Living in the North means learning to deal with seasonal snow fall. It means practicing in an empty parking lot when the first few inches fall. Equipping snow tires and knowing just how quickly one can safely go when the white stuff starts falling is seemingly ingrained into the DNA of Yankee drivers. That, along with our fleets of snow plows and salt trucks, makes it easy to shake our heads and chuckle when our Southern friends get a dusting of powder that shuts down entire towns. What's happening south of the Mason-Dixon now, though, is not funny at all.
Snow, freezing rain and perilously low temperatures have embraced the southern US for the second time this year, and the results for motorists have been catastrophic, with traffic jams lasting over night. CNN reports on one woman, Rebekah Cole, whose nine-mile drive home started Tuesday afternoon and had run well into Wednesday morning. She was only half way there. Cole described the epic jam as something out of a "zombie movie."
"We've been in the car for over 12 hours. We are fine on gas but is anyone near on the road and might happen to have any food or some water?" Katie Norman Horne posted on SnowedOutAtlanta, a Facebook page setup for stranded motorists. "I'm eight months pregnant and have my 3-year-old with me," Horne wrote. CNN reports there have been 940 accidents in Atlanta, so far.
CNN reports there have been 940 accidents in Atlanta, so far.
Two to 3.5 inches of snow fell in the Atlanta area - a year's worth, according to a CNN meteorologist. Without the infrastructure to deal with it, one CNN editor who was on his way home said "The weather was a great equalizer. Didn't matter if you had a late model Mustang or a beater van or a Brinks armored car, your wheels were spinning fruitlessly on the ice and slipping."
Authorities are still encouraging citizens in Alabama and Georgia to stay off the roads, in the hopes that the massive jams will clear. "This is a very dangerous situation," Governor Robert Bentley told CNN. "People need to stay at home. They need to stay at home. They need to stay there until conditions improve."
Atlanta's mayor, Kasim Reed, had a similar message for citizens. "The next 24 horus, I really need folks to stay home. Go home, give us some time." Atlanta has since deployed 30 salt trucks, a mere fraction of the hundreds of trucks in the fleets of northern cities (for reference, Chicago has 287 plows in its fleet).
Forecasts, meanwhile, are improving. In Atlanta, the high today will be just 33 degrees, meaning the snow and ice aren't likely to go anywhere. Things should recover, though, and the Atlanta area should see temps in the low 50s by Friday and 60 by Sunday.