It happened in 2011, and we thought it was the worst we’d ever see. The snowstorm that hit Atlanta that year paralyzed the city for four days straight. Millions of locals couldn’t even get off their streets. There’s only so much that five or six snow plows can do in a region of 5 million strong. Surely, we thought, that was as bad as it could get.
This past Tuesday, Atlanta was hit by a sudden snowstorm that dumped 2+ inches on the city and promptly froze to every exposed surface. Roads iced over as cars sat idling on them. Over a million people tried to go home at the same time, on the same roads. I personally know colleagues, friends and family members who were stuck on highways for more than 11 hours, trying to get home. In some cases, they had less than ten miles to go. We’re calling it Snowmageddon 2014, and if you’d been here, you’d understand why the name is apt.
The Facebook group, SnowedOutAtlanta, was quickly set up and began connecting people who needed resources with those who could help. But it was a tense night on Tuesday as people posted desperately asking for help- a van of people needing medications trapped here, a school bus filled with kids trapped there, a mother with small children stuck in her car for going on 8 hours with no relief in sight…The stories were terrifying, because so many people needed help- and we couldn’t get to them.
2014 will go down as the year that Atlanta had to suffer a failure of urban planning so big that it was impossible to ignore. Even today, three days later, the city is still jittery. There’s no other word for it. Everyone here is still walking on eggshells. Ice still covers huge, unexpected patches of roads. We’re not recovered- we’re coping.
At the same time, we’ve shown ourselves and the nation what we as a people can do. When push came to shove, people got out and pushed. They opened their homes to strangers without second thoughts. They rescued motorist on their ATVs. Our leaders may have failed us this week, but regular Atlantans rose to the challenge.
I’m proud of my city. Well done, Atlanta. Well done.