The names that people invented for this winter’s catastrophe were just about as interesting as the snow storm itself, if not more so. From now on, the 2.6 inches of snow that effectively debilitated the entire city of Atlanta, Georgia for almost three full days and caused hundreds of auto accidents will be known alternatively as Snow Jam 2014, Snowpocalypse, and/or Snowmageddon. While one of those monikers sounds oddly like a concert title (and accordingly conjures up images of youths frolicking (see: jamming) about to their favorite tunes), the actual event was anything but. The city leadership’s alleged ill-preparedness made it the butt of jokes nationwide, but for the people trapped inside the perimeter the distress caused by the storm was certainly no laughing matter.
Snow Storm Leon began early Tuesday, and by the end of the evening had culminated in hundreds of car accidents, abandoned cars and general headaches (see: migraines) for the city’s citizens – and still the wind and snow continued to blow. Emergency vehicles were unable to access accident scenes due to the bumper-to-bumper traffic that resulted as everyone tried, en masse, to escape the storm in favor of the comfort of their homes. Many motorists elected to pull over and walk, and even more people found themselves spending the night in their cars as the storm continued and freezing temperatures made the icy roads too treacherous to traverse. Parents resorted to using 4x4s to pick up their children who were stuck at schools. At one point, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that emergency lines were receiving 300-400 calls on the hour.
By Tuesday night, conditions were so bad that police officials were allegedly only responding to auto accidents that involved more than two cars – and there were plenty of those. In fact, a majority of the accidents involved tractors trailers and multiple car pile-ups. Wednesday saw the snow begin to melt, only to re-freeze as temperatures dropped again, once again confining people to their homes. Thursday, motorists were still being warned about icy patches throughout the state as government workers began the cleanup process. By dawn on Friday morning, CNN reports that more than 2,029 cars that had not yet been claimed by their owners were towed from various locations throughout the Atlanta metro area.
The best thing to come out of this were the heartwarming tales of stores opening their doors to house and feed stranded people, strangers boarding strangers in their homes, and people coming together to help deliver a baby when the child’s parents became trapped on I-285 en route to the hospital.
Unfortunately, there were other, more tragic stories as well. Numerous photos were published depicting car crashes and in the ensuing aftermath, where the accidents went unreported in many cases, drivers face the daunting task of determining liability. Even more heartbreaking were the fatalities and injuries brought on by the storm, despite earlier claims by leadership that the storm resulted in no fatalities or personal injury. A 13-year-old Georgia teen perished when he fell into a frozen lake on Thursday. Another teenage girl had to have her leg amputated when she was attempted to help a sibling “push her family’s car on an icy road… [and] hit by a vehicle that was unable to stop” and a 17-year-old Henry County student lost his life when the pickup truck he was driving left the roadway and hit a tree. More tales of tragedy are sure to emerge as officials continue to clean up the mess.
CNN said it best, and most personal injury attorneys would agree, for a “city [that is] is no stranger to traffic snarls, even without snow, the response to the storm should have and could have been a lot better.” Still, despite this, the city too busy to hate continues to move forward — hopefully having learned something and more prepared in the event there is a next time.