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» Thursday, January 30, 2014SnowJam 2014
The weather report on Monday night was substantially different. We were going to get the snow after all, perhaps about an inch, and it would start the next day about noon. I was glad I was teleworking, as Atlanta traffic is notoriously horrible in snow. It would probably take me over two hours to get home.
By Tuesday morning, they were saying one to three inches, and the news was assuring us that, unlike in January 2011, when the city was shut down for a week, the sanders and the plows were ready, and the crews geared up to go.
It did indeed start snowing sometime after eleven on Tuesday, and it was fun to watch. It was also bitterly cold, which it usually isn't here when it snows, and the snow quickly started sticking to things, including the street. I ran out to fill the bird feeders, bundling up in a hat and an insulated vest, something I usually don't don because the feeders take less than five minutes. Work was canceled at noon, and I'd already finished the laundry, so I could do other things around the house. I kept the computer on, though, in case an emergency came up, but it looked like everyone had indeed gone home.
About 2:30, James called saying he was coming home, as the snow was accumulating and he was getting reports of bad traffic. He said not to expect him at the usual time as traffic was slow. Over a half hour later he called back. A delivery truck was blocking the exit of his complex and he couldn't get out to the highway. He was going to go back inside until it cleared. He said he would leave at 4:30. I didn't get a call from him saying he was leaving until 5:10, and by then I was uneasy. According to the traffic report, it had been deteriorating all afternoon. The freeway map had gone from solid red to burgundy, even the routes he could use to get home. It was almost seven o'clock when I called him back. He was on the East-West Connector and had gone barely two miles in less than two hours. He'd been heading for Hicks Road, but he said he would try to get off at Cooper Lake Road instead.
The reports on television were getting worse by the minute. Apparently most businesses and all schools had been dismissed at one o'clock and everyone funneled on to the road at once. The inexperienced drivers crawling on the snow (which wasn't ice at that point) slowed down the other drives and now every main street was a mess of snarled traffic. Kids had left school on buses and had been stuck on them for six and seven hours now. People were running out of gas on the freeway. And of course all the snow on the roads had turned to ice, slick, nasty ice which was just getting more slick every time someone spun their wheels over it.
Just after eight, James called. He was stuck dead on Cooper Lake Road; the road was so slick he couldn't make the slope in either direction, and a tractor-trailer truck was blocking one end of the road anyway. He was, to my horror, preparing to spend the night in the car. Remember, I'm the one who takes naps in my car, summer and winter. In winter I've been out there parked in the sun, with a blanket over my legs, in my Rhode Island quality winter coat, and freezing to death. It was nineteen degrees outside and blacker than pitch! He had less than a quarter of a tank of gas, no blanket, only trail mix and granola bars for supper, and only some of his diabetes drugs. Well, yeah, I was hysterical; wouldn't you be? He said there was no way I could get to him; I'd only get stuck, too.
Facebook saved him. I posted this horrible news and several minutes later Alice Spivey's message popped up: her husband Ken's sister and her husband lived off Cooper Lake Road, near South Cobb Drive. If he were close to South Cobb, he could probably walk there. James called up Debbie and Jesse and they were about ten minutes from where he was stuck, and he was able to get to their house, but until this was all straightened out, I had about a bad hour of it. I ended up down in the library after checking to see if the faucets were dripping, clutching Mother's rosary beads and praying desperately for someone to help him. Thank you so much, God! (And Alice, and Deb and Jesse, and Facebook, which is a fat PITA sometimes, but worth it.)
So James stayed with Deb and Jesse and Mrs. Spivey; they made him dinner and even gave him their bedroom to sleep in. I ended up not eating because I was so upset it would have just given me indigestion had I done so. Instead I kept reading Facebook reports which were deteriorating by the minute: kids were camped out on school buses, or the buses had to go back to the school, and kids (and some parents) were camped out there. Cars stopped dead were all over all three interstates and state highways; some were up on curbs, backward, had crushed fenders. Some people had now been stuck in traffic for the past twelve hours. People near the freeway were making sandwiches and bringing food and bottled water to the stranded. A baby was born at the side of the interstate. News reporters were giving out water and getting help and food for stranded people with small children. The traffic map had gone from burgundy to black.
By one I was exhausted. I took Willow out one last time, covered up Snowy's cage, and slept on the futon. I didn't have to worry about work; the whole city was under a State of Emergency and everything was closed.
Things usually look better in the morning. Not this morning. The first thing I checked was the traffic map, which was still red. Holy shit. I spent the morning cleaning house. Talked to James, who said he was comfortable and was enjoying his unexpected stay, but hadn't been able to sleep well because he didn't have his C-PAP machine. He sounded exhausted. The hours started to tick on. I couldn't relax. Kroger called to tell me my meds were ready, which was stupid because they'd been ready since Sunday, but they never called.
