The Union Recorder

February 1, 2014

ROWLAND: Snow Jam 2014 — but then, what’s in a name?

Mike Rowland
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Well, by the time you read this, the two-inch snow event that pounded most of Georgia north of Warner Robins will have come and gone. While the warmer temperatures and changing weather pattern will have most assuredly thawed icy roadways, the frozen attitude of most Georgians who found themselves stuck on interstate highways for hours - many, many hours - will most likely remain at sub-zero temperatures for some time to come.

Now, I want you to know that I debated long and hard about even choosing this subject for my weekly soapbox. After all, in the past week we had the president’s State of the Union Address, the Republican response, and the state legislature at work.

The General Assembly by itself could keep me writing for the next six weeks. Maybe more.

As of the time of this writing, the stock market has been in a downward trend, which 20 years ago really didn’t mean much to me. Now that I am over 50 and semi-retired, I pay a little more attention.

There were murders, house fires, and robberies. Cobb County is still trying to figure out how to pay for the Braves, the Falcons are trying to figure out how to rebound from what can only be described as one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, and in spite of how hard I try, I just cannot get enthusiastic about college basketball.

And how about the Olympics? They start next week in Sochi, Russia. Dubbed Sochi 2014, I flipped over to the official Olympics website and noticed that at the time of this writing, we are seven days, 23 hours, and 45 minutes away from television time that will most likely captivate American audiences for weeks to come.

Also, throw in the fact that these Olympics will begin under the most talked about veil of security in recent memory. The world is aware that terrorist forces have threatened to disrupt the games, but in true fashion of the American spirit, we won’t be bullied into not participating.

I hope we know what we are doing.

My point is that I had choices. But the snow thing just seemed too good to let pass.

I do want to be clear before you read much further. If you are expecting me to dog cuss the governor or mayor of Atlanta for what proved to be a nail-biting experience for Georgians and a spectator sport for the rest of the nation, then stop right here, thumb on over the sports page, and keep reading.

From my perspective, here’s the deal: I had some work scheduled for Tuesday morning in a small town about two-and-a-half hours south of Atlanta. I saw the weather forecast just like everyone else.

You know, the one that first said most, if not all, of the snow would be south of I-20. Out on the lake where I live, we were supposed to get hammered. Trudy went home from the city just because she loves the idea of snow at the lake.

I, on the other hand, decided to work. After all, that pays for her to be able to go to the lake for Snow Jam 2014. I digress.

So, I had to make the same decision that every other Georgian did when I awoke Tuesday morning. Go to work, or stay home. I went to work.

Let me get to the point. I left Eastman around noon. A light rain had started to fall, and the temperature was 42 degrees. I’m thinking I look pretty smart at that point.

I have to get back to Atlanta, because I have pressing matters to attend to for the remainder of the week. Besides, who believes the weather people anyway? Right?

By the time I get to Macon, the rain is mixing with sleet, the temperature is 35 degrees, but I’m still thinking “piece of cake.” By Jonesboro, the sleet has mixed with snow, the icy precipitation is starting to stick to I-75, and traffic is beginning to slow.

For the record, I did consider joining Mama at the lake house. In full Boy Scout fashion, however, I left work Monday evening anticipating a bad weather event; so I had everything I needed to work from home. Turns out that would have been a safe bet as the snow didn’t begin at the lake until very late in the evening.

Footnote: Mother Nature doesn’t know just how close she came to losing a fan. Mama and I were checking in periodically, and she was on what I affectionately refer to as “snowflake watch.” Each time I called, she sounded more and more despondent that the promised three-inch snow event would miss her entirely.

I won’t get into quotes here because I try to keep this a family column. Suffice it to say I hate it when she mopes.

By now you know I ditched the whole go to the lake and play it safe thing for the thrill of taking on Snow Jam 2014. By the time I reached the I-75/I-675 interchange, the Atlanta radio station was reporting an 18-wheeler accident that had the ramp blocked.

Uh-oh. Not looking so smart after all.

Westbound ramp is completely shut down. Thank goodness I’m headed eastbound. Regardless, the ramp was a mess, traffic stopped, and I’m beginning to check the gas gauge and develop a contingency plan for other bodily functions that I haven’t satisfied in the past two hours.

I made it onto I-675 where, unbelievably, traffic was light. My next goal is the merge from I-675 to I-285 North. That ramp and merge event made the first one look like a Sunday stroll through the park.

I-285 was a nightmare, but I am glad to report that I eventually made it home. An hour longer than usual, but home nonetheless. A far cry from the eight- to 12-hour adventures endured by some.

So here is my point: What I should have done was heeded the winter weather warning of the previous evening and canceled my trip. Life would have gone on. Can’t blame the governor or mayor of Atlanta for that.

Every other citizen working in the metro area could have made the same decision. We didn’t, I suspect, because we had to in some way balance the risk between missing a day of work against weather forecasts that, let’s face it, aren’t always the most reliable.

Atlanta interstates are not designed for the volume of traffic they endure on a good day. Throw in a little snow and ice, and you have just defined the word impossible. The answer is now, and always has been, stay home!

For what it’s worth, I offer this simple solution: Next time the chance of winter precipitation is better than 50/50, stay home! Traffic problem solved.