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Atlanta Snow Jam 2014
January 28, 2014 11:03 PM   Subscribe

Thousands of commuters are still stuck out in the nightmare of Atlanta Snow Jam 2014. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has some suggestions as to what to do if you're trapped in your car overnight. Since most of the 65 mile circumference of the Perimeter is still jammed solid — not to mention the other Interstates, arterial roads, and surface streets — many of them struggle on towards their destinations in vain.

The situation is reminiscent of 1982 when the original Snow Jam struck during the work day paralyzing the region for several days. The unexpected snowstorm has been a local legend for years.

Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency and activated the Georgia National Guard to assist stranded motorists. Additionally, State Troopers are on their way to the schools where students unable to get home are sheltering from the storm. Flagship Atlanta television station WSB has a minute-by-minute update of news and conditions related to the storm, including the story of a baby was born on the side of the expressway.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a list of resources for stranded commuters, including a list of Home Depot stores open as emergency shelters across the Metro area. RaceTrac gas stations are offering free coffee and hot chocolate to anyone who visits one of their Georgia stores.

Conditions across the southeast are just as bad. Alabama blog al.com has advice for what to do if you're stranded along with heartwarming Good Samaritan stories.

Also, just in case it needs to be said, "Don't get on Johnson Ferry. Seriously. Don't."
posted by ob1quixote (251 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
This central IL driver does feel bad for southern drivers who have zero experience with snow. It does take some different skills to handle, even 2". I was looking at some of these photos on imgur earlier and man... what a mess. Best of luck down there, folks!
posted by sbutler at 11:19 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


From my understanding, Atlanta rarely if ever has snow. It is subsequently not designed to handle snow in any amount. If San Diego or LA ever got snow suddenly I think it'd produce the same problem. We just don't have the infrastructure. You may not be able to relate to the fear that comes with unseasonal, wrong-climate weather if you're in an area that regularly and routinely deals with snow, but that doesn't make the fear and trouble any less real or understandable.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:20 PM on January 28 [12 favorites]


Also summer tyres likely have horrible traction in these weather conditions.
posted by Harpocrates at 11:24 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Oh please. This is sheer media nonsense. No one is "stranded".
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:25 PM on January 28


Apparently kids were still on school buses just a few hours ago. Might still be. It's like they didn't even prepare for this at all.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:25 PM on January 28


I wouldn't be so sure, PareidoliaticBoy. This certain Reddit thread I was in had loads of people saying they were stuck at work, or at school, or where ever. People are totally stranded because of three inches of snow!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:27 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


I know this is an unpopular opinion, but unless there is deep snow, you are probably fine with all-season tires if you know how to drive in winter weather.

Most people in my city don't have winter tires. We get along fine, even with our useless snow removal program that, after a couple of freeze-thaw cycles, has left 3" of ice on many residential streets for the past 3 weeks.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:34 PM on January 28 [14 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy: “Oh please. This is sheer media nonsense. No one is "stranded".”
It's 2:30 in the morning, and the traffic cameras tell a different tale. There are also school children "sheltering in place" in schools all across the metro area.

Ray Walston, Luck Dragon: “It's like they didn't even prepare for this at all.”
By way of an explanation, the GDOT pre-positioned their snow removal and abatement equipment further south where the snow was originally predicted to fall. By the time it was clear they were in the wrong place, everyone was sent home at once from work and school. The roads jammed solid within 90 minutes and the plows and grit spreaders were trapped on the wrong side of the traffic jam.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:35 PM on January 28 [22 favorites]


Ha! Some years ago, I was traveling with my family through Atlanta on Christmas break, and they got an inch of snow. As a Michiganian, it was hilarious — there were runs on canned food, there were dire local news anchors… then we got on 75 and had the clearest stretch of road I've ever experienced on a highway. It was marvelous.
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


I know this is an unpopular opinion, but unless there is deep snow, you are probably fine with all-season tires if you know how to drive in winter weather.

Unless you're surrounded by thousands of other drivers who don't know how to drive in winter weather.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 11:38 PM on January 28 [35 favorites]


Considering I just spent upwards of eight hours in this mess as a driver, then an additional mile and a half on foot, let me tell you what it is like.

It isn't just snow. In fact, if it was merely snow, we'd all be mostly fine. Admittedly, this is Atlanta, where even rain can lengthen an evening commute. On certain days, we'll even have something the traffic reporters call a "sunshine slowdown" because the glare is the only explanation for it. But for the most part, we're all used to what effect weather has on our getting to and fro.

But imagine this scenario: The weather service has been calling for severe snow for a few days, but the predictions only promise an inch or less. Now, it is one thing for you the commuter to scoff at the weather, but what if your municipal powers-that-be took the same attitude? No preparation, no salting or sanding before hand, and (this is the big one) no planned municipal closures.

So high noon rolls around and the snow arrives, and hey, that stuff is coming down pretty hard, like something seriously worth considering. It is at this time that the powers-that-be decide to close several offices and multiple schools.

Schools. Schools containing children whose parents haven't planned to fetch them until much later. So all of those parents now have to go rushing from wherever to their school of choice. Atlanta is a driving city, not a walking city or especially a rail or bus city, so thus commences a volley of unexpected traffic volume.

As the snow falls, several businesses catch the same idea, so they too decide to roll up the carpet and send their employees home a few hours early. This is a second unexpected volley of traffic.

Oh, and the sand trucks? They're heading out for their first run. We've about 30 or 40 such trucks to serve all of Atlanta, by the way.

Now this whole time, the snow is still falling and since the temperature has been hovering right around 27 degrees, the stuff is sticking to the streets. All of these commuters are crowding these streets, and while some are lucky to have found some roads favored by that first run of sanding, most are just plowing through and keeping the streets mostly ice-free by friction alone.

But with added volume, because the number of cars keeps increasing, these streets are getting crowded and the traffic is slowing and the snow melt that used to work so well isn't nearly so effective. Now that melted snow is refreezing under the tires of all of these stacked motorists. Those tires manage to melt a little of the top layer, but it freezes right back quickly. The result is a particularly Southern phenomena that looks and feels like cold glass.

What about the sand trucks? Well, they've made it through their first run, but now they can't so quickly get back to the warehouses to get more of that precious sand.

And all of those commuters? They're getting to know one another quite well, with run-ins and rear-endings and side-swipes that make it necessary for the police to be involved, and occasionally a fire truck, sadly an ambulance.

A few of those commuters just say "Screw it" and leave their cars where they get stuck, stomping off into the snow in hopes of stumbling home.

Did I mention the school buses that were still trying to get kids home at 10pm or later?

It is a horrible and dreadful and disastrous situation, and while it is easy to mock, please take a moment to consider just how quickly this escalated and how it could've been prevented. This is more than your typical case of "The South can't deal with a little snow."

The streets of Metro Atlanta are glass tonight. And while some of us made it home, there are many still stuck out there. Waiting.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:40 PM on January 28 [233 favorites]


I know this is an unpopular opinion, but unless there is deep snow, you are probably fine with all-season tires if you know how to drive in winter weather.

The problem is, in places like Atlanta (or Victoria, BC, the only place in Canada besides Vancouver that does not get snow in winter), people DO NOT know how to drive in winter weather.

So when I am in Victoria and it snows (I am spending the winter in Japan's "snow country" as a matter of fact), I never, ever, ever take my car out. Too fricking dangerous. Too many accidents and boneheads out tearing around.

I can totally imagine why Atlanta is experiencing gridlock right now.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:40 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


PareidoliaticBoy, it would be nice if you could develop some empathy for the people in this situation instead of mocking them. If you've never been stranded before in weather neither you nor any of your neighbors knows how to deal with, you can't understand how scary and stressful it is. Having been there once myself as a child, my heart especially goes out to the kids who still aren't home from school yet.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:42 PM on January 28 [9 favorites]


Pruitt-Igoe: " know this is an unpopular opinion, but unless there is deep snow, you are probably fine with all-season tires if you know how to drive in winter weather."

That's if they have all seasons. I run winters and summers here and my summers aren't much removed from slicks; they get squirrelly with standing water. Lots of people driving performance cars (and probably SUVs) are going to have those sorts of tires mounted someplace like Atlanta year round. I would if I lived there. If I had the misfortune of having to drive them on snow it would be one of those "Just NO. No. Nope. Not Happening" moments. And I know how to and have extensive practice driving on truly horrible winter road conditions.

Still I have a hard time not chuckling at the idea of an inch or two of snow shutting the state down.
posted by Mitheral at 11:45 PM on January 28


Also relevant, via Reddit:

The forecast was off by 125 miles. They expected south Alabama to be the hardest hit and sent other areas' sand trucks down there. No sanded roads, people not accustomed to driving in snow, and a rush to get children from school/home from work was a huge problem.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:47 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


To add to what grabbingsand noted, it doesn't help that there are more than a few yahoos who figure that they may not have much experience driving in snow but have a 4WD truck so obviously the thing to do is just drive normally. Got a stretch of road that's not clogged with stopped cars? Here comes Captain Wow to fix that, don't worry.

At least it sounds like it's just a snowstorm and not one of those horrific ice storms the south gets from time to time... those are just bad, bad news no matter where you're from. This one time in Carrboro NC in 93/94 or so the streets ended up covered with at least an inch of solid, glassy ice.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:49 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Numerous acquaintances have reported being stranded on roads for 8+ hours this afternoon/evening. Numerous reports of school buses full of children among the stranded. Someone on Facebook posted a video of dozens of cars trying (and failing) to inch their way up an icy hill on I-85. It's a total clusterfuck. The City of Atlanta was completely unprepared. People are going to be voted out of office for this.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:52 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


>>> People are going to be voted out of office over this.

Oh, how I wish that were true.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:55 PM on January 28 [6 favorites]


The winter emergency kit that my father equipped our family cars with, going back to at least the early 80s, included the usual signal/flares, first aid kit, ice scrapers, shovel, toolbox, but also a very big, warm blanket, candle, matches, slippers, water, and some granola bars. Because breaking down on the side of the highway during a big winter storm in southern Ontario (that sound you hear is the rest of Canada snickering) can turn into overnight winter camping in your car until the weather improves.

At least nowadays almost everyone has cell phones.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:58 PM on January 28 [8 favorites]


I didn't mean to say that driving in snowy weather isn't difficult/dangerous if you or other drivers aren't accustomed to it. Just that it's possible to get by with all-season tires, even if roads aren't completely plowed. Of course winter tires can't hurt.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:59 PM on January 28


I will also note that my school closed the campus, not because a few inches of snow would actually disrupt classes, but because in past instances the city of Atlanta has demonstrated absolutely no capacity whatsoever to adequately prepare for or respond to winter weather. The school accurately predicted that the roads would completely shut down and no one would be able to get anywhere.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:59 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


but have a 4WD truck so obviously the thing to do is just drive normally

Even in Minneapolis (where I grew up) where people theoretically have winter driving skills...a lot of people think this way. I used to laugh at the rows of SUVs sitting in the ditches during big storms.
posted by MillMan at 12:01 AM on January 29 [17 favorites]


ceribus peribus: “At least nowadays almost everyone has cell phones.”
Which reminds me…

Storm traffic jams cellphone towers, Michael Kanell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 28 January 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 12:02 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Alaska a huge ice and snow avalanche covers highway with debris
between 30 and 100 feet high.
posted by quazichimp at 12:14 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Just that it's possible to get by with all-season tires, even if roads aren't completely plowed.

I worked here in Japan with a guy from Ontario - we were working for a language school in backwoods Japan, and we had to drive all over the place to get out to client sites.

It snows a lot in the winter here, and Ontario Boy's car just had bald summer tires. He just slipped and slid all over the place, no problemo. I think it takes a bit of experience and skill to do that though.

So if you are unused to driving in snow and ice, and you don't have snow tires (all-seasons don't count), just stay home.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:15 AM on January 29


It took me 12.5 hours to travel 22 miles home. All the driving skills in the world don't help when there are thousands and thousands of cars all going the same direction at 0-5 miles per hour clogging every highway and byway. I spent 8 hours in one 4 mile area of GA278 and GA78 in Suburban Douglas county. I finally hunkered down for 3 hours in a Home Depot and drove home on a clear, sanded interstate. At one point my GPS showed me moving backwards for 30 minutes because I move so little that (I assume) it's error radius contained all my travel.
posted by Megafly at 12:17 AM on January 29 [19 favorites]


Okay, I have lived in northern Ohio most of my life, and I have to say: Driving in snow? Not all that different from driving in any other bad weather. Driving rain, say. Go slow and watch for other drivers and leave space. This doesn't help with things like icy hills where you can get no traction at all, but it doesn't help with that in Ohio, either, and god knows my city has no intention of salting most of the side streets anytime this century. And yeah, again with the northern Ohio, most of my life, have never bought tires for just winter and nobody else in my family does, either. Totally get why you might want to in some parts of the country, but it is absolutely not necessary to make it through a couple inches of snow.

I think what this mostly is is the result of somewhat adverse driving conditions combined with general panic and an overall increase of the number of idiots on the road at one time due to said panic. It's not somehow the inevitable result of bad weather and lack of skill. If the media would put more effort into calming people down than branding everything as SNOWMAGEDDON then maybe there'd be a prayer of this going better.
posted by Sequence at 12:18 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, New Orleans has a light dusting of white on some surfaces and the Times-Picayune describes it as "winter storm wreaks havoc". They're actually not kidding: the Causeway has been closed "indefinitely".
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:29 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Oh please. This is sheer media nonsense. No one is "stranded".

No, dude. People are stranded.

I work from home, so I was lucky enough to be able to stay inside all day. But the stories I'm hearing from my friends and acquaintances include 30-minute commutes turning into six or eight-hour affairs, people running out of fuel on the highway and abandoning their cars, et cetera. One of my friends had to leave her car on an interstate exit ramp because she ran out of gas.
posted by my favorite orange at 12:31 AM on January 29 [12 favorites]


I mean, I'm sure most people won't be spending the night on the highway. But I think if I were waiting in my non-functional vehicle in freezing temperatures for three hours for my friend to come give me a lift, I would consider myself to be stranded.
posted by my favorite orange at 12:34 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


Oh please. This is sheer media nonsense. No one is "stranded".

