The ghost of SnowJam haunts Atlanta

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Jan. 30, 2014 Atlanta: Abandoned cars sit idle along Northside Parkway in Atlanta. The Georgia State Patrol said nearly 2000 vehicles were abandoned by metro drivers. (JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM)

Atlantans are good at everything except winter.

As I type these words, weather forecasters are suggesting ice and snow might fall and the frightened masses are denuding store shelves of anything resembling bread, milk, beer or soup.

I just picked up a few cans myself. I’m thinking I can survive at least four days on nothing but broccoli cheese soup sprinkled with “flavor blasted nacho Goldfish.”

In my car I’ve stowed a gallon of water, a blanket, a warm coat, battery powered socks, mittens, gloves, flint, steel, matches, lighter fluid, charcoal, a portable grill, a generator, bread, cheese and several packages of pre-cooked bacon.

And I’ve fashioned a set of snow shoes from some old tennis racquets.

Bring it winter!

This may seem like overkill, but, like many of you, I barely escaped “SnowJam ’14” alive.

A brief recap: On Jan. 28, 2014, Atlanta got 2 inches of snow and the whole city was traumatized.

On that fateful Tuesday, snow began falling in Dunwoody at about noon, and, like everyone else trapped in an office without whiskey, I fled for my life.

As I drove the 15 or so miles home, a thin yet evil layer of snow and ice began to accumulate on I-285. Cars began sliding off the road. I pulled into my garage, shut the door, went inside, cranked the heat and hunkered down.

I was one of the lucky ones. Those who left work an hour or so later got caught in Atlanta’s most epic traffic jam. Thousands of cars were abandoned. People slept in their cars on the interstate.

The AJC said SnowJam was the result of a series of cascading failures by state and local officials.

People in other parts of the country openly mocked us.

CNN, which is “based” in Atlanta but run by people in New York, called it a “debacle.”

Comic newsman Jon Stewart, in a skit called “South Parked,” said “this is what happens when the South has to confront something not specifically mentioned in Revelations.”

Atlanta must never become a national punchline again.

A “wintry mix” is expected to hit early Friday, and temperatures may not get much north of freezing.

Fortunately, city and state roads crews are more prepared for wintry conditions than they were before SnowJam struck.

In 2014, road workers used rock salt but it was often blown off the pavement by fast-moving cars before it could work. Now crews use a liquid salt mixture called “brine” to help delay freezing and it’s much more effective.

And there’s a lot more equipment to help keep roads free of slippery stuff. In 2015, the Georgia Department of Transportation was given an additional $14.5 million. The DOT’s Atlanta fleet now consists of 11 brine tanker trucks, 41 salt spreader and plow attachments for pickup trucks and 436 plows.

That’s comforting, but the wisest thing to do is stay off the roads completely.

Transportation officials may have improved their act, but Atlanta drivers navigate icy streets like drunken bobsledders.


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