left the house there was nothing, nichts, nada! So off I trotted, with my big winter jacket on and Ugg boots (something that was going to come in very handy just a few hours later!). My thought was there’s 2 inches forecast, I’m used to driving in the snow, how bad can it be? Figuring I would leave early and yeah, it might take me hours to get home but I’d make it! How wrong was I?!
The snow started falling around 12pm, we cancelled language classes and decided to head for home…just like the rest of Atlanta! I went into the car park and there was a HUGE queue just to get out of the garage. The first 40 minutes of my journey was spent there…maybe that should have told me something like DON’T DO IT but I ignored that and carried on. Once out of the parking garage I crawled along the road, decided to take a new route and then hit another main road where I crawled again. Basically my main view for the afternoon was this:
I spent the next 6 hours looking at this, slowly moving along Piedmont Road and finally making it to the junction with Roswell Road (sorry guys, this may make no sense to you but if any Atlantans are reading this they’ll know what I mean!) where there was chaos! Absolute chaos! People were blocking the intersection which meant when lights were green others couldn’t move! There was a LOT of frustration and anger going around with horns being constantly beeped! They seriously shouldn’t have done that though, it didn’t get them anywhere and just gave me a headache!! Anyway, I digress!
So I carried on crawling, moving an inch or so every 2 hours. It was total gridlock and I was going nowhere. I’d travelled about 5 miles and according to my wonderful sat nav app (that, for the whole of the journey told me I’d be home in an hour, then 40 minutes…I think that was wrong!) I still had another 14 miles to go. I checked the clock, by now it was 6:30pm. I’d been calling the German who was also on his way home from work, he left at 3 and made it home at 5:30pm. He was safe. Phew. He gets all the luck! Whenever there’s bad weather his plane is on time, he makes it home. I do not – I once got stuck in Germany with Ma Cook for an extra 2 days.
I was moving nowhere, but I kept telling the German that I was determined to get home!! The gridlock had to end and clear at some point – I could do it. But a state of emergency had been declared in Atlanta. Things were bad. By this point I had fallen out with Atlanta and the Polar Vortex could kiss my butt! After another phone call to the German I kind of realised there was no way I was getting home that night. There was some crying by me (I literally just wanted to get home!) but we came up with a plan, I would try to get closer to the Marta station at Buckhead, take the train to North Springs where the German would try to pick me up! Yes! But, once the German attempted to get out of the end of the road he soon called and said it wasn’t happening. The roads were icy and he was going nowhere. So, Plan C came into force.
Just a week ago, my friend Meredith and her boyfriend Omar moved into a condo in Buckhead…and that was where I was headed! So, after dumping my car in a CVS car park and walking about 2 miles I was finally in a safe place, having an unscheduled sleepover at their house, along with a couple of other stranded drivers! I seriously cannot thank them enough!! They saved my bacon and rescued me from a night in the car!!
But, my adventure didn’t end there! Oh no, no! This is me we’re talking about, things are never simple! Overnight temperatures dropped to below freezing and things literally iced over. The roads were a sheet of ice, highways were still car parks with people who had stayed in them overnight, conditions were terrible. I seriously did not fancy taking a trip out on the roads in my car so I came up with a new plan, walk to the Marta station, take the train and then walk home. Sounds simple right? Except for the fact that the Marta station was 2 miles from Meredith’s place and our apartment is 5 miles from the last Marta station on the track. I figured it was the safest way to get home, I’d work out getting my car when the roads were safer!
So, off I went. I fell over before even leaving Meredith’s car park – this was going to be an exciting walk! But, after about an hour I made it to the Marta station! Result! Luckily, the train came within 10 minutes, soon I was on my way and even closer to home! Things were looking up! By this point I’d already persuaded the German to walk half way to meet me in the middle, he also wanted to go for a walk and check out the roads, so we were both en-route! I trekked through the snow, trying to dodge the icy patches and walking in the fresh snow so that I stayed on 2 feet! Then, after just over an hour I spotted him – my lovely German was heading towards me! It was the best sight ever!!
After being reunited we carried on with our trek and, 25 hours after leaving Midtown I walked through the door and into the apartment! Finally I had made it home!!! After 25 hours, an abandoned car, an unscheduled overnight stay with Meredith (thanks again lady!!), a trip on the train and 10 miles of walking I was home!!!
But the sights I saw on my way home were just unbelievable! First of all, I’ve never seen so many people walking the streets of Atlanta – this city is not a foot friendly zone so to see people actually out and about was fab! Even though half of them were probably like me and still trying to make their way home! I saw school buses still trying to get children home – some of them were forced to sleep at schoool overnight! Then there was the abandoned cars – they were everywhere! And I mean on every single road, parked in every single direction with some even left right in the middle of the road! Big cars, small cars, trucks, massive lorries, all of them abandoned! The street we live off was terrible – so many cars were abandoned near the bridge that the road was actually blocked. And not forgetting the state of the roads – I have never seen roads so thick with pure ice! People were literally sliding all over them including the ones that did brave it out in their cars!
All this for 2 inches of snow. Yep, you read right there, 2 inches of snow. People were stranded in their cars all night, there was a state of emergency declared, children had to sleep in schools, workers slept at their offices, hotels were fully booked, TV stations had continuous coverage of the developments or lack of if you were sitting in a car, all because of 2 inches of snow. Seems incredible for such a small amount of the white stuff but I can assure you there is only 2 inches on the floor out there!
So here’s what I’ve learnt from those 24 hours:
1. If snow is forecast in Atlanta, don’t leave the house.
2 Atlanta cannot deal with snow. Period. This city is not built for severe weather and with the amount of cars on the road (apparently 1 million people were trying to get out of the city at the same time yesterday – me being one of them!) total gridlock is expected! The public transportation system isn’t good enough and the city simply does not have the infrastructure to deal with it.
3. Don’t leave the house if there’s snow on the cards.
4. Atlantans do not know how to drive in snow. I saw so many people driving way too fast for the conditions, overtaking each other on the very icy roads and skidding everywhere. The German said he slowed down on the highway near the exit with plenty of space in front of him for braking distance but the car behind him overtook him and moved in front of him!!
5. Did I mention not to leave the house?!
Ah well, it’s just another experience in the American adventure! It would be boring without them! The walking has probably done wonders for my wedding diet! All I need to do now is figure out when I’m going to rescue Mindy, my car! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who gives their car a name?)