Well, no one is "stranded" in the sense that the snow is up to the windows of their car and they are desperately hoping the National Guard gets to them before they freeze. But you can be just as stranded on a major highway if traffic stops moving miles from the nearest exit. You can theoretically get out and walk, but to go where? And what will you do once you get there, having abandoned your car? That's how people hanging out at Home Depot and Kroger (which, their PR offices must be drunk with joy right now) can be considered stranded- they have enough food and water, but they can't get home (or anywhere else).
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:38 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


dozens of cars trying (and failing) to inch their way up an icy hill

I think I see your problem...
posted by fshgrl at 12:40 AM on January 29


Anecdotally, a friend just posted to Facebook that she's sheltering in a Kroger after a nine-hour traffic jam. She traveled 10 miles in that time.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:40 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


[A couple of comments removed. As for the definition of "stranded", it's okay to let that debate sort of, um, strand.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:49 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I was a Georgia Tech student living in Atlanta during the snowstorm of 1982. It arrived without much warning mid-day and by the afternoon rush hour the streets were covered with ice. You see it doesn't really snow in Atlanta, everything gets covered with ice.

I'd much rather drive on New England snow than Southern ice.

I was living at the time on West Peachtree Street - across from the WSB studios, in some 1920s buildings that are no longer there, right near the intersection with Peachtree Road and I walked down the the intersection to see what was happening: cars sliding into each other. I watched as stopped cars slid every which way. At the corner of 10th street there were five cars which all nosed into each other. People abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the street and walked away.

And this was before cell phones.

Stranded is not an unfair characterization.

Fortunately, I was home, my car was parked on a side street, and I had no place to go.

Hang in there Atlanta. In a week it will be 70F.
posted by three blind mice at 12:51 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


A relevant XKCD: Winter
"The sky is cold and the floor water is too hard to drink ..."
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:54 AM on January 29 [8 favorites]


And now that I live in Sweden I laugh at how poorly New Englanders handle snow.
posted by three blind mice at 12:54 AM on January 29 [8 favorites]


People in the south have standard/ summer tires, as they should. All season tires are an okay compromise, but summer tires are way better on rain-slicked roads. Good luck, Atlanta.
posted by theora55 at 1:30 AM on January 29


As the snow falls, several businesses catch the same idea, so they too decide to roll up the carpet and send their employees home a few hours early.

This happens in snow country, too (OK, in New England). I commute on roads that get congested at rush hours, and if its been snowing for a couple of hours, everybody decides to beat the rush - all at the same time. Sometimes waiting until your regular quitting time is the smart move.

I don't think ice is a particularly Southern phenomenon. It happens when streets don't get treated, because of lack of equipment or inadequate planning, or whatever.

The 4-wheel-drive madness is a real thing. At the very least, try to remember that your 4WD vehicle does not stop any quicker than any other vehicle. We've all got 4-wheel brakes. As for cornering in snow, 4WD is an advantage, but unless you're experienced in snow, it's not as much of an advantage as you think it is.

I hope everyone in Georgia gets home safely. Hypothermia is a real danger, even at relatively mild temperatures.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:53 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Maybe the objection to the term "stranded" is more in contrast to something like being "stranded by flooding"? Since it's still possible to travel by foot. It's still mean-spirited and cretinous to scoff, though: these are still major practical problems and dangerous in some situations, whether or not it's best described as being "stranded".
posted by XMLicious at 1:55 AM on January 29


up here in michigan, i have regular tires and i'm doing just fine driving on these rather messy roads

unfortunately, it seems that a lot of people up here aren't - they drive too fast, they don't know how to handle it when the car slides and they don't know how to get going on snow covered or icy streets - i'm noticing a real downtrend in driving ability here - people on i-94 and us 131 are driving 65 to 70 miles an hour and they have no business driving that fast in these conditions - mostly 4wd and truck drivers
posted by pyramid termite at 2:21 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Seeing as I am from Australia, and snow is totally alien, I want to dedicate this slice of music to all those stranded in the snow-In in the hopes it will help.
posted by Mezentian at 2:31 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Chicago. I have winter travel skills baked in. shit is DANGEROUS here.

I drove my car through a winter storm in Chicago, no problem. that same car, only a month later, was having extreme difficulty down here in South Carolina. full tread on the tires. front wheel drive. lots of experience.

it isn't the car or driver. the snow turns into instant black ice. there is no prep for it here. it's not their fault, it just is. these places shut down because unless they're geared up like a northern city, which they won't be, it is hazardous.

I'm back on shift after doing 14hrs yesterday. it was a pretty decent storm. doesn't happen that often here. easy to pick on the South, but this is pretty real..
posted by ninjew at 2:40 AM on January 29 [28 favorites]


Admittedly, this is Atlanta, where even rain can lengthen an evening commute

Isn't that true everywhere? I have seen road-rager types in eye-bulging anger that people are driving slower because it is dark and rainy, sure, and Atlanta has plenty of those types, and so, more collisions.
posted by thelonius at 2:55 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Checking in from the Triangle in North Carolina.

It's very pretty out. Took a short walk through the neighborhood last night. I've lived in the rust belt for most of my life... and the snow-covered houses, yards and cars make me feel like I've had a proper winter for the first time in a few years. That was nice.

I'm used to waking up to highway noise and the sound of trucks downshifting on the big hill nearby. This morning... nothing.

There's maybe an inch or two of snow on the ground outside, as much as there was around 10 last night. If the predicted 3-6" of accumulation happened, we only got the short end of that range and most of it's melted into the slightly cold ground. I don't think the snow that's left is going away entirely today, though; regardless of the temperature the sun's pretty intense down here and will melt a lot of snow just by rising on schedule, but that requires clear skies. A lot of snow will be packed down by cars driven by intrepid must-get-to-work folks and be the last to melt.

I grew up and learned to drive where it takes 10" or more of snowfall overnight to close the schools, and where my parents have been bragging that they hold the urban record for snowfall accumulation in the contiguous US this year. But I'd still just as soon stay home today, even if I'm looking out the window and thinking that heading down to the bridge and take some photos of the interstate would be a pleasant morning walk.
posted by ardgedee at 3:17 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


As a sidenote, the snowstorm here had originally predicted to start around 3 in the afternoon but didn't strike until around 8 PM or so. Which resulted in the awkward problem of schools closing midday for no apparent reason.
posted by ardgedee at 3:25 AM on January 29


Huh, lived in the northeast all my life and I didn't know that you could buy tires lesser than all-season. I've always run those and have been fine with them but know how to drive in the snow. Mostly I try to stay home and not deal with it at all but obviously that's not an option for everyone.

The commuter roads here do get horribly backed up during bad weather even though most people know how to drive in it. It only takes one or two cars getting stuck or wrecking to back everything up for hours.
posted by octothorpe at 4:01 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Atlanta and Dallas have similar winters - and having lived in both cities, I am not surprised. The snow they get there is not like the powdery stuff folks get in the mountain states and in the northeast. It's a granular stuff that melts and refreezes and turns the earth into a frictionless, unreasonable game board of kinetic lotto.

I live in DC. It snowed again last night. I've been here two years, and folks are telling me this is the first proper winter we've had in a while. I am not a fan.
posted by Thistledown at 4:07 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of how incredibly fucked seattle gets with this amount of snow. Everyone makes the same HURR DURR THAT'S NOT REAL SNOW comments, and then buses crash off the goddamn overpasses.

The black ice thing is the exact situation that happens here. This about covers it. And to anyone going "b-but, why wouldn't you just pull your car over onto the shoulder and walk?" should take a look at that. You take the ice, idiots in 4x4s, everyone else, and larger vehicles and it's pretty fucking deadly to just get out and walk around(the bus in that video weighs ~30,000lbs, the articulated buses that have jackknifed and collided with the curb ~3 feet from me weigh 60,000lbs+).

If this lasts more than a couple days, i bet the same thing will happen there that happens here... which is that even the cop cars can't get anywhere, and the only way to get around other than walking is with cross country skis or something like this if you don't care about eating shit. And i almost got completely squashed by a bus like the one in the video that just suddenly started sliding back down a hill pulling that routine to ride over to my girlfriend at the times house.

That ice is no joke too, it's like walk out your door and not even have time to swear because you fall flat on your ass after two steps, then fall on your face once you stand back up. Just because you have experience "Driving in the snow" doesn't mean you can drive on that. It reaches a point at which nothing but one of those ice racing motorcycles could, and you find ambulances embedded in parked cars despite having chains and everything.
posted by emptythought at 4:11 AM on January 29 [20 favorites]


The snow they get there is not like the powdery stuff folks get in the mountain states and in the northeast.

The north gets several different types of snow, including "granular stuff that melts and refreezes," but they also have tons of salt trucks, and most will start salting the roads as soon as practical.
posted by drezdn at 4:12 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


oh haha, the worst part.. I get home to get my 3hrs of sleep, and realize I have a whole new issue. our house has a driveway with a 4% grade. not too bad, but it was covered. I slid the entire way down in reverse, hoping I didn't crash through the garage door. then I wondered how I was going to even get back up.

go into the garage expecting to find a shovel (muscle memory, really). best I could find was a push broom. so I'm out there at 2am sweeping the driveway while also sliding down it sideways. my roommate with the 4wd? she took the spot at the top of the driveway..
posted by ninjew at 4:25 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who has plenty of winter driving experience (10 years in St. Paul), what's amusing to me is people who think they're proving their savvy by scoffing at small amounts of snow, measured purely in depth, when people with actual winter driving experience will tell you that the depth of snow is only one of many, many factors that contribute to whether roads are a complete damn nightmare. There are six-inch snowfalls that aren't as treacherous to deal with as deceptively "minor" sleet-fests, and that's the actual lesson of experience.

In other words, everything grabbingsand said about why it's so utterly disastrous makes perfect sense to me, because driving conditions are not determined solely, or even mostly, by the quantity of snow. Frankly, that's amateur talk, and that's what I think whenever I hear it.

Best of luck to those stuck, those worried, and those who have to deal with stranded and abandoned cars. I encountered an unexpected three-hour trip home from work the other day because of a parkway closure from an accident, and it's amazing how quickly things pile up when you're not prepared to be on the road for hours -- how much gas you have, the need to find a bathroom, everything.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:40 AM on January 29 [41 favorites]


Also, just in case it needs to be said, "Don't get on Johnson Ferry. Seriously. Don't."

Except for one, small problem. I LIVE on Johnson Ferry! I abandoned the car about a mile from home. I walked in the snow/ice with no coat.

Let's just say that I made a series of BAD decisions yesterday. My thought process.

1. Coats are such a hassle I'm only going from the car to the building, besides, it's snow, it's not all that cold.

2. Sure, let's go to lunch, it's not supposed to start snowing until 2:00.

3. I live only 3 miles from work, instead of walking, I'll take the car home.


Folks, I arrived home at 9:00 PM. I only hope my car isn't sideswiped all to hell when I can get it again tomorrow.

Also, if you go out for lunch, don't drink a bunch of water and a pot of tea.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:40 AM on January 29 [26 favorites]


I come from Alberta, with its endless snow, and am living in Montreal. The few weeks of freeze/thaw, near 0 temptaures with rain and then snow, was the most dangerous i have seen. The black ice, and the slush, just walking seemed more dangerous and caused more falls and accidents then any real snow i have seen.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:49 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I'm a New Yorker, and the city usually does a great job salting and clearing the roads, even for runners. Not this morning. We didn't even get an inch last night, but going out to run in Central Park this morning was a little bit of a horror show. It was extremely slippery, and I was a little terrified that the cars driving the loop in the park were going to slide into me. Even a LITTLE bit of uncleared snow can be extremely dangerous. I hope all our Southern friends are okay.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:56 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I guess I should probably go on Facebook and see how all my friends back home in ATL made out.
posted by Kitteh at 5:10 AM on January 29


We've been laughing for two days over the over-preparation our South Carolina town has been doing for this snow. I mean, salt? On our roads? The grocery stores have been overwhelmed by people stocking up on canned goods and all the other stuff you won't be able to cook if you have no power. School was closed a few hours early yesterday too, even though we didn't even see rain until yesterday afternoon. Our governor took time out from yanking Medicaid from babies in order to declare a state of emergency due to snow.

We laugh, but then, the last time we were really caught unprepared for a winter storm, the ice knocked out so many power lines, we were without electricity for a week, and after trying to tough it out for days, we ended up getting a motel room for somewhere warm to sleep, and hanging out for endless hours at Waffle House.

So, yeah, better to overprepare and look ridiculous, than the alternative.

And now we've had our two inches of snow, and it's lovely outside, just deep enough to get a sled going down the hill, the kids are happy, the whole neighborhood is happy.

Good luck, Atlantans. Hope you can all get home and warm.
posted by mittens at 5:14 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


...but what if your municipal powers-that-be took the same attitude? No preparation, no salting or sanding before hand...

To be honest, I'm damned impressed Atlanta even had a supply of salt or sand for the streets. Or even a plow. I mean, that's smack in the heart of small-government America down there. I can see a ton of voters and politicians thinking that keeping a stockpile of road salt and snowplows around for the rare snow is wasteful government at its worst.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:14 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


In NC, this is actually one of the best snows I've seen. I live in a city with a high enough elevation that we have snow and ice a couple of times per year, but this was the first time in years that we got actual snow instead of just, you know, sleet, freezing rain, and flurries afterward. The roads are relatively okay! The yard is pretty! The cedars are snow-capped! We didn't lose power!

I had a bad experience driving to Asheville a few years ago—thought they were over-forecasting snow, ended up trapped on I-40 across Black Mountain for hours in a blizzard—so I definitely sympathize with the Atlanta drivers.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:18 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


The forecast was off by 125 miles. They expected south Alabama to be the hardest hit and sent other areas' sand trucks down there. No sanded roads, people not accustomed to driving in snow, and a rush to get children from school/home from work was a huge problem.

