Snow-‘pocalypse’ 2014!

Yep, it’s time for Bride of Son of Return of Snowpocalypse, Atlanta 2014-styley!

I put the “-pocalypse” part in quotes in the title of this post because anyone viewing the pictures below from, say, a location in New England or Michigan or Minnesota will scoff at the level of snow that effectively rendered the entire greater metro Atlanta region higgledy-piggledy*.

But here’s the thing: we don’t have the infrastructure for this. If you live in Maine or Buffalo or Detroit, the city, county and state services are all kitted out as a matter of course for heavy winters. It snows there, the plows are out immediately, like locusts. Salt on the roads, etc. Not here. In our defense, Atlanta’s seeming lack of preparedness for such winter events stems not from any slothfulness or government corruption or inefficiency (update: or maybe it does), but just because we don’t need it, hardly ever.

Except, of course, when we do:

The Snowed-In Dead

The Snowed-In Dead

The above image was captured (and assembled) by Twitter user Ryan Duckworth (@ryanduck), whom I don’t know personally, but this tweet/photo has gone semi-viral, probably because it’s not far from the truth.

Oh, we haven’t actually started eating one another…yet. But Jack and I (for example) did have to walk the 2+ miles to the grocery store today in order to lay in supplies. News reports from Atlanta, while they haven’t been grim in the grand scale of things  have indeed shown a city reduced to paralysis by a few inches of (admittedly icy) snow. Only one fatality has been reported so far in the greater Atlanta area (twelve total throughout the south), but there’s probably not a family in the area that hasn’t been at least somewhat affected by this storm. Commuters endured trips which should normally take minutes lasting up to 9 hours. Some were stranded overnight in ice-locked cars on the roads. Kids from local schools slept in their classrooms because bus service never arrived to pick them up, or were stranded in buses along the roadways and slept there.

Here’s our personal story:

Beth left on Sunday night to get an early start on a series of meetings in Denver. She was planning to be gone until today, Wednesday, in the evening, returning about 8:30 or so. About Monday night, we started getting concerned about what things might be like should snow start falling in earnest. However, Apple’s stock weather app still showed only a cold day, not a snow day (though other services, apparently, did show snow for Tuesday already).

Pickup for school via Fulton County buses was more-or-less as normal Tuesday morning (if a bit colder than usual). But by about 11am, this was how it looked out our front window:

photo off our front porch early Tuesday

I know, I know – not much more than a dusting by northeast standards, and still not much to worry about even here…but the snow kept falling steadily. Frankly, by this time, I’d expected the schools to call with closure notices, but…nothing. Yet. Time passed, snow kept falling. By sometime after 12pm, the district called, saying they had decided to “wait it out.” I get it, I suppose: they were already far enough into the school day that I think they were hoping they could just tough it out and get kids home on the normal schedule. Unfortunately, as the snow continued to fall, it became quickly apparent that was not going to be a likely – or advisable – scenario.

One thing Fulton County School district has always done very thoroughly is parental notification. FCS insist on both a home number (for those that have them) as well as mobile number and work numbers for both parents of any children in their care, the idea being that they don’t want to have a potentially urgent or emergency message go unreceived because the number that was called was not the number the parent could answer at the time of the call. So they call every number, by default.

As I said, this gives parents peace of mind that they won’t miss any important messages regarding their children. But it also means that every time a message goes out, I receive FOUR telephone calls: one each from the elementary school (for Jack) to my cell phone and our home phone, and two identical calls to the same numbers from Meredith’s middle school. And Beth receives the same to her cell phone and work phone. Then FCS follows up with email notifications, too. Between Beth and I, we were probably averaging nearly a dozen redundant notifications for every message FCS sent out yesterday.

And they sent out a ton, when the scale of the decision-making mistake became clear. By 1pm-ish, FCS had decided to close all the schools, effective immediately, reversing their previous “wait it out” policy. The problem with that is: FCS schools dismiss at different times (between primary, middle and high schools), because the same buses serve all three levels. What that means is that even on the clearest and mildest of days, it would have been a logistical disaster to try to release all three at the same time. There just aren’t the buses to manage it.

