The snow began falling at 10 a.m. By lunchtime, travel by car became impossible.
Motorists reported it taking more than four hours to get from Marietta High School to the Square Tuesday afternoon on Whitlock Avenue.
As darkness descended, things only got worse. The snow flakes became smaller but the traffic headaches became a full-on migraine.
All of the main arteries into Marietta came to a standstill, including Whitlock Avenue, Roswell Street, Cobb Parkway, Burnt Hickory Road and Powder Springs Street.
Even side streets became clogged and treacherous as temperatures dropped and cars slid down icy hills out of control.
By nightfall, empty cars littered the roadsides as motorists had to abandon their vehicles or risk running out of gas.
Hotels filled up, and some allowed motorists to sleep in their lobbies for free.
Some local residents posted on their Facebook pages that anyone who found themselves stranded within walking distance of their homes were welcome to stay the night.
All this havoc came compliments of a relatively mild winter storm that dumped 2 to 3 inches of snow.
Marietta Board of Education Chairman Randy Weiner left Buckhead for Marietta at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, but didn’t get far.
“It took me three hours to try to get out of Buckhead, and I went one mile, so I decided to just turn at the nearest hotel I could find. Luckily they had a room,” he said.
Parents, he acknowledged, are not happy with the school district.
“I’ve talked to several parents that are very upset,” he said. “They’re not happy because they, rightfully so, said we should have closed the schools, and looking back, we should have closed the schools today.”
A number of Marietta schools kept students overnight where they were provided with food, heat and shelter.
“I can almost guarantee every school is going to have a slumber party because the buses couldn’t get out,” Weiner said.
Walking down Whitlock
Marty Hohmann, who lives off Dallas Highway in west Cobb, tried to pick up her son, who works at Marietta Pizza Company on the Square. The restaurant closed early and Hohmann left her house around 1 p.m. By 5 p.m. she still had not made it to the Square.
“My son met me on foot. I’m sitting in my car and I passed the (former) Governor walking home,” she said. “You make a lot better time if you’re on foot.”
Former Gov. Roy Barnes said that was exactly why he eschewed driving on this snowy Tuesday.
When he arrived at his law office off the Marietta Square Tuesday morning, Barnes said the weather was fine. His daughter, attorney Allison Barnes Salter, let everyone go home at noon.
“I worked on till about 3 and I noticed the cars were not moving, so I flipped on the TV, and they told about all the traffic jams so I said, ‘I’ll just walk,’” Barnes said. “The traffic is everywhere and they were just slippin’ and sliding.”
Barnes said he walked about a mile down Whitlock to get home.
“I couldn’t see the sidewalks, it was covered in snow, and so I was having to be careful where I walked,” Barnes said.
The cars on Whitlock were at a standstill as he walked by.
“It was bumper to bumper both ways,” Barnes said. “I was going a lot faster than those folks in the car.”
The problem, Barnes and others said, was caused by everyone leaving for home at once – too many cars, too little space on the roadways.
“They let everybody off from work at the same time,” Barnes said. “And what’s happened is it’s clogged the roads. The roads are really not that bad. Traffic is backed up everywhere.”
Sleeping at the office
Some administrators at the Marietta Schools central office were trapped there and will be sleeping in their offices, Weiner said.
Marietta bused students home early from the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy and Marietta Center for Advanced Academics because those students are on the last tier of the bus schedule, but Superintendent Emily Lembeck didn’t dismiss the rest of the schools until the normal time.
“Looking back, we should have closed school today, but you don’t know.” Weiner said. “You can’t predict the weather, and it came in stronger and sooner than expected. We anticipated it not coming in until the afternoon.”
Like Barnes, Weiner said the gridlock was caused by everyone leaving for home at once.
“At lunch everybody decided to leave, everybody – schools, parents, work, everybody, employees, everybody just decided to leave at one time. The roads couldn’t handle it,” he said.
By 4 p.m. most local businesses, even many fast-food restaurants, had closed.
Government offices on the Square were among the first to fold up and close for the day, causing gridlock up and down Roswell Street and on Whitlock Avenue.
Cobb Parkway was also at a standstill.
Snowfall was expected to last into the night with up to 3 inches accumulation.
Cobb and some Marietta schools’ early dismissal combined with the early closure of both Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University put more traffic on the roads, overwhelming public safety resources and wrecker services.
KSU announced it would remain closed today with all classes and activities canceled. The same was reported for Cobb and Marietta schools.
“We have a lot of accidents. At the moment I have probably about 13,” said Denell Boyd, spokeswoman for Cobb Fire at about 12:30 p.m. “We never have this many all at once.”
Austell Police Chief Bob Starrett said his department was also overwhelmed with accident calls.
Cobb police officers and firefighters were marking stranded cars with red and yellow tape to signify to other motorists the vehicles had been checked by public safety personnel and would be removed when wreckers became available.
Schools release early
Schools across Cobb closed early on Tuesday attempting to beat the worst of the weather, but many motorists and school buses were greeted instead with jammed roads and crawling traffic.
All Cobb schools closed two hours early and after-school activities were canceled.
Irene Berens, vice chairwoman of the Marietta School Board, said the snow moved in much earlier than originally forecast.
Some TV meteorologists, however, did forecast Monday night that the snow could move into metro Atlanta as early as 10 a.m., which is exactly what happened, catching the school systems off guard.
“Sometimes your best preparedness just doesn’t work,” Berens said.
Randy Scamihorn, vice chairman of the Cobb School Board, echoed that sentiment.
“We have to rely on the weatherman, and the weatherman said at best Cobb County would probably get a dusting and then we went under advisory, so it’s a gamble,” Scamihorn said.
Weather-related closures today:
• All Cobb and Marietta schools closed all day
• Kennesaw State University closed all day
• Southern Polytechnic State University closed all day
• Chattahoochee Technical College closed all day
• Cobb County government offices open at 12 p.m.
• CCT express bus service canceled
• Cobb Juvenile Court closed all day
• Cobb Senior Services Transportation canceled
• Cobb Superior Court closed all day
• Marietta Municipal Court canceled
Staff reporter Nikki Wiley contributed to this report