Okay, that's *truly* not knowing how to handle snow. The Midwest constantly gets 100-150 mile wide swaths of snow. You don't assume where the snow is going to fall until it starts actually falling, because it's easy for that 100-150 mile wide band to shift north or south 50-100 miles.

So, you don't try to preposition equipment, because you are screwed twice if you're wrong. First, they're in the wrong place, second, they have to fight through the weather to get to the right place.

The biggest problem, though, is if you don't know how to drive in winter and you don't have good tires, you're going to lose it, and you're likely to block up the road regardless. When the 2011 blizzard hit Chicago, Lake Shore Drive stayed moving until someone clipped a bus on the northbound stretch. The bus spun out, all the lanes were blocked, and within minutes, all the cars were snowed in, because they weren't continually plowing out the traffic lanes. Of course, the real issue -- Chicagoans know if a big storm is going to hit, you don't get on LSD, because that's *exactly what happens* when something goes wrong and you can't escape.

This also leads to how governments can't win today. The city could have closed LSD early, then the headlines would be "Thousands stuck in traffic as City closes a clear Lake Shore Drive." Doubtlessly, we'd have reporters standing in the middle of the empty roadway. Or, you don't close it, and you get "Thousands stranded on Lake Shore Drive as city fails to close roadway."

So: Atlanta. They either buy the gear, hire the people, and train them to handle this snow. "CITY WASTES MILLIONS ON SNOW REMOVAL EQUIPMENT!" They don't do that. "THOUSANDS STRANDED AS CITY UNABLE TO PLOW STREETS."
posted by eriko at 5:28 AM on January 29 [28 favorites]


It took 90 minutes to get from downtown Asheville NC to Fletcher yesterday. 19 miles. Every one who knew I was on the road was texting me with terrible new forecasts, so I handed phone to my 2nd grader. He reassured them with messages like "spinning now !!!!" "bridges suck" that kind of stuff. He pretty much learned my entire repertoire of profanity during that drive and was texting that too.

Everything is an adventure when you are 7.

I live on a mountain and only made it halfway up the long and steep driveway. So we got all the food out of the trunk and schlepped it up. Coyotes were all around us and I just had a stick.

So I am doing dishes 20 minutes later and look out the window and my car is gone. WTF?

Suited up, armed myself and went out and the car had slid all the way back down the mountain. It is in a ditch with all wheels off the ground and AAA can't get here for a day or two. And yes, I did leave it in 1rst with the brake pulled up. I checked.

It was actually a good night. If the car started sliding while we were unloading the trunk... We had split-pea soup and pork chops and watched The Karate Kid.

An hour ago, I watched a salt truck ditch.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:34 AM on January 29 [32 favorites]


To be honest, I'm damned impressed Atlanta even had a supply of salt or sand for the streets. Or even a plow. I mean, that's smack in the heart of small-government America down there. I can see a ton of voters and politicians thinking that keeping a stockpile of road salt and snowplows around for the rare snow is wasteful government at its worst.

Atlanta has plows and sand trucks, as has been mentioned in this thread a few times. 40 plows, 30 trucks is what I've read on the internet. It might not be enough, but they are making an investment in it.

From what I'm reading the real problem seems (emphasis on seems, it's early to try to suss out why this happened) to have been the fact that school/work wasn't cancelled early enough in the day, putting everyone on the road right as the snow was falling. This is a pretty common problem in cities that aren't very snow experienced. It happened in Raleigh in 2005, it happened in DC in 2010. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation for a lot of governments/school districts. Cancel things when there's no snow on the ground, and people crow about how you can't handle the snow. Try to manage a half day, and you risk terrible traffic problems when people do get out.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:36 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


eriko, I have a new appreciation for how well Chicago handles winter. I mean of course they should.. but the city is usable after 10"-12" overnight.

but I've learned a lot about what winter prep actually takes as far as manpower/gear/training this season. it is a substantial investment of lots of resources. and even when all that's factored in, you need to have people running it that have been through it before.
posted by ninjew at 5:40 AM on January 29


school/work wasn't cancelled early enough in the day

It's a weird thing. As I mentioned, schools in our county closed a couple hours early yesterday. Notifications went out via some sort of robodialer, so I caught the message since I work here at home...but it got me thinking, what about the people who don't work at home? Is the school system just sort of hoping word will leak out? It seems smarter to just cancel the school day entirely. Although I guess if you're working away from the house all day, that doesn't really help you either, because what do you do with the kids?
posted by mittens at 5:42 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Still I have a hard time not chuckling at the idea of an inch or two of snow shutting the state down.

That's okay, we Californians laugh our asses off every time another state has an "earthquake".

However the same dynamic is in effect. All of the infrastructure here is built from ground up with quakes in mind so we trivially deal with events that would stop the Northeast in its tracks while gas pipes and overpasses were inspected.

All a matter of what you're used to.

As for Atlanta I think the lesson is to keep a sleeping bag in the trunk and just crash under your desk. I hope everyone is okay out there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:49 AM on January 29


I am planning to put a coat and walking shoes in my car now.

I've learned, I've learned!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


As I mentioned, schools in our county closed a couple hours early yesterday. Notifications went out via some sort of robodialer, so I caught the message since I work here at home...but it got me thinking, what about the people who don't work at home? Is the school system just sort of hoping word will leak out?

School closures can also go out by radio, TV, the web, and cell phones.

It seems smarter to just cancel the school day entirely. Although I guess if you're working away from the house all day, that doesn't really help you either, because what do you do with the kids?

Whatever you have to do. There's been a couple of school snow days at work where there have been people's kids rollerskating down the hall.
posted by zamboni at 5:55 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty common problem in cities that aren't very snow experienced. It happened in Raleigh in 2005

Wake County is now super-proactive about shutting down schools when there is midday snow forecast. They shut down yesterday, and I don't think we had a single flake fall until 5 pm, but it's better than that clusterfuck a few years ago.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:57 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Sometimes waiting until your regular quitting time is the smart move.

Our department manager is very adamant about letting people work from home if the forecast looks even the slightest bit hairy. A lot of people drive in from New Hampshire, and even up here traffic will go to hell very quickly with even a little bit of snow. Besides, the best thing you can do to help keep the roads clear is to not drive on them so the plows can get through.

Six years or so ago we had a similar situation in Boston. A snowstorm kind of crept up on the region, the governor sent home the state employees early, and most of the business followed suit. Suddenly half the population of the greater Boston area is on the roads, the snow really starts coming down hard, and none of the plows can get through the traffic. It took me about five hours to get home from work (normally a half hour commute). At that time, I had to travel on an overpass over the Mass Pike to get home and people were getting stuck on that small hump of a bridge and abandoning their cars. The news the next morning had announcements about where to find your car, since they towed them all away overnight.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:58 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


The pictures of the kids sleeping at school are breaking my heart! I know they're fine, I know they probably had a great time, but it would kill me as a parent to know my kid was at school and I couldn't get there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:11 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


I hate traffic. What a nightmare.

It is interesting to see the gradations in how prepared various cities are for cold weather and snow. Edmonton seems to have Minneapolis beat, and even Boston and New York don't seem to handle big snow storms well when compared to Minneapolis. D.C. doesn't do well, but is more prepared than Atlanta.
posted by Area Man at 6:11 AM on January 29


It's a shame all the know-it-alls in this thread haven't deigned to go into the public transportation and/or meteorological sectors. With your leadership, all this could have been prevented.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 6:14 AM on January 29 [19 favorites]


Those tires manage to melt a little of the top layer, but it freezes right back quickly. The result is a particularly Southern phenomena that looks and feels like cold glass.

That's not a southern phenomenon, it's a pretty standard just-below-freezing issue. I can easily imagine how it would be especially disastrous in the south, where they don't have to deal with it several times a year, but it isn't unique to them.

I hope people are okay -- it seems like people are stranded in safe places, at least.
posted by jeather at 6:17 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Wake County is now super-proactive about shutting down schools when there is midday snow forecast.

Around 2000, I remember Orange County tried to get tough and open up the schools when there had been a small sleet/snow mix fall, and they ended up having a bus slide off the road. It was as if the Superintendent looked out his window, saw that the roads in the subdivision were fine, and sent out the buses. You have to think about the worst roads in the whole county, which does have rural parts, and kids who are pretty far out on little twisty roads.
posted by thelonius at 6:23 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I grew up mostly in New England and learned to drive there (some of you will dispute that anyone from Boston "learned" to "drive" but whatever). It could be awful but with proper tires, road treatment, and other drivers who have experience in that kind of weather, it was mostly manageable.

DC was a whole other ball game. Icy rain followed by some snow covered by some more ice. And a large population of people who had little experience driving in weather like that, and not enough salt and sand trucks. Give me much snow-no ice conditions any day.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Admittedly, this is Atlanta, where even rain can lengthen an evening commute

I've seen rain slow down traffic in both Portland and Seattle, where if anywhere you'd think people might have a clue about rain. Behavior in traffic is fascinating to model, but frustrating as hell when you are in it.

I have 4wd, high clearance, good tires, and carry chains, but the best plan is to stay off the roads when you can because so many people don't drive for the conditions and your chances are too high of getting hit or getting stuck for hours after some poor person flips their car.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:26 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Us middle class people are so spoiled by having cars that get us anywhere in town rapidly and reliably. I actually think it's a good thing to be reminded every couple years that transportation is a gift, and millions of adults (even in your own state) don't have access to it. How can you understand how life is like for less fortunate people in your own community unless you experience their hardship every once in a while?
posted by miyabo at 6:32 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Us middle class people are so spoiled by having cars that get us anywhere in town rapidly and reliably. I actually think it's a good thing to be reminded every couple years that transportation is a gift, and millions of adults (even in your own state) don't have access to it. How can you understand how life is like for less fortunate people in your own community unless you experience their hardship every once in a while?
posted by miyabo at 9:32 AM on January 29


No one should be stranded in their schools, walking miles and miles in dangerous conditions, or sleeping in Home Depot. The solution to the problems of transit inequity is to provide underprivileged people with transit, not make middle class people suffer so they know how privileged they are. That's even assuming that the people suffering are middle class which in a city where the car is the primary transportation infrastructure isn't really a valid assumption at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:38 AM on January 29 [9 favorites]


Us middle class people are so spoiled by having cars that get us anywhere in town rapidly and reliably.

I think you're really just talking about middle class suburbia.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:40 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


DC was a whole other ball game. Icy rain followed by some snow covered by some more ice. And a large population of people who had little experience driving in weather like that, and not enough salt and sand trucks. Give me much snow-no ice conditions any day.

I lived in DC for 25 years, through many snowstorms. I now live back in Tidewater where we just got about a foot of snow. Trust me, DC is waaaaaaay more capable of dealing with snow than Hampton Roads is. Even the DC drivers are a more capable bunch (scary, no?).

I can't even imagine the situation in Atlanta. Or New Orleans.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:43 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I hope everyone is safe and sound.

Frankly driving in Atlanta has been some of the worst driving experiences I've had, both times I've driven there. Once was just pure normal hell, the other time I was coming into Atlanta from an overnight trip back from Nashville, it started snowing.... OMFG... look I know and I understand if you haven't driven in snow it's a bit freaky, hell even places that get a lot of snow the first snow of the season is usually a madhouse as people recondition themselves. But holy hell, there has only been one or two worse experiences I've had in a car and they involved prodigious weather events of epic proportions where you seriously believe you are just going to die now, and no one is ever going to find your body.
posted by edgeways at 6:50 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I've lived in Wisconsin or Montana my entire life, so I know how to drive in snow. But I had summer tires on my RWD car until November of this year (procrastination), and I was completely useless. I drove about 3 blocks and determined I was going to kill someone if I kept going. We put the winter tires (yay Blizzaks!) on and now it drives like a dream. I've tried to spin it out and can't.

We've had several 40-50 car pileups in the Milwaukee area this winter, so if we can't get through it, I certainly don't expect Atlanta to be able to.
posted by desjardins at 6:53 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


That's not a southern phenomenon, it's a pretty standard just-below-freezing issue. I can easily imagine how it would be especially disastrous in the south, where they don't have to deal with it several times a year, but it isn't unique to them.

No, but it happens basically every time it snows here. In the North, you have fleets of plows that can mostly clear the streets before anyone wakes up, but here, where there are only a few plows, most of the roads remain snow-covered until the early risers with 4WD and essential jobs melt/pack the snow into ice that then cannot be effectively plowed.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:56 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


As I mentioned, schools in our county closed a couple hours early yesterday. Notifications went out via some sort of robodialer, so I caught the message since I work here at home...but it got me thinking, what about the people who don't work at home? Is the school system just sort of hoping word will leak out?

I work at a private school in the Northeast. When we have a snow day (or delayed opening, early dismissal) I get automated calls to my home and cell phones, plus a text, plus an email. They also update the school website and the local media outlets have lists of all kinds of closings/delays on their websites. Parents get notified all those ways too (as far as I know) and can configure their notifications online. The local public school district had a delayed opening today, and the police department shared the link to the web page on Facebook. We are far removed from the days where you watched the crawl on the bottom of the tv or listened on the radio, hoping you didn't catch the alphabetical list a couple letters after your school district.
posted by booksherpa at 6:56 AM on January 29


Add me to the list of people who didn't even know there were summer tires. I thought tires were either all weather or snow.
posted by Area Man at 6:59 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


This happened in DC a few years ago-- I spent three hours going half a mile on Colesville Road in Silver Spring. Ended up calling a friend to see if she knew anyone who lived nearby, and when I finally made it over to the nearest multi-level parking garage, I left my car there and spent the night at her friend's place across the street. I knew people who took eight, ten, twelve hours getting home that night.
posted by nonasuch at 7:06 AM on January 29


Meanwhile, New Orleans has a light dusting of white on some surfaces and the Times-Picayune describes it as "winter storm wreaks havoc". They're actually not kidding: the Causeway has been closed "indefinitely".
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:29 AM on January 29 [1 favorite +] [!]

