Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thoughts on Snowmageddon

One week ago today snowflakes were just starting to fall in Atlanta. Although the possibility of snow had been talked about for days, most people seemed to tune it out. They made their cursory stops at the grocery store for bread, milk and eggs but scoffed at all the “extended weather team coverage” on the local news. The word “snow” always whips them up into a frenzy. This storm was a weird one too –at first predicted to hit parts of the deep South that hadn't seen snow in a coon’s age.

As the first flakes fell, I watched from the window as excited as a kid. One of my first posts here was about the Southern take on snow. It’s rare here and as evidenced this week, we do best when we hole up and STAY OFF THE ROADS! About noon I had the overwhelming urge to go pick up my kids from school. Fortunately, their school is only a ½ mile away. I ran some errands before the snow got too out of hand and scooped up the kids about 1:30 p.m. just as the roads were starting to get a little slippery. We cozied up in front of the TV and watched movies completely unaware of the chaos that loomed around us.

Playing in the snow.

And we sledded on muddy slopes even as it thawed!
You've seen the news reports so there’s no need to reiterate how bad it was – how people were stuck in their cars or on school buses and how some abandoned their cars and walked 10 miles in the snow. It was truly insane. No wonder memes comparing "Snowmageddon" to The Walking Dead's zombie apocalypse started popping up all over the internet. My husband’s normal 30 minute commute took two hours – and he’s one of the lucky ones. Several friends and friends of friends I learned via Facebook were among those stuck. While it’s easy to complain about the shallowness of social media, it may well have saved some lives on Tuesday. A group "SnowedOutAtlanta" emerged on Facebook and friends and family posted their pleas for help. People rose to the occasion – opening up their homes to strangers delivering food and blankets to cold motorists stuck on the highways. Stores and restaurants stayed open and gave people food and shelter for the night. Teachers huddled with children in school gymnasiums on make shift pallets. There were examples of abundant hospitality everywhere you turned.

One of my neighbors, Matt Miller, handed out sandwiches and supplies on the side of I-75/85. This photo taken by the AJC/AP made the international news!
Now that the snow is melted and life is back to normal and everyone is playing the blame game, I’m trying to hold on to the “warm fuzzies”—the examples of kindness, generosity and selflessness that emerged from the storm. As Americans, and particularly Southerners, we have a long tradition of claiming to be independent and “self-made.” However, episodes like this remind us that we are all bonded together whether we like it or not. Truly, no man is an island. The storm reinforced in me the importance of knowing your neighbors, of building walkable communities, of having viable mass-transit options and importantly – seeing the best in people and not the worst. It also reinforced my suspicion that I could never live in the frozen North! So, let the Northerners make fun of us all they want. We may not be able to drive on ice and snow, but we sure do know how to take care of each other down here. One thing the storm proved – Southern hospitality is still alive and well.

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