Are You Prepared?
Are you prepared? For snow and ice, that is.
Snow in Georgia isn't exactly a normal thing and isn't exactly snow, most of the time. Well, it's probably about a 50/50 chance it will be snow but not ice. Snow can be pretty and while it may slow us down a bit and/or close schools, it's ice that's the real nasty stuff. I grew up in Atlanta so none of this is new to me and anytime there is a threat of wintry precipitation, I pay close attention.
In my drive to scan old family photos, I found snow pictures from my childhood as early as February 29, 1968, but it's the ice storm of 1973 that really stands out. Then so does Snow Jam '82 with a mild repeat in 1983, followed by the blizzard of '93 and the "Snowpocalypse" of 2014. Of course, I can't forget the random December snowstorm of 2017 either, but let's start with 1973.
When the ice storm hit in 1973, I was seven - old enough to remember some things but young enough to not remember everything. After conferring with my older siblings, they remembered that school was out for about 3 days while power was out at the house for 6-7 days. It seems odd to me now that we went back to school even with the power out, considering how schools seem to shut down for snow flurries these days. Anyway, our house was what we refer to as total electric, but we had a fireplace in the den and my parents had the forethought to add a gas starter to it. The den had a sofa bed and two twin beds in it, so my brothers, sister and I all slept in there while our parents slept in the master bedroom on the main floor, just down the hall. We could close off that part of the house from the rest of the house, so my parents' room was probably chilly but not as cold as the rest of the house. I remember Mom cooking over coals in the fireplace and my parents finding a place to buy coal that was somewhat near the house. I even vaguely remember driving to the place where we got the coal - it was close to the railroad tracks. That experience taught me that a fireplace is an important thing to have in a house and bathrooms get really cold when there's no heat.
When Snow Jam '82 hit, I was 16 but not yet driving myself to school. School was also on the other side of town, making it a 22-mile drive the way we normally got there, but a 15-mile drive if you were avoiding interstates. I was supposed to have cheerleading practice that afternoon, but the school cancelled it after lunch and I tried to call my mom to come get me early, but she wasn't home. (We didn't have cell phones back then either.) Meanwhile, Mom had gone to the gas station and noticed the snow beginning, so she decided to come get me from school anyway. She got to the school between 3 and 3:30pm and knew that the interstates were already beginning to have problems - the snow that had fallen and melted was refreezing, turning the roads into ice slicks. Mom decided to take the shortest route possible - Northside Drive - which was also not the flattest route. Up and down the hills we went. Once we crossed I-75, we started making it slowly up the icy hills with me pushing when necessary - wearing my high-heeled cowboy boots with leg warmers. Thankfully the heels could dig into the snow/ice and people were helping each other as there were a lot of cars trying to make it home.
When we finally made it to where Simpson Street crossed Northside (at the time), we learned there was a tractor-trailer that had jack-knifed going down that hill (Mercedes Benz Stadium is now in that area) and had to find another way. By this time, we were working with a gentleman in a pick-up truck that was going further south than us, and Mom discussed our options with him. We turned on Simpson Street, heading into the underground areas of Atlanta and came out somewhere near the old Rich's building, then we wound our way back to Lee St (Highway 29) near West End (Wren's nest area). Once we made it there, it wasn't smooth sailing but there were very few other vehicles on the road and flatter. Mom offered to buy the gentleman dinner at the BBQ Kitchen since he still had a lot further to go and he'd been nice enough to make sure we made it to our destination (or close enough). After dinner, we parted ways and Mom and I arrived home about 9:30pm.
Looking back, that storm left me knowing that I never wanted to get stuck in a car in icy weather and we even had a minor repeat of it in 1983. Lots of people were stranded in 1982 and several hotels had people sleeping in their lobbies. Both of those also taught me to keep a blanket, gloves and a snack in the car, especially in the winter.
When the blizzard of '93 hit on March 13th, I was a new mom with a 4-month-old (exactly four months), and we did not have a fireplace or any other way to heat our house. My ex and I were both supposed to go to work that day, but when we woke up that morning, we had no power and the snow drifts made it impossible to drive anywhere if you didn't have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle and chains on your tires. My ex had to push the snow away from our back door to even get outside. After several hours waiting to see if the power would be restored, we finally decided we had to get to a cousin's house to keep us and our baby warm. As we lived in a small community that probably wouldn't get power for several days and we were on a well so no bathroom, we contacted a local neighbor who was a volunteer firefighter and had chains for his tires. He was able to make it up our driveway and take us to the cousin's house. They had a baby bed (for their grandchild) and a wood burning heater. That snow stuck around for over a week and reinforced what I learned from the ice storm of 1973 - I want to live in a house with a fireplace and a gas stove.
There were other times with snow over and between the years, but nothing that took out power or left hundreds of people stranded - not until the "Snowpocalypse" of 2014. My current husband and I were paying close attention to the weather reports and had talked to each of our adult children about making sure they had emergency plans and emergency supplies in each of their cars. The hubby and I were at our jobs when the snow started, and ground temps were warm enough to melt the snow. That triggered memories of 1982 (for both of us) - we knew the snow would eventually start to stick and what had already melted would turn to ice. I was in downtown Atlanta and told my boss I was going home, because I started to see the snow sticking. I texted the hubby and he left shortly after I did. It took me about a half hour to get home and it took about an hour for the hubby to get home.
As noted above, we had talked to our children about being prepared. Unfortunately, our oldest daughter wasn't allowed to leave work when we suggested she do so. She only had to go 5 miles to get home, but the roads were jammed with other people trying to get home and the ice had already started forming. After spending two hours in the car, she finally pulled into a parking lot, leaving her car there and walking the rest of the way home. It took her about 2 more hours of walking to get home and it was dark for part of that walk. She learned that gloves are really important in the winter and to be ready to walk if necessary.
Another thing about 2014 - we got hit two weeks later with another storm. People were ready that time.
The storm in December of 2017 was really random. Snow in December is generally a fluke and only flurries, but 2017 brought a full on, shut down the city snowstorm. The company where I work was supposed to have its annual Christmas party that night, but it was cancelled and rescheduled for March. Thankfully, this storm was on a Friday, so many people didn't have to worry about going to work the next day. Our company now has "Christmas in March" every year.
Over the years, I've participated in discussions with friends and family about many of these snow/ice events we have in common. Some just remember that their parents had a generator or a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Others remember more details. I somehow gleaned odd details that I stored in my brain for future reference. Remembering these things has saved me a few times and taught me how to be prepared for whatever may come along - especially in the winter.
As I write this article, Georgia is experiencing another snow/ice event. The Atlanta area isn't expecting much, but the hubby and I are prepared. It's currently (Sunday) snowing off and on here, after overnight rain which will likely freeze tonight. My sister, who lives in Northwest Georgia has already lost power and has fired up her generator. Both of my brothers live south of Atlanta, so they won't be affected by anything much more than rain, especially the brother who lives near Albany. Our oldest daughter now lives in Florida and the youngest in San Diego, so the likelihood of snow for either is practically nil. Our middle daughter is local and ready too. Whatever happens, we've all learned from our experiences, whether direct or indirect and we will use our knowledge to stay safe and warm.
What memories do you carry with you from snows past? Are you prepared?
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