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Unprecedented Metro Atlanta Traffic Jam: Who's to Blame?

Metro Atlanta residents frustrated as a couple of inches of snow brings region to a complete and total standstill.

A snowplow works to clear the 10th Street bridge in Midtown early Wednesday morning. Credit: Frank Arsics
A snowplow works to clear the 10th Street bridge in Midtown early Wednesday morning. Credit: Frank Arsics
It was only a couple of inches of snow, but it paralyzed metro Atlanta on Tuesday leaving in its wake at least a couple of days of miserable, frozen traffic conditions throughout the region.

Sixteen, 17, 18 hours and more after Tuesday’s rush hour traffic began around noon, cars and trucks were still in gridlock in several spots around the metro area.

The Downtown Connector, I-75 North near West Paces Ferry Road, and I-285 near Ashford Dunwoody Road were just a few of the areas where icy conditions had left motorists creeping along in bumper-to-bumper conditions. In the traffic nightmare, hundreds of vehicles have been stranded on interstates and side streets from Cobb to DeKalb and beyond.

Late Tuesday night, the Georgia State Patrol said it had investigated 940 crashes resulting in one death and 104 injuries. The fatality came as a result of a 60-year-old woman from Griffin lost control of her vehicle in Coweta County.

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the entire state Tuesday afternoon and joined Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at a late Tuesday night press conference to urge motorists to stay off the roads and to assure Georgians that the parking lot conditions on roads were being addressed by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

The governor called it an “unexpected storm,” but thousands of state residents would beg to differ as weather forecasts for days indicated that the possibility of Tuesday’s arctic conditions existed.

"This is absolutely the craziest thing I've ever seen," East Cobb resident Eric Stein posted on Facebook. "Two inches of snow and the ATL is at a complete and total standstill."

In some cases, school buses were unable able to complete their routes and were forced to schools where students and staff stayed overnight. Around 5 a.m., GDOT and the Georgia National Guard were near Cascade Road helping to rescue almost 90 students who had been on a bus for about 12 hours.

Facebook and Reddit pages were created to help stranded motorists who needed a place to stay. If you know of a friend or loved one somewhere in the metro area who is stranded, here is a running list of places offering shelter.

Public school systems in Atlanta, Fulton County and DeKalb County began sending their kids home early on Tuesday afternoon, about the same time businesses were sending their employees home for the day. The result was traffic chaos that Mayor Reed blamed on timing.

“The fact of the matter is we do take responsibility for having the business community, government and schools basically leave all at once,” said Reed, who added that the city had 30 spreaders and 40 snow plows working to clear streets. “We created a situation from a traffic standpoint that was very challenging.”

And the challenge continues into Wednesday. While the precipitation has left metro Atlanta, the ice on the roads has not. Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing Wednesday with a high in the very low 30s. Thursday’s high could get to 40 degrees in some spots while the low 50s are forecasted for Friday.

By then, hopefully every stranded motorist will have gotten home, but none of them will forget where they were during this unprecedented storm.

What’s your take on Tuesday’s weather-related, mass traffic jam? Why did it happen and what could the region do better next time to avoid another weather shutdown around the metro area.


Tee Aro January 29, 2014 at 09:26 AM
We experienced this a few years ago. We did not prepare despite all the warnings we got a few days ago and so many including kids were left stranded! I mean, is'nt that the whole point of checking the weather in order to prepare for the storm?

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