Snowed In – Why Atlanta Is Freaking Out Over 4″ of Snow

January 12th, 2011 by Greg Goodson Leave a reply »
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I grew up in New Jersey, and enjoyed skiing the slopes of Vermont, NH, Maine, and Canada. We got a lot of snow living on the “ice coast” as ski bums out west would call it… every winter, we’d get some pretty big storms. Remember turning on the TV in 1996 seeing that monster of a nor’easter climbing up the seaboard towards the northeast? I think we got upwards to 35 inches in my hometown of Randolph, NJ.

I’ll never forget that day: we were driving home from Okemo, a ski and snowboard resort in Vermont. We skipped out of town a day early for fear of being standed. We tried to make it back to Randolph, but the storm hit us like a wall when we hit Albany. We had a Ford Station Wagon (you know, the one you could drive in backwards and make obscene gestures at the people tailgating you?). We made it all the way to Mahwah, NJ before we had to pull off and get a hotel room for the night. It was a crazy car ride… I had a blast! My father’s knuckles have never been whiter.

Long Story Short, It Was A State Of Emergency

Despite the roads being closed, we opted to leave the in the early afternoon. The drive were terrible; the 35 minute commute wound up taking 2+ hours. We probably should have stayed another night at the hotel. We parked our car at a neighbor’s house we had never met (we asked first) and walked through several properties and chest-high snow to get to our garage door. It was a war zone; the plows hadn’t gotten to our house yet. They did later that day though, and the next morning, we paid a guy way too much money to plow our driveway. All in all, we were without road access for 2 days.

During the past two years, I lived in Park City, Utah, a ski town known for being nestled in the Wasatch Mountains. It’s not unusual for the Wasatch to get 4 feet of snow with a single storm. I think it’s not uncommon for Snowbird, a local ski resort to the area, to get over 700 inches a year. While living there, I was surprised that I was rarely snowed in. We typically were forced to deal with roads that were always sketchy, but definitely drivable, but very rarely closed state-of-emergency style. That’s because Park City did such a great job to clearing the streets. Once we got a crazy amount of snow and I couldn’t move my car for about 16 hours, but it’s cool, I wanted to ski anyways.

You Can Probably See Where I Am Going With This

Fast forward to the past four days. We’ve been stuck in our homes in downtown Atlanta since the storm dropped 4 -5 inches. It was really coming down for an hour or two… it was pretty awesome! But by the time it was all said and done, we got about 4 inches of snow, and maybe an inch of wintry mix (sleet, freezing rain).

I’m sure we all went outside and danced in the snow between timeouts of the BC / Nevada Bowl game, right? The snow stopped, and was pretty much done for the night. We all knew we were going to get ice on top of that, and we all knew that it would shut things down. Atlanta very rarely gets this much snow though, so let’s enjoy it! But wait, did anyone check to see what the weather would be like for the next 5 days? Below 35 degrees you say? Through Friday? Hmm.

The combination of that much snow and ice was rare for Atlanta. But then you throw in the temperature over the next 5 days and you got what we have… #snowpocolypse2011. I’m sure the city of Atlanta is doing what they can, planning what roads to work on with the limited resources they have. Did anyone really expect this? Maybe. After seeing how cold it was going to be for the next 5 days, I have to admit I thought we’d be stuck inside for a while (onwards, Cpt. Hindsight!). I thought I would have a fun time being snowed in for 4 days. Boy I was wrong there. Pretty bored!

But Can You Point Your Fingers At The City Of Atlanta?

I bet if you spread it out over a ten year time span, Atlanta is snowed in by the hour just as much as Randolph, NJ is, and just as much as Park City, UT is. In my 7 years of living in Atlanta, this is the first time I’ve seen this kind of snow. I would expect the ratio of snowfall predicted in Atlanta would be equivalent to the amount of snow-removal equipment and resources. Could you imagine if Atlanta went out and bought as many snow plows as the city of Boston? Where would we put them all? How much money would be wasted?

I feel like it’s a matter of statistics. The amount of time we’re stuck snowed in (as in can’t-move-from-our-house-snowed-in,) in Atlanta is the same amount of time someone might be snowed-in in Boston, New York, Erie, Minneapolis, Salt Lake, Tahoe, etc. Put some numbers together:

Please statisticians out there, feel free to correct me. I know enough statistics to get by. It’s probably fuzzy math. *Edit – If there’s one factor I failed to include in this, it’s the amount of opportunity cost lost for businesses suffering in this downtime. I guess that’s something you have to throw into the mix.

Bottom Line

All of this being frustrated about being snowed in is out of our control. Don’t point fingers at the city of Atlanta. If we were over-prepared for this, wouldn’t you be suspicious how we were able to clear off all the roads within the perimeter in 24 hours? Just be patient, wait for the roads to clear in the next 24-48 hours, and be happy we only have to put up with this “white crap” for once a decade.

And to the people in Utah, Buffalo, New Jersey, Maine, and other places who are so proud of getting 99x the amount of snow Atlanta gets: dude, the roads here are really bad. I’ve driven some slick roads over the past 2 years in Utah. I drove to Target on Tuesday, and it wasn’t fun. Have you seen the video of the guy ice skating down Peachtree St.? Trust me, these roads are bad.

 

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1 comment

  1. Bruce S. Curtiss says:

    Nice article.

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