The temps rose slowly, but by early afternoon still hadn't hit the thirties. I kept thinking about James' insulin and the C-PAP, and looking at the road. My Cousin Donna called to see how I was making out and I joked that if I was in Rhode Island I would have been expected to be at work even with the roads in this condition. Living here has turned me into a wimp. I drove home in the Blizzard of '78 in a Chevette, for God's sake, although, granted, I had a bucket of salted sand, a shovel, and a blanket in the back of my car, plus snow tires. I ought to at least be able to make it down two main roads in order to pick up James! The moment I checked the traffic map and saw there were yellow spots turning to green, I acted.
I dressed for bear because it was about 17 with the wind chill outside: t-shirt under my sweatshirt, two pairs of socks, my winter coat with my pashmina, thick winter hat, driving gloves. I shoved brownies in my pockets, grabbed two walking sticks out of the garage just-in-case, both spare batteries for the phone, and gave Twilight his head.
Still, I almost chickened out when I reached the downhill slope where Sandtown Road meets Windy Hill. It was coated with ice and when I tried to slow down further from my already creeping speed, the car started to fishtail. I remembered to tap, not jam, the brakes and the car slid against the curb and not into the car waiting to turn left, thankfully. Windy Hill had one lane cleared on either side, and I didn't accelerate or brake on slick spots, and I got through that, and then down South Cobb Drive with heart in mouth. When I reached South Cobb and Cooper Lake I called James, parking in the driveway of a Kindercare.
About twenty minutes later (it seemed so much longer) James, Deb, and Jesse came tramping up to meet me; the latter were on their way to Walgreens. James had taken a tumble the moment they got out on the street; he scraped his knees, banged his head, and wrenched one hand, but he was mobile. Came back the same way I'd come. We even were able to stop by the drive-though at Kroger and pick up my meds. The car performed flawlessly. Go, Twilight!
So spent the rest of the afternoon making sure James wasn't getting dizzy or unsteady after the bump to the head (more cognitive questions—this seems all too familiar). His knees looked like a playground accident. The worst was his hand, which was swelling up so much we figured we were headed to Kaiser in the morning. He called in to work saying he would be out today, but would definitely be in Friday, even if it meant having me take him to work or driving my car. We had the soup for supper and gave Willow a few of the noodles and carrots, which was a bad idea, as she, after having improved for a day and a half, was back to the raised tail and the rushing outside. Thrilling, especially since the dog hates snow, and wouldn't even stay outside to finish pooping. And then we retreated to showers and to bed, with the C-PAP breathing a soft lullaby in the background.
This morning Willow let us sleep, which was very welcome, and then we spent much of the day running after her and having to clean up accidents. When she finally made it to the pee pad, I praised her so much you might have thought she won the Nobel prize.
Thankfully, the swelling had gone down on James' hand and he could make a fist again, although the bruising remained. I finally got to vacuum. Snowy sang up a storm. I tried to find something Willow would eat, and this didn't work until evening. I tried giving her pumpkin again; several dog forums said you could put cinnamon on it without hurting the dog, so I tried that and she cleaned up the heaping teaspoon I gave her. We'll see. We paid and sorted out bills that got delayed because of the expense at the vet. Had homemade pizza for supper, and since we can't give Willow the leavings anymore, fed her some dog biscuits instead. Later we watched an amusing Big Bang Theory; loved Sheldon hanging out with James Earl Jones, and the ladies wondering just when you grow up.
The big thing we did today was go fetch the truck. The side roads we habitually take were good enough today to use, with only a few icy patches here and there. Instead of going down Cooper Lake directly, we went down King Springs Road and then turned left on Cooper Lake; James was trying to come home through King Springs, but the truck wouldn't make the grade and the big truck had been blocking the road. Even with the sun out having dried the main roads, both King Springs and Cooper Lake had big icy patches, but we skimmed them nicely and found the pickup parked just where James had left it, outside a subdivision opposite the dam at Lake Laurel. It all looked so innocent out here in the sun; I didn't want to imagine it in the dark and cold! It was surrounded by ice except directly at the back of the truck, so James walked there, and then held on to the side as he navigated the thick ice on the left of the truck. He had a brief skid as he turned it around, then we both headed home with no problem.
Still talking, talking, talking on the news about whose fault it was, people going crazy because they have started towing cars that were left at the side of the road, and analysis. And lots of people have made videos of "SnowJam 2014."
We have first aid kits in the car and flashlights, and I have a blanket and pillow, and James has spare towels, but I've decided I'm going to put an emergency box in each one, too: a clear shoebox with a change of underwear and socks, those hand-warmer packets that you activate, some packets of sunflower seeds and nuts, a toothbrush and a little travel toothpaste, etc. We used to have something like this in the car back when we drove up to Atlanta from Warner Robins for the Phoenix Science Fiction Society meetings on Saturday night, just in case we didn't feel like driving home at 2 a.m. Probably a cheap red bandanna, too, for the aerial or hood if in trouble. I'll have to think on a total inventory.