It wasn't as bad as expected here and of course the media are prone to hyperbole. But, the causeway is 25 miles long and being above a lake has one entrance on the south and one on the north which puts emergency vehicles a long way away.

Causeways present two other problems in that when a cold front approaches it first rains, then sleets and maybe snows. The concrete causeway, containing residual heat melts the sleet and snow and then the melted water, owing to its lack of ground [earth] contact freezes quickly, then the relatively warm and humid air from Lake Pontchartrain lubricates the icy road surface. In the case here turning it into a 25 mile long skating rink. That, coupled with the relatively steep elevation changes in the two sections designed to allow larger boats to pass under the causeway make closure a no-brainer.

Before I moved to Louisiana I lived in Iowa for five years and Winnipeg for two and skied a lot in Washington state so I've driven thousands of miles in frozen inclement weather. There is a special danger to drivers who would travel a causeway when the weather transistions rapidly from above to below freezing.
posted by vapidave at 7:07 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


You have to think about the worst roads in the whole county, which does have rural parts, and kids who are pretty far out on little twisty roads.

This. I grew up in Asheville, where a fair amount of kids lived up the side of mountains or way out rural roads (some unpaved). School closures were largely determined by how bad the conditions were on the worst road the school buses had to travel down. I lived a couple of miles from the middle of town. We'd have a flake or two, not enough to keep my parents home from work* but higher elevations would be iced over.

As a side note, the fact that weather can vary so dramatically in the mountains (sometimes literally block by block) pretty much convinced me early on that if it comes down to the choice between driving and not driving in potentially shitty weather. I'll always pick the latter.

*These were the best snow days because UNFETTERED ACCESS TO HBO AND MTV.
posted by thivaia at 7:30 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


There was ice on my car this morning, but no ice on the roads in Savannah, GA. A few flurries have shown up, but they were weak and quickly slain by the temperatures hovering at 32F.

Most of the city is closed though, which was smart. We're just not equipped to handle ice and snow and it's better for everyone to stay home, leaving the roads free for me!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 AM on January 29


My boyfriend's sister was stuck in traffic for six hours before she finally parked her car on a bridge and walked home. Who knows how long she could have sat there. I left work early yesterday at about 1 pm, though I had considered waiting until 5 because I had no experience with snow in Atlanta. The drive normally 30 minute drive home took 2 hours, so I am so glad I didn't wait.
posted by polywomp at 7:36 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


to provide underprivileged people with transit

Lol, this is the U.S., we can't even agree to provide them with basic health care services.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:40 AM on January 29 [10 favorites]


Here in Florida the public school district has a pretty solid auto phone, email, tv, and website reach. When school is cancelled for weather, people are reached rather quickly. My kids don't attend a traditional school this year, so our ability to find out the skinny has been pretty well nerfed. :\

I'm getting photos and videos from folks in ATL. The raised highways and streets around their building are littered with snow-dusted, ice-encrusted abandoned cars. At least my folks are safe in the nice warm tower office building they're at this week. Wish their hotel had been closer to it. Then they wouldn't have been sleeping under conference tables or across lobby chairs last night.

Ruthless Bunny and others - glad you're safe, stay safe. Add space blankets to your car kit, and extra large overnight sanitary napkins to ... deploy for urinary functions as necessary. Really.

It's a good reminder for me, too; I did a spur of the moment road trip to Ohio once and although I planned well, had no ice scraper when we got 6 inches of snow in the mid atlantic states. Doing one again next winter but I have already got one of these.
posted by tilde at 7:41 AM on January 29


I think I broke my car door handle last night forcing it open when it was frozen shut. I had to climb out the passenger door. I also had to use a pair of sunglasses to scrape the ice off my windows and mirror after I stupidly tried to use my wipers, thinking it was a layer of snow. New Orleans closed city government for two days (and made this decision on Monday, yay!) and businesses all over town were closed yesterday due to the tiny amounts of frozen precipitation we were expected to get. I feel lucky that we prepared relatively early and lessened the effect the storm could have had on us. But I could easily see how the decisions could have gone a different way. I feel for all those who were separated from their families and homes yesterday, and hope everyone is doing much better today.
posted by Night_owl at 7:48 AM on January 29


It is interesting to see the gradations in how prepared various cities are for cold weather and snow. Edmonton seems to have Minneapolis beat, and even Boston and New York don't seem to handle big snow storms well when compared to Minneapolis. D.C. doesn't do well, but is more prepared than Atlanta.

You should see western NY. The city-of-Buffalo isn't quite as good, but the snow removal in Amherst is just phenomenal. We've been here since 07 and I'm still occasionally surprised at how quick and thorough they are.

You have to think about the worst roads in the whole county, which does have rural parts, and kids who are pretty far out on little twisty roads.

Thirding this. In grad school I used to live out in the semi-boonies of Chatham County (ten minutes south of Chapel Hill, half an hour or so west of Raleigh) and the schools would close pretty much anytime there was a realistic threat of snow. Which is actually smart, because Chatham County doesn't have a whole lot of snow removal capacity* and it's rural enough that there are about six billion linear miles of road that need plowing before you can get the school buses around safely.

*Not government-owned ones, anyhow. My sense is that most of the roads got plowed because someone with a pickup and a plow decided to plow them, either to get home or just as a good deed. Same as the roving gangs of chainsaw-wielding madmen that cleared the roads after Hurricane Fran came through. It's that kind of place.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:52 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I'm in the middle of this, and my youngest is in an Atlanta public school that luckily, we live within walking distance of. APS does notify by cell, email, tv, web and radio..... I got updated all day. I got my little one, my oldest had to hike up the hill to Peachtree St where her Dad got her and got her home before it got bad (she's at a homeschool co-op that saw the writing on the wall and let out early). The problem has been alluded to above, final decisions were made too late, Atlanta has a huge population within it during the working day and everybody was bugging out at the same time on untreated roads with little to no experience. We don't even know how to walk on this ice. I slipped twice walking to the school at 12:30 just as it started. I'm warm and safe with my babies making dog booties for the pups who have decided they are too delicate to expose their paws to the snow but I so hurt for those people who are STILL stuck on the highways. Yes, a huge number are still there. Right now. Kids are still in schools, being cared for but tired and scared I'm sure. And until we see a thaw sometime tomorrow afternoon, this is far from over. Good luck fellow Atlantans. I hope everyone stays safe and our city can learn from this.
posted by pearlybob at 7:55 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


I'm in Tallahassee, which just seems to be on the cusp of that is closed and not closed. Everything west and most everything north of us is closed. Around here, schools and universities are closed, but the government remains open.

I fully admit that I grew up in South Florida, where ice exists only as something you get from the freezer to put in your drinks. This storm has thrown me for a total loop. I don't really know how to dress for the cold, and my car is a tiny little hatchback that has never seen ice.

We're not prepared to deal with ice or snow, and I'm not surprised that things are a mess just a bit to the north and west of me. It's not something predictable or common, and we tend to focus emergency-funding on things like hurricane preparation and sometimes, tornadoes and storms. Ice is way, way low on the priority list. Add to that that we can't use salt -- most of the cars aren't treated for it around here, and it just gets crazy.

Most of my friends in Atlanta seem OK, but the pictures they've been sharing of the mess have a slightly surreal quality to them.
posted by PearlRose at 7:55 AM on January 29


Same as the roving gangs of chainsaw-wielding madmen that cleared the roads after Hurricane Fran came through. It's that kind of place.

After Fran my street in Wake County was blocked by a series of downed trees until every man on the street emerged from their house with a chainsaw at roughly the same time and started cutting up the trees. I know I've been living in the city for a while now, because all I can think is "did everyone really own chainsaws?"
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:00 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Sympathies to those in the south. Grew up in Minnesota, and anyone anywhere can be taken by surprise by sudden winter storms.

FWIW, Chicago had an incumbent mayor who infamously lost a reelection bid because his response to a winter blizzard was tepid at best, and his election was in March.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:01 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


I was lucky and got out early, and have a short commute. I was able to pick up my son and make it home in about a half hour. My wife was not so lucky. She was inching along in the car for 16 hours. She managed to make it up a long steep hill near our house that was bordered by abandoned cars and trucks.

I went to bed worrying last night. My heart goes out to the parents who can't get to their kids.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:09 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


I live in the snowiest metropolitan area in the country. We have great snow removal and nearly everyone knows how to drive in the snow. That said, I hear nobody laughing about the plight of our southern brethren. Bad driving conditions can happen with just a thin coat of ice--all it takes is a few spin-outs, and a route is clogged. The situations described in the news are no laughing matter.

Even with giant municipal plows everywhere, I always carry blankets, candles and a few energy bars in my car from October to May, and am grateful for every winter drive that does not require them.

To be tossed headlong into unfamiliar weather can be traumatic and dangerous. I hope folks make it home safely and that things can return to "normal" as soon as possible.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:11 AM on January 29


Al Roker goes after the mayor of Atlanta's assertion that the snow was unexpected
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:14 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


The South will rise again! (And then promptly slip on the ice and break its tailbone.)
Damn this Storm of Northern Aggression!
posted by entropicamericana at 8:15 AM on January 29 [11 favorites]


I'm in Austin (hilly, for those who haven't been here) and we're having a particularly stormy winter. We've had two admittedly very mild by northern standards storms this week. But we're all hilly, there are lots of towering overpasses and freeway intersections, and not a lot of sand trucks.

Earlier this week, AISD made the call at 3 AM to leave schools open on the day when the front was hitting. A lot of other districts were closing as a precaution but AISD decided to stay open. It was a bad call and there were a lot of problems on the roads and wrecks. They ended up calling school off during the commute/while early schools were starting. That was a real mess. If you're going to close, you have to make the decision to close early and be willing to be laughed at for taking a precaution. That's still a lot better than having kids in buses on icy roads.

Atlanta folks, hope it warms up soon and you all get home safely.
posted by immlass at 8:31 AM on January 29


school/work wasn't cancelled early enough in the day

This. Other Atlantan's have described the ice. Commutes here suck at the best of times. We've got about 5.6M people living in the greater Atlanta area and the median commute is 17.5 miles one-way. What we ended up with was a mass exodus around noon when the snow started coming down. A few jack-knifed tractor trailers sprinkled around, and most of those people who are counting on I-75, I-85, I-285, I-20, and GA 400 being open are now completely stuck on a limited access interstate. Having winter tires or having lived up north doesn't help you if you are completely boxed in on an interstate.

Meanwhile, schools were telling parents, "hey, come get your kids" or trying to put them on buses which really compounded things as now people were not just trying to get home, but to get to schools or drop off points. My facebook feed is just full of parent-rage at the local school systems for not making a better call about cancelling school yesterday. Someone suggested that people will be voted out of office for this; I think the rage is going to be less focused at City of Atlanta or the various counties in the metro Atlanta area and more focused at school boards.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 8:32 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


Hey look, my comment got republished on Business Insider.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:34 AM on January 29 [25 favorites]


jeather: "That's not a southern phenomenon, it's a pretty standard just-below-freezing issue. I can easily imagine how it would be especially disastrous in the south, where they don't have to deal with it several times a year, but it isn't unique to them."

Ya I kid but I once got stuck in Banff for 16 hours because they closed the trans Canada highway East to Calgary because of ice on the road. Understandable as you literally couldn't walk around Banff on any paved surface without holding onto something. Even when things reopenned we were under pilot car control until we got into Calgary.

Rock Steady: "In the North, you have fleets of plows that can mostly clear the streets before anyone wakes up, but here, where there are only a few plows, most of the roads remain snow-covered until the early risers with 4WD and essential jobs melt/pack the snow into ice that then cannot be effectively plowed."

I can't speak to everywhere but that isn't how it works here. My neighbourhood is in the valley bottom and therefor flat so my neighbourhood doesn't see plows until three days after the snow stops falling because the city prioritizes by grade and traffic levels. They sand the intersections at the end of day one. If it snows again during the three days of waiting then back to the bottom of the list we go. It's not unheard of to go a couple weeks without the local streets getting plowed.

It's not to bad as I live a little over a block from the busiest surface street in town which does get priority plowing so I only have to make it that far during most snow events and then both my wife and I work right on main drags.

PearlRose: "Add to that that we can't use salt -- most of the cars aren't treated for it around here, and it just gets crazy."

Cars aren't specially treated in salt areas. We just wash our cars often and then watch them rust away despite our best intentions.
posted by Mitheral at 8:35 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


We in Rhode Island know from driving in snow. It's usually wet and slushy stuff, too. Everyone's done it, everyone mostly knows how to deal, the municipalities are equipped and experienced.

This morning my neck of the woods got hit with three inches of powder out of the blue. It wasn't supposed to accumulate at all, so the plows and sanders weren't out until well into the morning commute. Traffic on the little two lane country highway to my folks' house, typically a 5 minute jaunt with no traffic at all any time of day, was backed up bumper to bumper. It took me an hour to get there and back home. It was cold, and the roads weren't salted, so it never turned to slush - it's just a packed layer of snow with more snow on top. It's slippery in a way the drivers weren't used to. Three accidents in that 3 mile stretch.

This is in coastal New England. I can't imagine the hell that the deep south must be going through.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:38 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


In the North, you have fleets of plows that can mostly clear the streets before anyone wakes up,

Ha. No. I mean, we have good snow clearance here and I am not complaining about it, but even if you want to imagine that snow falls always overnight so it can be cleared before 6 am (it doesn't), there are a lot of roads, and snow falls many times a winter, and sometimes it falls when it is just around freezing, so it isn't rare that the streets get icy even with more effective snow clearing plans. (It's happened more than once this winter already.)

I'm not making fun of Atlanta -- they're not as well equipped to deal with it, and it's normal that they wouldn't be, but they aren't getting some unique kind of icy streets that no one else could even imagine.
posted by jeather at 8:44 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Mitheral: Ah, yes, but from what I understand, you can treat undercarriages with anti-corrosives. That's really not done (and quite potentially, not available to be done) here.