Of course, yesterday wasn’t anything close to the clearest, mildest of days, nor were the circumstances anything approaching normal. By the time FCS made their call, this was about what things looked like (it had stopped snowing, but by then, the damage was already done – this is the same view as earlier):

photo off our front porch, late Tuesday

Still not what northerners or Canadians would call a blizzard…but enough to well and truly screw metro Atlanta. Meredith texted me from school, saying (of course) that her phone battery was low (because she’d forgotten to charge it the night before), but that they were still waiting for buses to arrive. I told her to call or text when she was leaving school. Those of you have been to our house know how steep the driveway is. As a result, I knew I was not going to be taking the car out to do anything for at least a day or two. My expectation was to receive Meredith’s text and just walk down the hill to the mouth of the neighborhood to greet her and then walk back up to the house with her.

Jack was a different story. He doesn’t have his own phone yet, so there was no way for me to reach him. I called a neighborhood mom to ask what her thoughts were on picking kids up, and found out she was stuck in her car at the bottom of the hill at the entrance to our neighborhood, unable to climb the hill. So I told her to call me when the bus arrived and I would come get Jack as well. Hours passed. More redundant email/phone messages arrived from FCS, telling us stuff we already knew. Meredith texted, saying buses still had not even arrived at her school yet. Finally, Jack called from a classmate’s phone, telling me that he was on his regular bus…but that the bus was stuck up on Mimosa drive (about a mile and a half away), behind cars that were stuck spinning their wheels, etc.

So I put on the winter clothes and walked down the hill to Willeo Drive…and then all the way up to the bus on Mimosa. One other neighborhood mom and I took about twenty children off the bus and walked them back down alongside the stopped cars on Highway 120:

photo of Highway 120 with snow

That’s what it looked like on the way up the hill on 120. Imagine what it was like on the way back down, with 20ish elementary-schoolers in tow who think this is the greatest thing ever and are running around like nuts. At one point, I had to stop the entire group and tell them in my best Dad Voice that it would be really awkward if I had to explain to any of their parents that they died on the walk home from school, so could they please stop freaking jumping around like snowbound Mexican jumping beans in improper footwear?

But I digress. About 2/3 of the way home to Riverbluff, my phone rang. It was another neighborhood mom who also has a child in middle school. I still had not heard from Meredith that the buses had arrived, and was not looking forward to the prospect of getting Jack home and then having to turn back around and walk the same exact route plus another couple of miles to get Meredith. But the call from the neighborhood mom was a welcome surprise. She said she’d been in the car for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS, trying to get from our neighborhood to the school. That’s about four miles. And yes, that means she’d been traveling one mile an hour. In her car. Actually, it was slightly less than that, because she told me she estimated she was about a half hour from the turn-in to the school. She also told me – hallelujah! – that she would pick Meredith up as well as her own son.

So we waited. And waited. And waited. And eventually, received a call back from the neighborhood mom saying she was stuck at the exact same place that Jack’s school bus had gotten stuck – apparently, there were cars there that simply weren’t moving at all, I don’t know why. But she also told me that her husband was on his way – on foot, again – to meet them all with extra coats and appropriate shoes so they, too, could walk home.

Meredith got home after six, after having been dismissed from school at about 1:30.

I don’t know who’s to blame for this…but I sure wanna blame somebody. 😉

* Apologies for the use of technical terminology like “higgledy-piggledy.”

One thought on “Snow-‘pocalypse’ 2014!

  1. I’m not surprised that a “light dusting” brought all to a screeching halt. When I lived in DC, 4-6 inches of snow flummoxed the native drivers and area municipalities.

    Glad to hear you’re all safe and sound. What a tale Jack and Meredith will be able to tell their kids/grandkids!

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