Cobb Police, meanwhile, took a less aggressive approach and moved cars to the side of the road on the county’s tab.
At 10 a.m. Thursday morning, the Georgia Department of Transportation called in the National Guard and Georgia State Patrol to transport motorists to abandoned vehicles left along Interstates 75 and 285.
While the state’s effort designated meeting places around the Atlanta perimeter, for Cobb, the effort was tackled one car at a time by the local police and small towing companies.
Officer David Baldwin with Marietta Police said the city did not have one centralized point stranded motorists to line up for rides back to their vehicles.
Marietta drivers who have already picked up their vehicles from Marietta wreckers and were charged for the service may be eligible for reimbursement, if they were towed at the request of the Marietta Police Department and not involved in a wreck.
Eligible motorists can submit receipts for reimbursement to Lindsey Thompson, city public information officer. Thompson can be contacted at (770) 794-5509.
Drivers who retrieve their cars after Thursday afternoon should not be charged if the police asked the company to tow their vehicle, Thompson said.
The stranded motorists included 50 residents, some children, who took shelter at the Cobb Police station in precinct 3, near the Cumberland and Vinings area, said Cobb Police Chief John Houser.
“(On Tuesday), officers were picking up walkers, but there were so many it was difficult,” Houser said.
Cobb Police spent Wednesday escorting school buses and driving kids home who spent the night at school, Houser said.
Cobb ‘relocates’ vehicles
By 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Houser said county officials decided to pay the cost of towing and impounding cars that had to be moved because of “storm-related” issues.
Eighty cars had been taken to impounds by Thursday morning, Houser said.
“The volume was so much, we switched over to the relocation program to benefit the residents,” he said.
By the afternoon, wreckers were mostly being used to “relocate” vehicles from the center of the road or intersection to the side of the road or to parking lots.
As of Thursday afternoon, Houser said Cobb Police had moved approximately 91 cars as part of a “vehicle relocation program.”
“Again this is not towing, this is just moving cars that are blocking travel lanes,” he said.
Many cars simply ran out of gas and were abandoned in the middle of driving lanes. Others had to be abandoned to avoid the freezing cold as night approached Tuesday.
Houser said the towing fee, per a county contract with the tow companies, is about $90 to $100 per car.
Cobb will absorb the cost for vehicles that were declared a hazard by the Cobb Police Department, not other municipalities, Houser said.
Kennesaw tows for a charge
Kennesaw Police Chief Bill Westenberger said the city has not moved abandoned cars that have been left on the sides of roads, not impeding traffic or clean up efforts.
“We are only towing cars that are absolutely hazardous,” Westenberger said.
If the car is blocking lanes of the road, the Kennesaw Police are making attempts to reach the owner. Then, the vehicles are being towed to the owner’s house, at the motorist’s expense.
“That is the reason we want their input,” Westenberger said.
Westenberger said Kennesaw has not faced this situation in the past, and a clear plan of action needs to be evaluated for the future.
Cobb Police are using several towing companies throughout the county, including Willbur’s Garage and Towing off Main Street in Acworth and Hanson’s 24-Hour Wrecker Service off Veterans Memorial Highway in Austell.
Tabbatha Sears, who is one of the owners of Hanson’s and has worked for the company for 26 years, said her company has been fielding calls “nonstop” since the storm.
“It started Tuesday and it has been a mess ever since,” Sears said.
Hanson’s has been mostly working with county officials and is not able to respond to many individual calls from motorists. But, for individuals Hanson’s has dropped the towing fee from $139 to between $75 and $85, Sears said.
The company has six drivers and three office staff, with a total of five wreckers and “rollback” or flatbed trucks.
Sears said 50 percent of the cars are in good condition, but the other half do have “dings on the fenders.” There have also been reports of cars with scratches or tail lights broken.
Cobb Police have been noting cars that were hit by other sliding vehicles, Sears said.
Government employees stuck at work
Houser said Cobb Police also spent Wednesday at the state court and other county buildings to drive stranded employees back to their homes.
“The focus was clearing the schools and getting our employees home,” Houser said.
Pam Davis, spokesperson for the City of Kennesaw, said the city opened at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
City employees were expected to be “trickling in” in the late afternoon, after finally being able to drive out of their subdivisions and figuring out day care for children home from school.
As for Davis, she had not made it to her Roswell home since the storm hit Tuesday.
Davis said city staff was dismissed at 12:30 from Kennesaw City Hall, but after two hours of driving she was down to a quarter tank of gas and was still in Kennesaw.
“I could see the handwriting on the wall,” she said.
Davis pulled into an Embassy Suites on the corner of Chastain Road and Busbee Parkway, but there were no rooms available. So, she parked her Honda and was taken by a police squad car back to city hall.
“I am going to make it home today,” Davis said Thursday. “This was a huge wake up call that we should all have a back up plan.”