Then again, maybe I'm mistaken. Again, there's an almost-total lack of knowledge on how to handle ice around here, which is why statistically small amounts are turning out to be quite disastrous.
posted by PearlRose at 8:46 AM on January 29


The budget for Montreal was just released today and snow removal is 153.3 million. This 2011 budget shows that 29 million went to salting. At lower temperatures a sand/gravel mix is used. Snow removal is almost a science. We even have special plows just for the sidewalks. Winter tires are required in Quebec. There's a lot of snow and ice here, people are used to driving on it. And even with all that there was a huge pile up and many accidents a couple of days ago. The commute to work that day was a nightmare. It was a light snowfall, but wind and the temperature made it a nasty one.

Atlantans, you have my sympathies. Stay safe and warm.
posted by Cuke at 9:01 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


You *can* treat the undersides of cars, but it wears off, a lot of people don't do it, etc. When I lived and drove in New England I never did that to my car, and didn't know many people who did - we just either went to the car wash a lot in the winter (which you want to do if only because the buildup of dried salt and slush on your windows makes it hard to see) or lived with the rust.
posted by rtha at 9:02 AM on January 29


I carry a pair of ice cleats in the winter. They are rubber things that snap onto your shoes or boots and have steel bumps on the bottom. They make walking on ice safe and easy. I got them a few years ago after the back of my head met the pavement when I tried to walk across what I thought was a puddle. Here's a whole page of different devices along those lines.

All the reports I've heard say that rustproofing treatments applied after the car leaves the factory are a waste of money. FWIW, today's cars generally do not rust as much as older ones did.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:04 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


In the South, at least in my experience, most car washes close when the weather's cold so the idea of washing them more in the winter is pretty interesting to me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:06 AM on January 29


When the temp hits 33 or above, there are often long lines at car washes.
posted by soelo at 9:08 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


see, in chicago they stay open. as soon as the sky clears for more than an hour, there are massive lines at the car washes.

they leave the car wash and drive directly back on to the streets full of salty puddles of melty snow water.

i have heard that it can be more effective to keep the car outdoors so that the salty water does not go above freezing and turn into a liquid water/salt mix vs a frozen mix, which slows down the process somewhat. the salt will still attack the metal though.
posted by ninjew at 9:18 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


"did everyone really own chainsaws?"

Many of us that do look for reasons to use them. A couple times I've gone out and cleared downed trees off public roads and done favors for neighbors. On the one hand it's a little illogical to put oneself in mortal danger like that when the road crew will be along eventually, but on the other hand it's a reason to BREAK OUT THE M*OTHER-F*CKING CHAINSAW!
posted by achrise at 9:25 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


I've pretty much always lived in places with snow, slush, ice and other delights, and I've had the practice it takes to drive in it, and to know that staying home is often a great idea. I'm in the southwest for the 1st time, and snow in Colorado is different. It snows, they plow, and they don't salt, because their water comes from reservoirs. After it snows, it's sunny again, and it evaporates (sublimates) off the roads. It's magic, is what it is. In Maine, you better clear the driveway properly, or you may live with those ruts all winter. Lose your keys? Some years you won't find them until spring/ mud season.

Prepping for snow/ potential power loss? Fleece blankets, scraper, water, and a jar of candy in the car. I have a glass jar with tea candles and matches - the jar can be a safe candleholder in the car. In winter, I don't let the gas get below 1/2 full, and I keep the phone on the charger. In Maine, I do more than the basics, and the spare fleece pullover, gloves and hat in the car come in handy often. In Georgia, spare sunscreen is the equivalent. Use common sense with candles, as they use Fire. No charcoal grill in the house, and be careful about furnaces, generators, etc. Anybody tells you how you're stupid for not being good at driving on snow, remind them you're smart enough to live someplace with loads of sunshine.

Fhrg
posted by theora55 at 9:35 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Now that melted snow is refreezing under the tires of all of these stacked motorists. Those tires manage to melt a little of the top layer, but it freezes right back quickly. The result is a particularly Southern phenomena that looks and feels like cold glass.

This happened to me once in St. Louis -- surprise snowstorm during heavy traffic that was barely crawling.

The road got to be so slick that a pickup truck in front of me, completely stopped like everyone else, literally slid off the road sideways.
posted by Foosnark at 9:43 AM on January 29


Speaking as a GA and ATL native--the thing is, rush hour Atlanta traffic is only a couple of mm away from being just like this even on the best, driest, sunniest day of the year. A few snowflakes is to Atlanta traffic as a match is to a propane tank farm. It doesn't take much.
posted by jfuller at 9:45 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


Snowed Out Atlanta is a facebook page full of people asking for and offering help - there are posts from people offering stranded strangers places to sleep and the like. Sometimes it's nice to see something that makes me go "Yay people!"
posted by rtha at 9:46 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Ha. No. I mean, we have good snow clearance here and I am not complaining about it, but even if you want to imagine that snow falls always overnight so it can be cleared before 6 am (it doesn't), there are a lot of roads, and snow falls many times a winter, and sometimes it falls when it is just around freezing, so it isn't rare that the streets get icy even with more effective snow clearing plans. (It's happened more than once this winter already.)

I lived in New England for most of my life, and I'm telling you that the "snow gets melted and packed into ice on major roads" phenomenon happens way more often (per snowfall event) here in North Carolina than it does in New England.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:47 AM on January 29



I am planning to put a coat and walking shoes in my car now.

My Boy's boots are staying in the car now. We would have been fucked if we'd ditched and had to walk yesterday.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:50 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I never saw so much horrible ice/ice under snow/ice on snow as I did when I lived in the DC area - nothing in Boston, Maine, New Hampshire, or Western Mass ever came close in frequency or duration.
posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on January 29


I lived in New England for most of my life, and I'm telling you that the "snow gets melted and packed into ice on major roads" phenomenon happens way more often (per snowfall event) here in North Carolina than it does in New England.

Ya, I lived in Atlanta for 23 years, including at least one major ice storm I recall, and southern Minnesota the last 8 years. We've had school cancelled two days in the last 2 weeks due to cold (-20F with windshields approaching -50F) and some good snow. But, I've never experienced an ice storm up here quite like we got in Atlanta. No matter how bad the snow fall is, the plows are out, doing their magic, and getting to my destination's never been too much of an issue. The roads are almost always generally safe, not driving like a maniac aside. But give me -20F weather & 1' snow any day of the week over ice and sleet. You can deal with snow and cold weather, particularly when it's regular and expected. Ice, OTOH, no thanks. Fuck that shit.
posted by jmd82 at 9:56 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "In the South, at least in my experience, most car washes close when the weather's cold so the idea of washing them more in the winter is pretty interesting to me."

Car washes here, all the newer ones anyways, are indoors. You pull up, get a ticket, drive in this big garage like building which has wash bays lined up along the walls. Once you are done washing your car you pull up to the exit door and the attendant takes your ticket then collects the per minute charge from you based on when you came in.

And you've got to wash your car pretty often around here as most of the winter it hovers around a few degrees below zero and ice management at that temperature is a combination of sand, pre-wet salt and liquid magnesium chloride. The MgCl2 ends up being sort of sticky/greasy and sticks everything else together and to whatever they touch. So cars end up being coated in a sandy and salty residue that immediately transfers to your clothing if you brush up against your car.
posted by Mitheral at 9:56 AM on January 29


Prepping for snow/ potential power loss? Grind the coffee now.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:56 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


It's a shame all the know-it-alls in this thread haven't deigned to go into the public transportation

Really? As far as I can tell there have been very few "HURR DURR THE SOUTH CAN'T HANDLE SNOW HAHAHA" comments in this thread. I came in here expecting a clusterfuck of "haha, look at Atlanta in its paltry 1" of snow" and it's been much better than I thought.
posted by andrewesque at 10:00 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


(-20F with windshields approaching -50F)

A new eggcorn!

Wind chill factor
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:04 AM on January 29


I'm guessing autocorrect, not eggcorn
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:09 AM on January 29


(-20F with windshields approaching -50F)
A new eggcorn!
Wind chill factor


I've been saying Windshield my entire life and never noticed how wrong I was until now. It makes sense in my head... Definite Eggcorn!
posted by jmd82 at 10:13 AM on January 29


Why is Johnson Ferry Road so bad? Just completely frozen over? That is near my old turf, it's a hill between the big ridges that Briarcliff and North Highland are on, if I recall, so I guess that's probably enough to explain why to stay off it.
posted by thelonius at 10:14 AM on January 29


You should see western NY. The city-of-Buffalo isn't quite as good, but the snow removal in Amherst is just phenomenal

There are five levels of snow removal, and they really depend on how much/often you have to deal with it.

Level 0) Panic at it. (Rare to never snows, the Southern US)
Level 1) Melt it a bit. (1-3" snows, 1-2 times a year, St. Louis)
Level 3) Push it about. (4-12" snows, 3-5 times a year, Chicago)
Level 4) Pick it up and dump it. (12+" snows, 5+ times a year, Buffalo)
Level 5) Drive on it. (Just doesn't stop snowing long enough to do anything else, North Canada)

Everyone gets hung up a bit when they go up a level (see Chicago after the 1999 and 2011 20" snowstorms) and pretty much everyone shuts down if they go up two levels -- well, except two levels up from Level 5 is "Freeze out the Atmosphere", so really, that's more an extinction level event.
posted by eriko at 10:14 AM on January 29 [8 favorites]


And, if you haven't experienced a southern ice storm, you're northern snow driving experience means nothing. What they do is lay a glaze of ice down. My first experience with them was when I walked outside and the wind was blowing me down the sidewalk. I didn't get a vote.

Then, of course, I fell on my face. Then I got up and fell on my ass. Then the power went out as a tree, weighed down by ice, fell on its ass and landed on the power lines. I somehow crawled back to my door.

I'll take 12" of snow over 1/4" of ice, any day of the year.
posted by eriko at 10:17 AM on January 29 [17 favorites]


Here's my thing, though: People's kids got stuck at school overnight. People got stranded at the CVS. They slept at Home Depot. They abandoned their cars and walked in the snow.

For the purposes of public policy, there's a perfectly healthy conversation for actual infrastructure and emergency response folks to have about what could go better next time, but I cannot understand any response to these stories that isn't dominated by feeling really sympathetic for people who are stuck in this situation. Answering "I was in my car for 15 hours" with "Well, you people don't know how to deal with snow, ha ha" just seems ... completely bizarre to me. (Not saying here; saying elsewhere.)

I DON'T CARE if it's because people panic or because they didn't deploy the trucks in the right way. If you spent the night in the effing cough syrup aisle at CVS because you couldn't get home, I'm really sorry, because that sucks, and you are not a wuss for thinking that sucks.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:20 AM on January 29 [22 favorites]


@thelonius, you are thinking of Johnson Road, where N. Highland splits into Johnson and Lenox, not Johnson Ferry. Johnson Ferry runs NW from Peachtree to the Glenridge Connector, then picks up again on the other side of Roswell Road and crosses the Chattahoochee and runs up through East Cobb almost to Woodstock. If you've got to cross the Chattahoochee river on your commute, there aren't many alternatives to the interstate; Johnson Ferry is one of them.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 10:23 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Ah of course you are right - it's been a long time - losing my Atlanta bearings.....
posted by thelonius at 10:25 AM on January 29


Here's a question: Did the snowstorm shutdown Atlanta's light rail? No? Huh. I wonder what sort of lesson we could draw from this? I know, HEATED ROADS!
posted by entropicamericana at 10:28 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


see Chicago after the 1999 and 2011

'67 was the bomb. Dad shoveled about 20 square feet of the 12 foot drift outside the sliding glass door and they just put my cranky ass out. There was no way I was going to escape.

It was like an aquarium for my parents and I was a fish. They were drinking something hot and laughing while I did my best to climb out of the grave dad had dug for me.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:29 AM on January 29 [18 favorites]


I am always amazed, living in Asheville, at the hearty halfbacks who drive around in their SUVs and come into stores bragging about how they can drive in snow, and ha ha, these Southerners and their panic over a little snow! Ha ha! They stop that after a year or two and an ice storm or two goes by. I have the same response, though, I just look at them and say, "I learned to drive in Charleston, SC. Do you think they covered snow driving? Do you want me out on the roads? There are a lot of people like me in this town." Yesterday afternoon was a case in point. Nothing like Atlanta of course but I've heard from a lot of friends whose usual 20 minute commutes took two and three or more hours. Ick. I tried to go to work, failed, took half an hour to drive about a mile through West Asheville to get home and then stayed there. Here's hoping that Atlanta gets cleared out safely - driving there in good weather is horrible enough; I can only imagine what it was like yesterday.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:31 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Wait. Johnson's Ferry is a road not a boat?
posted by Mitheral at 10:32 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Wait. Johnson's Ferry is a road not a boat?

What a country!
posted by thelonius at 10:34 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Did the snowstorm shutdown Atlanta's light rail?

Sadly, the transit system we've got was not a shining beacon of efficiency yesterday, either. The MARTA buses were stuck in the same traffic gridlock as everyone else; my girlfriend rides the bus to work, so I had to go rescue her. She eventually saw her bus come by her house four hours later, so she would have eventually gotten home on the bus, but it would have been an all afternoon adventure. The main MARTA train terminus, Five Points, had a fire yesterday (what are the odds of that?) and the North/South line was shut down for a period, then only running on one set of tracks.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 10:35 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Brian Barrett at Gizmodo gives the perspective from my neck of the woods in the metro Birmingham area: Why The South Fell Apart in the Snow

So glad that I work from home and that my wonderful and brilliant wife made a significant order of dry good groceries from Amazon just last week.
posted by ndfine at 10:37 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I've encountered a couple places that had "X Ferry Rd" road names. I assume they're roads that used to lead to a ferry, and now have bridges that have replaced the ferry, but I don't know that for sure.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:40 AM on January 29


> the "snow gets melted and packed into ice on major roads" phenomenon happens way more often (per snowfall event) here
> in North Carolina than it does in New England.

