In the real estate business, they say that location is everything. When it came to this week’s storm, it was its timing that proved so devastating. Unlike the notorious “Blizzard of ‘93,” which swooped in early on a Saturday morning, this one arrived at midday on a Tuesday when everyone was at work or school. Once authorities finally realized the storm’s gravity, they sent everyone home early. But that meant pouring hundreds of thousands of vehicles onto the roads virtually all at once. In essence, an entire rush-hour volume usually spread over several hours was trying to squeeze down the roads at the same time. The result should have been predictable — but for some reason, never occurred to those making the decisions.
The result was that many commuters spent four, six, eight, sometimes 10 or more hours getting home. Most eventually made it.
Some of those who didn’t were lucky enough to find shelter in motels or at the homes of friends and relatives. Others spent a frigid night behind the wheel of their vehicles. And tens of thousands of others in Cobb abandoned their vehicles and made their way home on foot.
Hundreds of schoolchildren around Marietta, Cobb and the metro area were forced to spend the night in their schools.
The only saving grace was that the snow was dry and powdery rather than wet and heavy, meaning that it did not weigh down branches and power lines and cause widespread power outages. Thus, nearly all metro Atlantans had a warm residence to come home to — if they could get there, that is.
The finger-pointing was quick in coming. Forecasters said they made clear well ahead that the metro area was under a Winter Storm Watch and then Warning. Officials rebutted that the forecasts tended to indicate that the worst of the weather would hit south of Atlanta. That in fact was the message seemingly absorbed by most Cobb residents. Nearly all of those we’ve heard from went to work on Tuesday as if it were just another day and were caught as flat-footed as the governor, Atlanta mayor and Cobb government and school officials once the seriousness of the situation became apparent.
COMFORT can be taken from the way our community responded to the storm — the many who volunteered their time and vehicles to rescue and deliver the stranded, who helped push stalled cars and those who opened their homes to friends and others for the night. The same goes for the stores and businesses that stayed open all night to house half-frozen travelers, and for the sold-out motels that let stranded travelers sleep in their lobbies.
And the heroic efforts by school principals and teachers and bus drivers to shepherd their stranded students must not go overlooked. That goes as well to the members of the community who rallied late into the evening to deliver blankets and other supplies to the schools, and who ferried home students to anxious parents.
In addition, it goes almost without saying that local police, fire and emergency personnel performed a Herculean task hour after hour, and did an admirable job of it despite tremendously trying conditions.
This is a storm that brought out the best in most people — when it very easily could have brought out the worst. But it’s the kind of response that those who know this community have come to expect.