Atlanta came to a grinding halt Tuesday amid a mass exodus from the city fuelled by snow panic and an apparent lack of planning from the city.
A couple of inches of snow fell in the area Tuesday afternoon and evening, making roads treacherous and leading to mid-day school cancellations.
CNN explains that the timing of the snow might have been a factor in the horrendous traffic jams that paralysed the interstates — everyone seemed to be leaving work and hitting the roads at the same time.
Thousands of people were stuck in traffic for hours, and some had to abandon their cars overnight and seek shelter elsewhere.
Brittany Luiz, a 27-year-old Atlanta resident who works in Sandy Springs just north of Atlanta, said she spent 10 hours in her car trying to get home before deciding to spend the night in a Home Depot.
She left work at about 12:30 p.m. Luiz said it took her about 10 hours to travel five miles. Her commute home is about 20 miles.
“The traffic [in Atlanta] usually is bad, but I have never been in my car for that long and not been going on a trip,” Luiz said. “Typically, my commute is anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, and it took me 10 hours and I still had 14 miles left to go.”
Once Luiz got off the interstate, which was at a standstill, she realised the road she was driving on was completely blocked by an overturned truck.
“I ended up just turning around and going back the way that I came, which was away from my house, and I ended up at a Dunkin Doughnuts parking lot,” she told Business Insider. Her phone had been dead for about six hours at that point.
“I was in the Dunkin Doughnuts parking lot trying to figure out what to do … I got out my laptop and called [my husband] from Google hangouts, and he talked me through it and said his mum saw on Facebook that Home Depot was offering for people to come in and they’d give them shelter. There just happened to be a Home Depot right next door.”
Home Depot kept 26 stores in Georgia and Alabama open overnight to give stranded travellers a place to stay. The store’s staff gave Luiz a warm welcome.
She said: “I can’t even stress enough how amazing they were. I walked in and I’m crying because I’m just so upset from the whole situation … They come up to me and they hug me and they’re like ‘welcome!’ and they showed me back to this area, and they’ve got food, they’ve got drinks, mobile phone chargers, which was a God send to me because my phone was dead.”
The store also set up TVs so people could watch movies and provided blankets and cushions for people to sleep with.
But the store soon got crowded, Luiz said — people were coming in all throughout the night, and the store housed well over 100 people total.
“There were people that were sleeping on boxes, they were sleeping on wood planks, there was a guy who used a paper towel roll as a pillow ,” she said. “It was really, really awesome that [Home Depot] did that because my other option was to sleep in my car and there was a girl who slept next to me and said … ‘I think that being here saved my life last night.'”
Luiz was able to make it home by Wednesday afternoon, but some people are still stuck. She said she saw abandoned cars in the middle of the road as she was driving home. There seemed to be salt on the roads on Wednesday, Luiz said, but the roads appeared untreated when the snow started coming down on Tuesday.
The gridlock caused by schools and businesses closing at the same time might have made it difficult for salt trucks to do their jobs, CNN points out.
Atlanta recorded a staggering 940 vehicle accidents since the snow started on Tuesday.
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