Virginia still thinks of itself as De Souf' but it gets a lot more snow that Georgia does. I commented to my freshman dorm roomie at UVa about being colder and seeing more snow than I was used to in Atlanta. Roomie was from upstate NY (by "upstate" I mean "misses being Canada by a couple hundred yards and a river".) He explained "cold" to somebody who clearly Did Not Understand by saying "Where I grew up, the snow comes down in the night and it's powder. Then the cars and trucks come out and drive up and down on it all day. Then the sun goes down, the traffic goes home for the night, and the snow is still powder.
posted by jfuller at 10:41 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I am always amazed, living in Asheville

2nded. That was a reality-based panic.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:41 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Why is Johnson Ferry Road so bad? Just completely frozen over?

Icy roads were just part of it. On my part of Johnson Ferry, in Brookhaven, it starts pretty much where there are three hospitals, so while I was waiting on it, emergency vehicles were driving up the the middle of the street, to keep it clear for other emergency vehicles. I saw 4 HUMONGOUS fire engines going up and down, one even transported someone to St. Joseph's.

The other issue on Johnson Ferry is that it's a two lane road. So when a couple of cars tangled, it stopped traffic dead in both directions. Not moving for 2 hours.

The neighbors got out, one guy was giving people granola bars and water, a couple more were trying to break up ice with shovels and more were out with cardboard, sand and kitty litter trying to give folks traction. Atlanta is hilly, so you come down the hill, hit the valley and then go back up the hill. It's barely perceptible on a regular day, you don't even notice it, but once the sun went down and it got icy...all bets were off.

An ambulance had a HARD time getting up the hill.

I might have been able to make it in my Civic in 1st gear, but the SUVs and the minivans and the other rear wheel drives couldn't. And since it was a two lane road, the only option was to park the car and walk.

This was probably the same story on other ancillary roads as well, but as I said before, since that's where I live, it wasn't like I could have taken another street.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:57 AM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I can only imagine how hellish this is. I've lived in either New England or... Iceland... my entire adult life. I know from winter driving. Snow is no big deal. Go slowly, downshift, aim for a snowbank if you start to slide.

ICE is hell. Black ice is a level of hell Dante didn't have the wherewithal to describe, what with having lived before cars and all. I wouldn't even try with black ice. Oh, I'm at work? Guess I live here now!

We recently got a big snowfall here in Boston and it was the fluffy, cold snow that sure - it'll get slippery when it's packed down, but it's not the worst in the world to drive in. But y'know, with the weather channel's constant level of panic I had friends checking in on us - my response was "This is nothing. It's JUST snow. It's when you start adding rain that things get ugly." That's when you end up with a few inches of slush and ice on top of the snow creating a friction potpourri such that six inches of road are drive able followed by a mile of surface that's more non-Newtonian.

Black ice under the snow is even worse. Doesn't matter how good your driving skills are, the design of the wheel really requires *some* friction to not just spin wildly out of control.
posted by sonika at 11:02 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


ICE is hell. Black ice is a level of hell Dante didn't have the wherewithal to describe

Didn't make it to the end of Inferno, eh?
posted by thelonius at 11:07 AM on January 29 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile, if you are a college bro who decides to photobomb an on-air weathercaster, you should maybe pick someone with less experience than Jim Cantore, who doesn't even pause in his delivery as he neatly dispatches the bro.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:07 AM on January 29 [19 favorites]


> I've encountered a couple places that had "X Ferry Rd" road names. I assume they're roads that used to lead to a ferry,
> and now have bridges that have replaced the ferry, but I don't know that for sure.

That's exactly what it means. In some states (like mine) within living memory (mine) there were still country roads named X's Ferry Road that would eventually being you to X's ferry. These were most often barges the size of one auto, a steel cable going all the way across the river (50 to 100 feet, we're not talking Mississippi here), and a hand-operated cable winch mounted on the barge that was used, one crank at a time, to winch the barge across to the landing on the other side.

There are also lots of roads called "X's Ford Rd" but I haven't ever encountered an actual ford on one of these. Not long ago, though, I passed a fifty foot dirt drive going from the side of an ordinary two lane blacktop rural road down to a river bank. The turnoff featured a very roughly hand-lettered sign, white paint on board, announcing the turnoff as Charlie's Not-A-Ford Road. I knew some people in the neighborhood who knew all about the sign. Charlie had driven his 4x4 pickup down the turnoff to go fishing. Later, for some reason, he wished he was on the other side. The river looked shallow and the opposite bank looked like a 4x4 could climb it, so Charlie started across. Made it 70% of the way, too! Before having to wade back and call for a tow truck.
posted by jfuller at 11:08 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


You *can* treat the undersides of cars, but it wears off, a lot of people don't do it, etc.

Well, we've never done this before. But seeing as it's special circumstances and all, he says I can knock a hundred dollars off that Trucoat.
posted by gimonca at 11:13 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


Now, let's talk rust-proofing. These Colecos'll rust up on ya' like that er ... shut up, Gil. Close the deal ... close the deal!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:16 AM on January 29


Meanwhile, if you are a college bro who decides to photobomb an on-air weathercaster, you should maybe pick someone with less experience than Jim Cantore, who doesn't even pause in his delivery as he neatly dispatches the bro.

That's pretty funny in a way. Reminds me of Keith Richards who unslings his guitar and belts a stage rusher with it and calmly resumes playing.
posted by edgeways at 11:16 AM on January 29


Hopefully Kasim Reed has no ambitions for higher office:
However, Reed did himself no favors today with his statement. He blamed the school board and private businesses for the traffic nightmare. And then demonstrated a profound lack of awareness about how political fallout works.
Asked whether he feels Atlantans are angry with him, he said, "I don't feel people are angry at me. I feel they have a great deal of frustration."
He has a number of problems, but by far the biggest one is that CNN is located in Atlanta, and some of its employees -- including, one suspects, upper management -- are probably marooned out in the snowscape somewhere. This is a massive local story for a massive national network, and CNN has been pummeling Reed for a lack of "taking responsibility" all afternoon and is unlikely to stop. This is not something you want to have attached to your ankles. I met Reed when he was running for office in the backroom of Manuel's, the greatest of all Southern political bars. He fairly bristled with ambition, and he's had some good run on the Sunday showz, especially on Disco's Dave's joint. This is a career-defining moment for him, though, and blaming the schools isn't going to get it done.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:16 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Still I have a hard time not chuckling at the idea of an inch or two of snow shutting the state down.

That's okay, we Californians laugh our asses off every time another state has an "earthquake".


And growing up in AZ we were genuinely confused when there were emergency situations in northern cities with temperatures in the 90’s. If it’s under 120 why are you even talking about it?

It’s different in different places.
posted by bongo_x at 11:19 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


It's amazing how relative it is. I was ecstatic when the thermometer hit zero (F) yesterday. I will put on shorts when it gets above freezing.
posted by desjardins at 11:24 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


My wife is a compulsive weather watcher. Monday was 60 degrees (and it will be in the low 60’s this weekend). When we went to bed after midnight on they were saying we might not get any snow, maybe ½". There is still 4" in my yard today.

This was unexpected.
posted by bongo_x at 11:25 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I will put on shorts when it gets above freezing.

Leave 'em off before you impregnate fellow posters.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:28 AM on January 29


And growing up in AZ we were genuinely confused when there were emergency situations in northern cities with temperatures in the 90’s. If it’s under 120 why are you even talking about it?

This one time I was stupid and left California for a few days and I discovered humidity. Never again!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:28 AM on January 29 [13 favorites]


See, the problem is, all these urban populations just depend on the government to plow and salt their roads. If people just took some personal responsibility and pulled their cars home by their bootstraps, the American dream would still be alive.
posted by gone2croatan at 11:36 AM on January 29 [18 favorites]


For reference, here are a couple of photos taken after a Atlanta winter storm in 2011. We literally could have used the parking lot as a skating rink. That storm had really fortunate timing, occurring on a Sunday night, so most people were already at home and could just stay there for the next few days, while things thawed out. But with this storm, it doesn't sound like people were so lucky.

Hope all of you Atlantans are now home safe and sound.
posted by comradechu at 11:48 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


the car had slid all the way back down the mountain. It is in a ditch with all wheels off the ground and AAA can't get here for a day or two.

I thought this story might end with a coyote joyride instead.
posted by elizardbits at 11:48 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Mike Sidell vs Fayetteville
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:54 AM on January 29


This is a fairly interesting reflection on how meteorologists can learn from this in terms of communication.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:56 AM on January 29


"i'm noticing a real downtrend in driving ability here"

I wonder if that's because global warming has made stuff like this more rare, so people aren't as used to it.

But Michigan is hammered (again) right now, and while I was back we got the ice storm of the century, including sheets of glare ice on all the roads (since it was too cold for the salt to work) and white outs while driving. I noticed the poor driving too, especially since everyone seemed to have forgotten the Michigan state motto: Turn Into the Skid.

It was pretty fun in my girlfriend's parents neighborhood, which was part of Lansing that didn't really get plowed at all, so it was ice on snow on ice on snow, and I was fishtailing like I had a souped-up Corvair.

We did, however, get fucked on 94 on the way to Metro, since somebody cracked up right after the 23 interchange (which is always terrible).

At least Detroit has enough extra capacity in its roads to generally compensate — Atlanta always feels about two seconds away from gridlock in the best conditions.
posted by klangklangston at 11:59 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


And growing up in AZ we were genuinely confused when there were emergency situations in northern cities with temperatures in the 90’s. If it’s under 120 why are you even talking about it?

On the other hand one of the worst winter driving situations I've dealt with was during a vacation in AZ. (Northern AZ, of course, going from Kingman to Grand Canyon Village in February. Though when it stopped snowing and the sun came out it was insanely beautiful. And fortunately we had rented a Subaru.)
posted by aught at 12:02 PM on January 29


I wonder if that's because global warming has made stuff like this more rare,

No, it's likely making it less rare, as it puts more energy and more moisture into the atmosphere. The downtrend in driving ability is because of the kids on my lawn.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:05 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


the Michigan state motto: Turn Into the Skid.

I think part of the problem with inexperienced people driving in snow is that it's really hard to explain what you're supposed to do. I've heard that advice all my life and honestly, I can't tell you what it means. I can make it mean either direction in my head. The better advice (I think) is point the front wheel the in direction you want to go. Even that can be hard to execute if you're not used to it and panicking. I'm not a good snow driver, and I live near public transit, so I just stay off the roads when there's any kind of winter weather.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:16 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


We did, however, get fucked on 94 on the way to Metro, since somebody cracked up right after the 23 interchange (which is always terrible).

We finally moved from Belleville to AA this summer, and while it's more expensive, not having to hit that interchange twice a day, every DAMN day, has been worth every penny. Especially with the conditions these last few weeks.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:35 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


It's all fun and games when you've the wheel all the way to the left and you are still heading for the ravine on the sharp 15 mph turn with the nice view. Was I supposed to turn into that? Ice sucks.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:42 PM on January 29


I thought this story might end with a coyote joyride instead

The neighbors chased them down and shot them from snowmobiles after losing a couple chickens. I'm not kidding.

Bad mast crop this year and everything is hungry all the time.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 12:53 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


...turn into the skid....I've heard that advice all my life and honestly, I can't tell you what it means

In driving, the front wheels are supposed to point in the same direction that the car is moving. When you skid, this stops happening. So, I think, the idea is to get the wheels oriented to where they might grab the road and return you to something like being in control of the car.
posted by thelonius at 12:54 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: “ This is a pretty common problem in cities that aren't very snow experienced.”
That's the thing. Atlanta gets enough winter weather to have to roll the plows and sand trucks maybe once or twice every winter. It shouldn't be like this.



Here's How Hothlanta Happened. Again., Spencer Hall, 29 January 2014
If you want to know what happened, it's that a sprawling mess of a city with zero preparation or capacity to handle a logistical challenge got hit right where it could afford it least: straight in the heart of the city, i.e. the ability to drive from one point to another in an automobile. You have solutions. We have an Atlanta. You should know that the two rarely meet.


As the sun rose, people all across the city fanned out to bring water, food, coffee, and cheer to the people still jammed in on Atlanta's highways and byways. That's the spirit of the original Snow Jam, and one of the few reasons to stay in the City Too Busy to Hate.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:54 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Sometimes, the weather just catches people off-guard. It happens everywhere. In Buffalo about 13 years ago, there was a relatively early storm the Monday before Thanksgiving. It started just when school buses were starting to take students home and it was a decent amount of snow - maybe 8 inches. School buses and cars just got stuck. My brother slept at his high school, <13 miles from our house, after his bus got stuck and turned around. My father, who worked <6 miles from our house, spent the night in his car in the parking lot of a Denny's, occasionally going inside to warm up. It was a character-building experience. Everyone survived. The only residual bad thing maybe is that now my father only considers buying cars if they're big enough for him to sleep in.

Being stuck someplace sucks but it's not the end of the world. A few years after that pre-Thanksgiving storm, there was a nasty ice storm in mid-October. It was so early that most trees still had leaves on them so when the ice weighed down the leaves, the trees fell onto power lines. Power crews couldn't get around because there were so many downed trees and lines. My folks lost power for over a week. My father felt helpless the whole time as he tried to keep the house warm for him and my mother - going from store to store to find a generator, going out for gas to keep it running. I actually think that that storm traumatized him.

Perhaps this is just nostalgia shading my memory but the plus side is that I think snow, more than other weather conditions, brings out the best in people. I've helped push people's cars, shoveled driveways, opened doors to stranded people, shared stories with others. People from Buffalo frequently say that they would easily take snow over earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or floods and I stand by that.
posted by kat518 at 12:57 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


...turn into the skid....I've heard that advice all my life and honestly, I can't tell you what it means

It means you and your flexible flyer slam straight into one of the frozen hay bales that line the supposed route. You pull those little handles as hard as you can with your little hands and nothing happens. The front of the sled hits first and then you fly off and ram your head into something that shares many of the properties of a brick wall.

