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Author
Russ Bynum
Date
February 11, 2014

Atlantans stuck in 1st ice storm vow never again

Two weeks ago they were caught off guard, stuck for half a day or more on ice-covered highways littered with abandoned cars and tractor-trailers. They vowed to never let it happen again.

As a second winter storm threatened metro Atlanta on Tuesday, many residents opted to hunker down at home. They logged into laptops and telecommuted to work a day after the governor declared a pre-emptive state of emergency.

Grocery store shelves had been picked clean of bread and milk before the first snowflakes fell. And people preparing to ride out the week at home went ahead and filled their gas tanks and bought kitty litter to keep in the car trunk, just in case they absolutely had to risk the roads.

Winter may have brought an unwanted encore to the South’s largest city. But those who got stranded the first time around refused to play the same role a second time.

———

Jon Ducote still hadn’t gotten the cracked bumper repaired on his car in the two weeks since another driver lost control on an icy hill and slammed into him from behind. His nerves remained a bit raw after the fender bender that started his 18-hour commute home during the last ice storm. So the threat of more winter weather was the last thing he wanted to hear when he was at work Monday.

“I had a slight panic the other day when the director of my office said they just called a state of emergency again,” Ducote of Smyrna said Tuesday. “I said I’m leaving again in five minutes, no matter what.”

He didn’t have any argument from his boss. The health care company Ducote works for shut down its entire office after just a half day Monday and told employees to stay home at least through Wednesday.

Snug at home with his wife and two small children Tuesday, Ducote wasn’t even that worried about the power going out. Electrical lines in his neighborhood are buried underground, and he’s got a wood-burning fireplace in the event a blackout does occur.

The biggest inconvenience he anticipated was being unable to head out Wednesday on a trip to visit family in Florida. He was scheduled to pick up a rental car at the airport.

“It’s like here we go again, but at least I’m sleeping in my home and not stuck in my car on I-285,” Ducote said. “That’s still first-world problems.”

———

People seemed to be staying home and off the roads Tuesday as a mix of snow and rain fell north of Atlanta. Mike Styles had his Hummer filled with gas and ready to go, just in case somebody out there needed him.

Using social media to connect with stranded motorists on ice-covered roads two weeks ago, Styles sprang into action as a chauffeur of mercy to complete strangers stuck shivering in their cars. He figures he gave rides home to about 40 people, putting more than 300 extra miles on his gas-guzzling vehicle.

“I think people are a lot more aware this time than they were last time,” said Styles of Acworth. “If anything comes up in our area, we’ll do basically the same thing. We can get anywhere. The snow won’t stop us.”

He had been among a number of good Samaritans with four-wheel drive who cropped up after the first storm to give others a lift home or to deliver snacks and bottled water to commuters snarled on the highways.

Styles said he saw far less charitable behavior this time around as people scrambled to stock up on food and supplies ahead of the second winter storm.

“I wanted to go pull into Wal-Mart yesterday to get some deodorant and it was worse than Black Friday,” Styles said.

“I saw a lot of people arguing, really, over milk and bread,” he said. “I guess snow means French toast for everybody.”

———

If Lisa Nadir learned anything from all the low-speed slipping and sliding that made her last winter storm commute so treacherous, it was to keep kitty litter in her trunk.

“Last time I was totally unprepared, I was complete blindsided,” she said.

Nadir, a sales manager for a software company, had been behind the wheel for 13 hours when she finally pulled over into a parking lot well after dark the night the first ice storm hit. She pulled two blankets out of her trunk and tried to get some sleep. She found shelter and food at a nearby Waffle House the next morning and finally managed to get home to the northern Atlanta suburb of Acworth.

Nadir wasn’t risking anything Tuesday. She was telecommuting from home. Her teenage son was out of school. She stocked up on groceries Sunday, when the parking lot of her local Kroger was so full “it looked like Christmas at the mall.”

She got a container of cat litter to keep in her car after seeing motorists stuck in ice sprinkle the gritty litter under their tires for extra traction two weeks ago. Not that she planned to go anywhere unless it was urgent.

“The only thing that concerns me is the power going out,” Nadir said. “We don’t have a generator or anything of that nature. So if it does, we’re probably going to have to go to a shelter.”

———

Kimberley Euston’s three children were outside playing Tuesday after Cobb County schools decided the day before to cancel classes. They were still waiting for the snow to start falling by the time school buses would have begun departing to take youngsters home.

“The school districts in particular are going to be a bit trigger happy any time we see an event headed our way,” said Euston, of Marietta. “But I look outside and my children could have gotten a full day of school today.”

It’s the third time schools in the area have been disrupted this winter. Euston’s two sons and daughter got three school-free days two weeks ago when the first ice storm hit. Before that, classes had been canceled Jan. 7 because of extreme cold.

Euston, who works in marketing and sales, canceled a business trip Tuesday meet with clients in Columbus to avoid getting trapped on any ice-smothered roads again. She picked up gumbo and etouffee from a local Cajun market to make sure her family had warm food for the cold weather. Otherwise she was still planning on a busy weekend — a Boy Scouts trip to the coast for her sons and a cheerleading competition for her daughter.

“My son had soccer practice last night and again this evening. But no school today,” Euston said. “I hope we do get snow. If nothing happens and the kids have not been in school for two days, I think the national media will make even more fun of us.”

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