Viewpoints

The night snow drove old Dixie down

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Snow doesn’t visit Atlanta often, but one thing is clear when it does: nobody’s prepared. Cluelessness reigned supreme in today’s capital of the New South. And there’s plenty of blame to go around, for example, city hall and the governor’s office, which did not salt streets and highways. And let’s not forget its residents who thought they could ride roughshod over the roads.
 
We were no smarter than the rest, especially three of us who finally realized that we’d stayed too long at the office. We scavenged a few benches to rest on for the night, and walked down the road to that Southern Oasis, the Waffle House. We thought we were just going to get something to eat, but instead found ourselves in the middle of the chaos outside.
 
We had been watching outside through our windows for the past 12 hours as cars lined up, nearly motionless. But it was worse now that the ice had settled on the roads and steep inclines, leaving people stuck in cars whose wheels could only spin. Other cars had been abandoned for lack of gas or in sheer frustration, causing more problems.
 
We jumped into the fray, pushing cars into parking lots and helping others gain enough traction to move forward. With her car moved to the side, one woman was in tears as she told us that she has been in traffic for eight hours. With that, she left the car and started walking the rest of the way home.
 
Later, we walked into the only hotel in the area. A bleary-eyed clerk at the front desk told us more than 300 people without rooms were there — huddled in corners, sitting on the floors and of course drinking at the bar. You could hear them on their phones telling their loved ones of abandoned cars and wondering how they would get home.
 
A few steps out of the hotel, we landed in the Waffle House. The waitresses lucky enough to shoulder this shift darted from table to table taking orders, pouring coffee and dispensing as much good will as they could muster. It was chaos there, too, but it was tempered by a strange sense of normalcy. We were eating dinner.
 
Funny how waffles, eggs and grits made us feel full, or at least ready to stop eating, so we skated across the still-crowded streets toward the office, where we were met by another employee who had invited two snowstorm refugees — a mother and her young son — to spend the night in our boardroom.
 
It’s 2 in the morning and outside, the road has cleared except for the occasional tow truck rumbling down the street. Inside, the six of us are lying on our makeshift beds thinking about how we will remember the night when all hell broke loose because of a couple inches of snow. Finally, I fell asleep, still wondering if the woman who wandered off into the night in tears ever made it home.

Did government leaders do a good job managing the storm? One Atlanta Journal-Constitution political columnist says government leaders will be under the microscope for what they did and didn’t do.

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Bill Wolpin

Bill Wolpin is the Associate Publisher and Editorial Director of American City & County, Government Product News and Government Procurement magazines. Bill has judged several national magazine...

Erin Greer

While most journalism graduates would jump at a chance to chase down the latest story, Erin Greer ran, screaming, from the opportunity. A long-time performer and PR professional, Erin was used to...
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