I work in Buckhead and live in Kennesaw, so my normal commute is 25-30 minutes. On Tuesday, I left work at 3:30pm and I got home at a little after 12pm on Wednesday. For those of you that aren't very good with math, that's roughly 20.5 HOURS. Yeah, it sucks. What really happened to caused the largest Southern city to utterly collapse? Why did I spend the night in my car and fill up 2 water bottles with my own urine? Are Southerners really that bad at driving that they can't handle a little snow?
From the beginning, I knew it was going to be a long drive. I anticipated 3-4 hours. Before I left work, I got some food for 6-7 hours, 3 bottles of water, I charged up all my devices, etc. This wasn't my first rodeo. I grew up in Maryland, my parents are from Wisconsin. I know what to do. My only downfall was my shoes. They were not warm nor did they have any kind of traction. Also, I was driving a 335, E92 for you Jalops out there. RWD, shit for traction. My vehicle, nor my own shoes, were my downfall. It was everyone else on the road.
For those that are familiar with Atlanta, or want to follow along on Google Maps, I went South on Piedmont to Buford Hwy. I took Buford Hwy to 85S, then looped to 75N, to 575N, to home on Exit 4. When it took me 3 hours to go the first 1.5miles, I was ready for a long one. I started snapping pictures along the way for the fun of it. I was really bored and called my family to let them know what was happening.
I decided to write this to show the world what really happened from the belly of the beast, from the core of the problems.
I merged on 85S around 5:45pm. So, it took a little over 2 hours to go about a mile. This was 85S, doesn't look to bad, right?
I hit Northside drive around 7pm. This is when it started to get bad. The first group of vehicles to lose traction was the semi-trucks. The guys that drive all around the country and do this shit every day. It's their job to drive. The people that should know better. WRONG! They got stuck first and were the last to get unstuck. From my point of view, deep in the shit, they were the reason that it went from a long commute to a "the whole world is laughing at you" commute.
Here is a little truck-chicane. Like a racetrack, except if you cut a corner, that corner stops you.
This is the middle truck as I approached it.
After this, it was game over. I saw the Moore's Mill 1-mile sign at around 9:30, saw the 1/2mile sign at 12:30AM. 3 hours to go 1/2 mile. It was awesome. Somewhere around this time is when I refilled my now empty water bottles with a yellowish fluid.
This was about the time that everyone realized we were stuck for the night. I was forced to stop because the exit was blocked and I was just about out of gas. This is the road at 2AM. Its a thick sheet of ice.
I walked down the exit, leaving my car parked between other vehicles. I went to the only open place(that I knew of at the time) the Chevron. I got gatorade and powerbars. I saw people helping others everywhere I went. At this time, my phone was also dead, so no pictures. I went back to my car and took a nap. I'd turn on my car for heat whenever I woke up from the cold. I used my Chive flag to keep warm. KCCO!
My car was saying it was 25F, but by the time I woke up at 8AM, it was 16F. That's too cold for us Southerners. Fortunately, when I woke up they had cleared the exit, so I could drive down for gas. This was my sight at the gas station.
I walked over to Publix, which I found was open all night and most everyone in there spent the night sleeping in aisle 3, or 7. They were awesome. I got my phone charged up, but talked to a lot of super nice people. Everyone was sharing iPhone 5 chargers, or iPhone 4 chargers. Those of us with Android seemed to bring our own chargers. Maybe we are more prepared, or maybe there is just less of us.
Once I got to 50% charged, I announced that I was making a run for it. I got some phone numbers of people going the same way as me and I gave updates along the route. I walked over to the gas station and was trying to get in. A lady walks up and says "you need gas" "uh...yeah" She hands me 3 jugs and says "you will never get in with your car. Take these to fill up. I didn't buy them so you can't pay me for them. Just Pay it Forward."
Yeah, CHIVE ON!!!
I get them filled and my crap shoes come back to haunt me. I'm trying to fill up using a gallon jug, a water bottle as a funnel, standing on sheer ice. A guy comes up to help me, noticing me sliding and noticing my hands. It's around 10F at this point. That's about as common as you Yanks hitting 105F with 90% humidity, in April. Anyways, I get filled up and give the guy the jugs. He tries to pay me, but I say, "I didn't buy them, just Pay it Forward."
I get to the on ramp and sit there for a good 30 minutes.
I get word that wreckers were clearing a car-carrier that decided to abandon his load. Once we got moving, it was wide open all the way home. Sure, there was still ice, but I didn't care. I was MOVING!!!! It took 20 hours to go 6 miles and 30 minutes to go the remaining 19. The entire way up I saw cars stacked up on the side of the road. Some exits were 8-10 across on a 1 lane exit ramp. The ice came in so fast that no one saw it coming. Every hill was impassible. The semi's got stuck first and made it impossible for anyone else to move. Those that made it close, didn't have the ability to get up hills with the ice. There was no support from the city/state after 7pm. Seriously, I didn't see a single tow-truck, cop, fire, HERO-unit after 7pm. I think they gave up(or were stuck like the rest of us).
This person was probably speeding...SPEED WAS A FACTOR. No kidding, if they weren't moving, they wouldn't have flipped.
Now, to go back to my original questions.
1. Atlanta's collapse - It wasn't one single thing. It was a chain reaction that caused this. Mid-day snow, melted on contact. The sun went down and everything froze. This caused the trucks to get stuck, slowing everyone else. When everyone got free they were stuck on the exit
2. Me pissing in bottles - It was cold and I was avoiding leaving my vehicle.
3. Southern driving - Yeah, the majority of us don't know what to do in this. But, most of those people realized this and stopped on the side of the road. They didn't trudge forward trying to get through the impassible. The truck drivers and those of us that aren't from here, pressed on all night, thinking we could get through it. We couldn't.