It's called "Winter Fun."
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:30 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


agreed that black ice is hell - i was going to grand rapids last friday on 131 and saw a car in the ditch - and sure enough hit a patch of black ice at about 50 mph - i could feel the car start to skid - but kept it straight by taking my foot off the gas and making small corrections - turning into the very slight skid very slightly, correcting very slightly when it started the other way and above all keeping my foot off the brakes

meanwhile idiots are passing me at 60 to 70 miles an hour, not even realizing what they're driving on

nerve wracking, but i know how to deal with it - but i got tired of having everyone else drive too damn fast for conditions and got off the freeway at plainwell to drive the back road up to g r at 40 45 - it was in worse shape, but it was mostly snow and there weren't any lunatics trying to pass me

patchy road conditions like that, one really has to watch the road closely and pay very close attention to how the steering feels at any given moment - you can feel that lack of traction start through your steering wheel just before you're about to start skidding - take your foot off the gas, make very gentle adjustments and don't hit the brakes

about 30 years ago i had to drive home from my job a few miles and the roads were a pure sheet of black ice - i had to drive about 10 - 15 miles an hour and really concentrate as my car kept wanting to go all over the place - it was exhausting trying to feel how my car was reacting and making the right subtle adjustments with my steering wheel and gas - fortunately i was pretty much alone out there - if that's what it's like in atlanta, of course the freeways are going to be all clogged - it would be impossible to drive on that kind of road in heavy traffic

one of the things about skidding - back when i had a rear wheel drive car, i used to turn corners by skidding slowly through them - turn the wheel, let the rear end slide around and then tap the gas quickly to stop the skid and get me going on the road i'd just turned into - i know that sounds crazy and dangerous, but it's at very slow speed and it's actually the most efficient way to make a turn in some conditions

that doesn't work with front wheel drive - i kind of miss it
posted by pyramid termite at 1:34 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


one of the things about skidding - back when i had a rear wheel drive car, i used to turn corners by skidding slowly through them - turn the wheel, let the rear end slide around and then tap the gas quickly to stop the skid and get me going on the road i'd just turned into - i know that sounds crazy and dangerous, but it's at very slow speed and it's actually the most efficient way to make a turn in some conditions

At high speed, it's called the Scandinavian Flick, amongst other names. On dry pavement, it's hell on the tires, but on loose surfaces, it's the fastest way to turn. Basically, most cars are biased to understeer, with a little braking and opposite lock at the "wrong" time, you get the back end to come around, which is oversteer.

It's also the fastest way to dramatically fail if you do it wrong, since you'll just slide right off the road. It is also the pretty much stupidest thing it the world to try in a vehicle with a high wheelbase and high center of gravity -- it'll just roll the car.
posted by eriko at 1:42 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


The local weather columnist wrote a pretty stinging indictment of the Georgia governor and how local and state government dealt with the forecast ('The state of Georgia utterly failed Atlanta and then sought to blame forecasters'). Evidently the forecast was pretty clear by early morning, well before commute time, and they just botched the call.

Amusingly enough, my local weather columnist is actually in Houston--but he's still pretty incensed at the Georgia governor for blaming forecasters. Our weather here called for a half inch or so of ice and that didn't really materialize, though schools and local government closed anyway, so there's probably some defensiveness there.
posted by librarylis at 1:47 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


"No, it's likely making it less rare, as it puts more energy and more moisture into the atmosphere. The downtrend in driving ability is because of the kids on my lawn."

Yeah, thanks gramps, but this is what I was talking about.

And no, you're confusing frequency with intensity. Super cold nights are more rare, but they're considerably more brutal — you see a lot more records broken but fewer overall cold nights.

I think part of the problem with inexperienced people driving in snow is that it's really hard to explain what you're supposed to do. I've heard that advice all my life and honestly, I can't tell you what it means. I can make it mean either direction in my head. The better advice (I think) is point the front wheel the in direction you want to go. Even that can be hard to execute if you're not used to it and panicking. I'm not a good snow driver, and I live near public transit, so I just stay off the roads when there's any kind of winter weather."

It was part of driver's ed where I'm from, but I take your meaning. It's a little bit easier to conceptualize if you've driven rear-wheel drive cars, since (especially in winter), steering with the front wheels and driving with the back is pretty basic.

(I don't know how common this was, but our driver's ed videos were all hosted by Mario Andretti, and he gave some of the best driving advice about curves that I've ever heard, about how to think about orienting your car when coming up on them.)

"We finally moved from Belleville to AA this summer, and while it's more expensive, not having to hit that interchange twice a day, every DAMN day, has been worth every penny. Especially with the conditions these last few weeks."

Oh, Christ, that whole 14-23-94 area is totally fucked, not least because a lot of the on and off ramps were built to be temporary in the '70s and have just never been upgraded. That's when you get those horrible merge-left things, like 23 coming north into 96, which about half the drivers take too fast, and the other half takes way too slow.

"turning into the very slight skid very slightly, correcting very slightly when it started the other way and above all keeping my foot off the brakes"

Yeah, though thank god brakes don't lock like they used to. Anti-lock can be a pain when you need to stop NOW! but at least they're not seizing and locking you into the skid.
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on January 29


. Anti-lock can be a pain when you need to stop NOW!

Unless you are in snow deeper than your wheels or sand, Anti-lock brakes will stop you faster than you can. Push the pedal down hard and let them work.

Study after study after study after study has proven this. If, and only if, you are in material deep and loose enough to pile up in front of your wheels and form a ramp is locking the wheels going to stop you faster.

Period. End of statement.
posted by eriko at 1:56 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


By the end of my drive last night, I was wanting to send a letter of gratitude to the inventor of anti-lock brakes. That said, the woodpecker-like pulsing sound/feeling is disturbing as hell.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:59 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


except on ice, anti-lock brakes may not stop you at all and cause you to lose steering control

the key is, of course, making sure you have lots of room in front of you

and of course, i never did the scandinavian flick faster than 5-10 mph and only on snowy streets

and oh, geez, i don't think i want to know what 14-23-94 is like in bad conditions
posted by pyramid termite at 2:06 PM on January 29


> The pictures of the kids sleeping at school are breaking my heart! I know they're fine, I know they probably had a great time, but it would kill me as a parent to know my kid was at school and I couldn't get there

Here's a photo that will either break your heart further or mend it: "Mark Nilson walked six miles from his home to spend the night with his 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, a kindergartner. at E. Rivers Elementary in Atlanta."
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:10 PM on January 29 [6 favorites]


Among the photos of traffic still hopelessly snarled as of this morning in this aerial photo gallery from the AJC, there's one that shows at least one person knew how to have fun.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:12 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


ctlr + F 'Leon' 0 of 0

hahah. suck it, weather channel. and the google results are pretty much the same. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR STORM NAMES
posted by ninjew at 2:22 PM on January 29 [7 favorites]


No but I liked the one they called HERCULES though
posted by elizardbits at 2:26 PM on January 29


Ice storms are, on average, much harder to deal with than snow storms. I had a near-miss earlier this year on black ice, and I'm from the Northeast; I can't imagine it gets any easier for folks who don't have snow tires and years of experience driving in these conditions.

A few years after that pre-Thanksgiving storm, there was a nasty ice storm in mid-October. It was so early that most trees still had leaves on them so when the ice weighed down the leaves, the trees fell onto power lines. Power crews couldn't get around because there were so many downed trees and lines. My folks lost power for over a week. My father felt helpless the whole time as he tried to keep the house warm for him and my mother - going from store to store to find a generator, going out for gas to keep it running. I actually think that that storm traumatized him.

God, that storm. I was in that one and your father wasn't the only one who was traumatized. Didn't help that the hotel I was staying at didn't own a shovel -- what kind of hotel in Buffalo doesn't own a shovel? And then the water treatment plant lost power and a boil water order was issued, which doesn't work if people don't have power with which to boil said water.

And the thing is, if anyone is prepared for snow, it's Buffalo. But they weren't prepared for THAT snow, under THOSE conditions. Maine gets ice storms, but they weren't prepared for the ice storms of Christmas 2013 (or for that matter the 98 storm). Boston gets blizzards with storm surges, but they weren't prepared for the Blizzard of 78. Every storm management system has a breaking point.

I'm sorry that Atlanta's storm management system hit its breaking point, and I hope they can improve the situation to deal with this kind of thing better in the future. :-/
posted by pie ninja at 2:28 PM on January 29


The big Atlanta ice storm in '72 or '73 is one of my earliest memories. We were close to burning the furniture in the fireplace, by the time hot and cold running civilization was restored. That was an actual freezing rain storm, with an area wide power outage and impassable roads. But the city was so much smaller then, that you didn't get these mass gridlock events.
posted by thelonius at 2:43 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


ctlr + F 'Leon' 0 of 0

I thought for sure this was an Atlanta road name joke, but apparently not.
posted by mittens at 2:44 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


ctlr + F 'Ponce de'
posted by thelonius at 2:45 PM on January 29 [5 favorites]


I walked up Ponce de Leon this morning and it was a fun game of "Guess where the slush turns back to solid ice". (for all your ctrl-F-ing)
posted by hydropsyche at 2:47 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


that sounds kind of scary.....were people driving on it? I could see them sliding up onto the slushwalk pretty easily
posted by thelonius at 2:52 PM on January 29


A very few large SUVs and pick-ups who generally seemed to know what they were doing and being cautious. Very different from the drive home yesterday...
posted by hydropsyche at 3:03 PM on January 29


An old friend happened to be starting a new job as a traffic reporter on an Atlanta tv station, and put in a 14-hour day yesterday, starting around 4 a.m. Tough life, I know, but the timing could have been better for his first week.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:14 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Another element in snowy, icy, inclement weather when you are driving is that the curves on interstates are canted to compensate for centripital force. I knew it was a thing but didn't know how much, so I asked r/askscience and I recieved a typically competent response. Quoting and reproducing the link provided by u/fruitinspace;

"The term is 'superelevation'. The curves aren't inclined so much that a car going the design speed experiences zero lateral acceleration, because that would be too much cross-slope when traffic is moving at lower speeds. But superelevation does allow traffic to take a curve of a given radius safely at a higher speed than would be possible on a flat road. The centripetal force then comes from a combination of lateral friction on the tires and the horizontal component of the reaction force due to the camber."

This presentation
contained in the link above is a 27 page PDF and is balanced between science and fun. Also zombies.
posted by vapidave at 4:24 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


But that theory discounts centipedal force. That's where you run into each other like segments of a many legged insect.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:35 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Sympathies from the Boston area! Fascinating thread, we all can empathize with weather woes. After being scarily stuck on a side road in an unexpected blizzard for a few hours one night, every winter I know have a trunkful of blankets, extra gloves & socks, energy bars, scrapers, shovels -- and a huge bag of kitty litter. Kitty litter gives you weight and is good for traction if you need it - it has helped me out of a few tight spots.

This gallery of In Focus photos paints the picture: Snow Storms Hit the South.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:48 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


"Unless you are in snow deeper than your wheels or sand, Anti-lock brakes will stop you faster than you can. Push the pedal down hard and let them work.

Study after study after study after study has proven this. If, and only if, you are in material deep and loose enough to pile up in front of your wheels and form a ramp is locking the wheels going to stop you faster."


Literature review of ABS brakes. Nowhere do they mention that the snow has to be "deeper than your wheels," only to a sufficient depth to build up in front of a wheel. The only way that would be "deeper than your wheels" would be in a meaningless way that every snow accumulation would be deeper than your wheels, i.e. wheels below the surface of the snow.

Not sure why it seems like you're thinking that I'm arguing against ABS in general, since my statement was pretty much exactly the opposite.
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on January 29


...but this is what I was talking about.

And no, you're confusing frequency with intensity.


You were talking about the frequency of nights with below zero Fahrenheit temperatures? The comment you were responding to wasn't, and you didn't say you were, either.

And, no, I am not confusing those two things. You are extrapolating fewer below-zero nights to mean fewer times of icy conditions, but you don't show evidence of that. It doesn't require below-zero temperatures for ice, just below freezing. More precipitation on below-freezing nights (or days) will make more icing, wouldn't you think?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:21 PM on January 29


"You were talking about the frequency of nights with below zero Fahrenheit temperatures? The comment you were responding to wasn't, and you didn't say you were, either."

No, but it's a decent proxy. If below zero, then not just icy, but icy enough that salt doesn't work to clear the roads.

"You are extrapolating fewer below-zero nights to mean fewer times of icy conditions, but you don't show evidence of that."

Let's think about the reverse: More energy is the same as more heat; I think that more heat means less ice is pretty uncontroversial.

"More precipitation on below-freezing nights (or days) will make more icing, wouldn't you think?"

Not if the increase in heat leads to less ice cover (days of ice between first freeze and last freeze), which is true for North America, and is specifically in line with the Great Lakes.

So, fewer days of ice but more record breaking extremes is both what you'd expect from global warming and what's been happening. Which leads to people being out of practice when they're facing the really ugly cold snaps that have been coming down from Canada this year, hence me saying that people's driving abilities in events like these have been going down as icy roads become more rare due to global warming. Global warming makes for more anomalies like this one, as well as more storms, but it doesn't make for more ice cover, hence it doesn't make for more ice on the roads.

I'd bet this would be the sort of thing that Wolfram Alpha is for, but I never could quite figure out how to use it properly. It could probably make some cool graphs though.
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 PM on January 29


The Day We Lost Atlanta, Rebecca Burns, Politico, 29 January 2014
What happened in Atlanta this week is not a matter of Southerners blindsided by unpredictable weather. More than any event I’ve witnessed in two decades of living in and writing about this city, this snowstorm underscores the horrible history of suburban sprawl in the United States and the bad political decisions that drive it. It tells us something not just about what’s wrong with one city in America today but what can happen when disaster strikes many places across the country. As with famines in foreign lands, it’s important to understand: It’s not an act of nature or God—this fiasco is manmade from start to finish. But to truly get what’s wrong with Atlanta today, you have to look at these four factors, decades in the making.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:33 PM on January 29 [16 favorites]


Sprawl is what you get when you demand the readily available amenities of city life, the relatively open spaces of country life, and that someone else pay for it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:02 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Can someone wise in the way of snow explain what's going on in this picture from madamjujujive's link? The caption just describes it as "Traffic moves south on I-75 past a hill covered with ice in Covington, Kentucky".
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:56 PM on January 29


It's a hill, covered with ice. When you get a snow that somewhat melts during the day, but freezes back at night, it can look like that.
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


An Update: Got an email saying that our office is OPEN today, but use judgement about coming in. My judgement: It hasn't been above freezing and NO local roads have been salted/sanded. It's warm in my house.

It's supposed to get above freezing at around noon, with sun, and temps, I'll go fetch my car. And them I'm coming right back home.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:30 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


My employer does this. Offices are open and you are responsible for work time. But, use discretion. Do I have to come in, or not? Whee!
posted by thelonius at 8:56 AM on January 30


The next winter storm has been named Maximus. lol
posted by futz at 9:14 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:51 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


I lol'd. So yes, minimal entertainment occurred. Actually it was more of a heh noise and a snort.
posted by futz at 9:58 AM on January 30


ARE YOU NOT WINTERTAINED?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:37 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


For those of you ctrl-F-ing, Ponce de Leon through Decatur has been salted (!), and things are generally melting and even starting to dry out. The sidewalks are still an icy nightmare lots of places, but the sun is helping. And both Krogers in Decatur are out of white bread. Because we have our priorities.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:21 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Reed defends Atlanta's snowstorm response everywhere and to anyone that will let him, Max Blau, Creative Loafing, 30 January 2014


Deal, Reed at awards luncheon while storm hits, causing gridlock in Atlanta, Jeff Chirico, WGCL CBS Atlanta, 29 January 2014
According to Anne Torres, Mayor Kasim Reed's deputy communications director, Reed received The 2014 Georgian of the Year award from Georgia Trend Magazine at about noon on Tuesday. Torres confirmed Gov. Nathan Deal was present as well.

While the two men celebrated, roads throughout the metropolitan area became gridlocked, and the state's emergency management operations center remained closed until late afternoon.


Reed, Deal battle national criticism with round of interviews on snowjam, Greg Bluestein and Katie Leslie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 30 January 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 12:03 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Deal defends comments that bad weather was 'unexpected', Politifact Truth-O-Meter, 30 January 2014
We rate Deal’s statement as Mostly False.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:19 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Update from Brookhaven: We're above freezing, and it seems that Ashford-Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry have been salted. Ashford-Dunwoody is clear and dry, Johnson Ferry is still patchy with ice. The sun is out and the thaw has started, it will get below freezing tonight, so in areas in the shade, it will continue to be icy.

My car is back in the parking lot of our apartment complex, and I've been to Kroger, where they're out of a lot of stuff, and apparently have three days worth of produce deiveries to put out.

Also, a bunch of canned things from the holidays are on sale, so if you need pumpkin or cranberry sauce, load up!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Special Report: Snow Storm 2014 [Caution: Cursing]The Atlanta Banana
We must find someone to blame besides ourselves.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:00 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


How to find your abandoned vehicle before it gets towed tonight, John Ruch, Creative Loafing, 30 January 2014
If you're among the thousands of stranded motorists who abandoned vehicles on the metro Atlanta freeways Tuesday afternoon or evening, you have until 9 p.m. to fetch your frozen ride before the state tows it.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:04 PM on January 30


Gov. Deal had another press conference today and reversed course:

“I am not satisfied with the response,” Deal said. “But I am not going to look for a scapegoat. I am the governor, and the buck stops with me.”
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 2:57 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


yeah.... the buck never stops at the person who says 'the buck stops at me', except when it does the buck disappears.
posted by edgeways at 3:44 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I saw a five-car fender-bender on Ponce today, so there's still some chaos out there.

In related news, Atlanta snow is fake? Latest conspiracy theory cites plastic snow
Several YouTube videos have been posted documenting “proof” that the snow in Atlanta is some sort of synthetic substance; additionally, these conspiracy theorists claim that this fake snow and the devastating affects it has had on the city of Atlanta are all part of a government plot. The conspiracy theorists say that this non-snow is the latest evidence of “chemtrails,” a long-standing conspiracy theory that postulates that the government hides chemicals in airplanes and douses unknowing citizens and locations with said chemicals. Theorists claim that this is all intended to serve as “testing” for when the powers-that-be unleash the full force of several man-made “natural” disasters, in the hopes of instituting martial law amidst the ensuing disarray.
A sample video.
posted by gone2croatan at 5:33 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, people, get a grip.
posted by rtha at 5:43 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I guess if you are going to perpetrate a hoax you might as well go big rather than go home.
posted by Mitheral at 6:21 PM on January 30


The government is so devious they made fake snow that melts into water. It’s sinister how clever they are.
posted by bongo_x at 8:58 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


gone2croatan: "this fake snow and the devastating affects it has had on the city of Atlanta are all part of a government plot. ... Theorists claim that this is all intended to serve as “testing” for when the powers-that-be unleash the full force of several man-made “natural” disasters, in the hopes of instituting martial law amidst the ensuing disarray."

I may be a bad person, but my first thought was, "Dear Atlanta conspiracy theorists, When the federal government wishes to unleash a natural disaster upon you and institute martial law, it sends General Sherman. Fake snow not necessary. Love, 1864."

Not mocking Atlanta, which I always enjoy visiting. Just chemtrail conspiracy theorists.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:37 PM on January 30 [9 favorites]


the dead giveaway will be when the weather channel announces "weather storm sherman"
posted by pyramid termite at 2:14 AM on January 31 [4 favorites]


I would cackle if they called it "weather storm" anything.
posted by klangklangston at 8:18 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I admire the creative spark these particular conspiracy theorists have. I would never have thought of that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:07 AM on January 31


I've been trying to make the argument that Mayor Reed can't be held responsible for Snow Jam 2014 because Atlanta proper makes up such a small portion of Metro Atlanta and the Interstates aren't the responsibility of the city anyway. I think he just used up the pass I've been giving him…

Mayor Reed uses police escort Tuesday while others are left stranded, Rodney Harris, WGCL-TV 46, 31 January 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 4:39 PM on January 31


Doctor walks six miles in snow to perform life-saving brain surgery at Trinity Medical Center, Mike Oliver, AL.com, 29 January 2014

What's the big deal? asks doctor who walked 6 miles in snow to perform life-saving brain surgery (video), Ibid., 30 January 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 11:57 PM on January 31


That's going to be the first response whenever one of his future residents complains about anything. "In my day, we walked six miles through the snow in minus 20 degree weather -- in scrubs! -- to assist with surgery!"
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:00 AM on February 1


Snow didn't paralyze Atlanta. Racism did.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:46 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I read that "Racism did" article, and came away unconvinced. Every time the author seemed on track to make the case for racism causing all that gridlock, she switched off to some other thing. I noted especially that one of Atlanta's few light-rail lines (which kept functioning through the storm) serves a mostly-Black area. There may be racist roots to Atlanta's bad-weather traffic problems, but this article doesn't expose them. Instead, she keeps talking about racism, then talking about transit, then talking about racism again, without ever really making much of a connection.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:02 AM on February 1


Waiting for a ride, Michael Wall, Creative Loafing, 19 April 2006
Today, MARTA is a shadow of what it was intended to be. When the transit system was originally conceived in the 1960s, it was envisioned as an efficient and expansive web of bus and rail lines that would put MARTA on par with transit agencies in the nation's major cities, such as Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. One of the ways MARTA aimed to do that was to serve five counties.

But residents of three of those counties -- Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton -- voted against the 1-cent sales tax that would have funded MARTA's rail and bus service there. According to Bullard, the suburbanites who rejected MARTA "didn't want any part of it, because for the mostly white, suburban counties, MARTA stood for 'Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.' And anybody who says that's not true is not really living in reality."
posted by ob1quixote at 6:11 AM on February 1


The context non-Atlantans may be missing is that far and away the worst traffic occurred on the roads leading to (I-75 and GA 400) and within Cobb County, which has repeatedly, forcefully rejected joining MARTA, using the explicitly racist slogan "Take MARTA to Cobb and rob".
posted by hydropsyche at 6:43 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


A more in-depth report on what was happening behind the scenes appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday: Leadership failures left Atlanta in chaos. The focus here is on the response of the state emergency management agency.
posted by BlueTongueLizard at 9:00 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]


I live in the far east suburbs of Atlanta and spend all my time there or downtown, midtown, etc. Often when people talk about all the horrible racism and other aspects of ATL it doesn’t at all ring true for me. But when you go to Cobb county it all makes sense. I had never even been there until I had to work up there for a while a couple of years ago. Because there’s really no reason to. People will move there because it’s so White, even though they have the worst traffic and weather of the whole area.

The good news is the White racists in Atlanta, like most places, are self segregating. Makes it easier to avoid them.
posted by bongo_x at 9:58 AM on February 1


The Human Infrastructure
The perfect storm of Atlanta’s recent snowapocalypse created a traffic jam that lasted over 36 hours according to some estimates—and saw people sleeping in their cars or at work, with children staying in school for two days, rather than be trapped on the gridlocked interstates and arterial roads. But this was a storm fairly minimal in weather by earth’s standards, only dropping an inch or two or precipitation that froze on the roadway. And while the inabilities of fair-weather drivers to deal with a bit of ice are legendary (especially among those living in more northern climes) what might be the real cause of the storm is not Atlanta’s weather systems, but its transportation systems.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:32 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


It’s 1 am, 5 days later, and it’s 64 degrees on my porch. We have the doors and windows open.
posted by bongo_x at 10:11 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


bongo_x: “It’s 1 am, 5 days later, and it’s 64 degrees on my porch. We have the doors and windows open.”
I ran the oven to 500° to make pizza for the game. We had to turn on the air conditioner.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:16 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Here we go again.... APS has officially closed as of 1pm today, grocery stores are overrun...everyone stay warm and let's see how the powers that be do with Southern Snow Jam take 2!
posted by pearlybob at 12:13 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


How GDOT is preparing for the storm.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:22 PM on February 10


Dad reports that both the Kroger and the Publix in Lilburn are scenes of utter carnage. No milk. No bread. No TP. No ground beef or chicken. No carts. Somebody followed him to the car for the cart. Get it together, Atlanta.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:26 PM on February 10


I think that people do that in every city, even up there in the north. Five snow flakes and people make a mad dash for TP and milk as if it'll be weeks before they get dug out.
posted by octothorpe at 2:33 PM on February 10


I've seen the "run on the banks" at grocery stores happen in seattle and olympia, up in washington. Actually watched it happen during the sudden snowfall this weekend.

To be fair though, a few hours after that my facebook feed was FULL of photos of cars stuck into other peoples parked cars they hadn't even tried to move, or telephone poles, or into other cars blocking their driveways, etc.

So while it's kinda silly, if you needed to do shopping anyways you might be walled in until it clears up and the tow truck can pull the morons wrecked car out of your car, or from in front of your driveway, or whatever.
posted by emptythought at 3:25 PM on February 10


I hadn't watched the news yet when I posted, so I didn't realize two people were shot and wounded in a grocery store a few miles up the road from Lilburn this afternoon. I regret the use of the word carnage now.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:56 PM on February 10


Current news and pictures look pretty bad. Heavy ice on trees is a recipe for so many kinds of disaster. (We had an ice storm here -- glass on roofs broke, trees fell suddenly onto streets and sidewalks and cars and people, power was out for weeks in some places.) I hope Atlanta is okay.
posted by jeather at 9:15 AM on February 12


The number of Georgia Power customers without electricity continued to climb, surpassing 198,000 by late morning.

Just before 5 a.m., the number of customers in the dark was 2,000. That number climbed to 6,000 by 6 a.m. and 9,000 just 20 minutes later.

Repair crews made a little progress, whittling the number of outages down to 8,200 by 7 a.m., but by 7:30, the number had jumped again to more than 20,000, and in the next 10 minutes, another 7,000 customers lost power.

At 8:20, Georgia Power reported 471 separate outages affecting over 39,000 customers. By 10:15 a.m., that number had more than doubled, and 97,450 customers were without electricity, and by just before noon, Georgia Power reported almost 115,000 without power.


Yikes. Stay safe, everyone, and check in when you can.
posted by rtha at 9:18 AM on February 12


It is sleeting so hard that the sound is getting annoying. But sleet is much better than freezing rain.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:55 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I'm ok so far. I live in an old, in town neighborhood with huge trees so it's just a matter of time till my power goes out. I have a bug out plan, lots of groceries and a full TiVo so I'll just "chill" till I have to move. I'm glad that most everyone is staying off the road.... Driving home from seeing a friend at Piedmont hospital early evening last night was like driving through a ghost town. More to come tonight so fingers crossed and everyone in the path of this storm stay home.
posted by pearlybob at 3:28 PM on February 12


Well, all snowed/iced in here in Fayetteville. So far so good. From what I can see on the internet here locally the roads are wretched. Looks like I will be working from home most of this week.

The roads were clear first thing this morning despite yesterday's snow of about four inches. About ten thirty it started to snow and within an hour the roads were not just covered but downright treacherous-and it snowed HARD into the afternoon, changing to sleet about 3 or so.

I hope we don't get a lot of ice. I don't mind being snowed in but I like light, heats and internet access.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:57 PM on February 12


After a few inches of snow fell, we started getting freezing rain here in Durham starting around 5-ish.

I hiked out to the local interstate and snapped some photos. I-40 through Durham looked like this during rush hour.

Which is fortunately a whole lot better than looking like this scene from Raleigh.
posted by ardgedee at 6:14 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


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