Your Snow Jam ’82 Stories
If you were in Atlanta in January 1982, chances are you remember this storm!
Thank you for sharing your story and memory of this day. Obviously a memorable event for thousands of people in and around the city.
Were You There?
Share your story and photos! If you have pictures or fun tales from Snow Jam '82, please .
Reader-Submitted Snow Jam ’82 Stories
Submitted by Courtenay M.Link
“It was so slick that pushing made no difference. They were far from home and stuck with nowhere to go.”
When the Snow Jam hit on Tuesday, January 12, I was working as a young management trainee downtown at Bank South (since purchased by Bank of America) at 55 Marietta Street. The snow started about 2:00 pm. Because the two previous nights had seen sub-zero lows, the snow started to stick immediately, which is very unusual for Atlanta.
I was a MARTA bus rider at that time and as I recall, I left around 3:00 with a friend who had driven to work and who lived in a garage apartment off of Collier Road on Dellwood near Bobby Jones Golf Course. The traffic was gridlocked. We drove to near Georgia Tech on Northside Drive and then decided to go on foot. Fortunately, we had overcoats and scarves, but walking in frigid, blowing snow in slick, thin business loafers and no hat was a challenge.
Near Northside and I-75, we encountered a nice lady who was stuck in traffic. She lived near Northside and Peachtree Battle, so we agreed to help her walk home.
As we approached the steep hill on Northside Drive that passes Bobby Jones, we tried to help two young twenty-something from Marietta to drive up the hill in a Ford Mustang. It was so slick that pushing made no difference. They were far from home and stuck with nowhere to go, so we invited them to go with us to my buddy’s apartment and they agreed.
As we cut across the golf course it was like a winter scene from Dr. Zhivago. Below freezing temps with heavy snow and gusty winds. We made it to my buddy’s apartment OK. He had some spare clothes, so we changed out of work clothes and into jeans and boots.
At the time, my brother and his wife were living in some condos beside Peachtree United Methodist. These have since been torn down for a parking lot. My brother’s wife was out of town for a C&S Bank (remember them?) training conference, so my friend and I decided to walk there for the night rather than stay in his place with the two stranded girls.
So, off we go northbound on Peachtree Road on foot in the blowing snow, cold, and darkness. What an amazing sight. All six lanes were outbound up to Colonial Homes Drive. No one was going anywhere in traffic, but most drivers had nowhere to go other than their cars. The Longhorn Steaks there (first one in the company) was doing a landmark business while folks waited for the traffic to clear.
There was no traffic moving, so we walked right up Peachtree Road in the middle of the street. We dropped in on some friends at Peachtree and West Wesley Road. They were having a great spaghetti dinner with red wine to pass the time. We eventually made it to my brother’s and passed the evening in revelry.
The next day (January 13) was extremely cold and windy. We spent the day sledding in various places around Buckhead and enjoying quite a few adult beverages. There were many, many people out and about and Bobby Jones Golf Course was a popular sledding destination. One group there had brought along a fiberglass boat which worked great because the super cold snow was hard and not slushy at all. Later in the day, we were able to drive back downtown and retrieve my friend’s abandoned car.
And what about the girls that we left at my his apartment? Their boyfriends were able to make it in from Marietta the next day to pick them and their car up.
About two days later, my friend on Dellwood had his apartment broken into. We could never prove it, but we were certain that these boyfriends were the culprits. The timing was just too convenient. How’s that for some gratitude?That’s my Snow Jam 1982 story. Quite a day and certainly an eventful one that I will remember as long as I live.
Submitted by Joe R.Link
“We tied a rope to a bobsled and pulled it to a grocery store where we loaded up on groceries as people always do when it snows; it’s almost as if we think we’ll be stuck at home for weeks”
I discovered this site a few years ago. Today, on the 33rd anniversary of Snow Jam ’82, I finally decided to submit my own story. It’s not nearly as colorful as a lot of the stories on here, but I still remember it fondly.
I was 9 years old at the time, and my mom and I lived in Decatur near Church Street. My school, which was right around the corner from my house, let us out at 2:45 (which was our normal dismissal time) and I walked home. Problem was, I had either lost or forgotten my key, and couldn’t get into my house. My mom was due home soon, but I was still upset about not having my key. As I waited for Mom to come home, snow started to fall. I distinctly remember thinking “Hey, it’s snowing,” followed by “it probably won’t even stick.” Soon, Mom arrived and picked me up at the house; she had a hair appointment and at that point we had no idea how bad things were going to get. We went to the salon, which was in a shopping plaza that I think was at the corner of Clairemont Road and North Decatur Road. While the lady was cutting Mom’s hair the snow started accumulating in the parking lot outside. I went out on the sidewalk and made snow angels while I waited. Shortly thereafter we got in the car and started slowly making our way home. Fortunately, this place was only about a mile from where we lived. About halfway home, we got stuck at the bottom of a long, steady incline and had to abandon the car. We walked the rest of the way home. Eventually, a few of Mom’s friends made their way to our house. By that evening they had made a big pot of hot chocolate and took it out to one of the main roads nearby (probably Church Street). They passed out free hot chocolate to stranded motorists and took phone numbers from them so they could call people’s families and let them know they were okay.
Either on that day or the next one we tied a rope to a bobsled and pulled it to a grocery store where we loaded up on groceries (as people always do when it snows; it’s almost as if we think we’ll be stuck at home for weeks). On the way there and back we saw cars abandoned on the side of the road and people walking or playing in the snow. We couldn’t get my mom’s car out for several days, since the place we got stuck was a side street with trees lining both sides; not enough sunlight to melt the snow and ice.
It’s amazing how an event that caused such gridlock and stranded so many people has become a fond memory to those of us old enough to remember it.
Submitted by Jackie TraylorLink
“When the bus finally arrived, it was every man for himself ... we literately sat on top of each other.”
I remember this day so well and have told the stories to my husband and sons many times. It was a regular day at work. The weatherman said nothing about snow in the forecast. I worked for the IRS at 275 Peachtree Street. Sometime after lunch we had all settled back in, to finish our work day. All of a sudden (around 2:00 pm) out of nowhere some one said it was snowing. Upon looking outside, it was coming down hard, harder than I had ever seen it snow in Atlanta. Within minutes, everything was covered up. Most of my coworkers along with myself decided it was best we leave and head for home.
I remember getting on the bus between 2:30-3:00 in front of my building. I was only going to the other end of Peachtree Street and Forsyth Street, near the then Rich’s Department store. It took about two hrs to get from one end of Peachtree Street to the other. I thought several times to get off the bus to walk down, but each time my mine was made up to walk, I saw yet another person fall and bust their behind on the pavement. Once I finally made it to my bus stop at Rich’s to continue my journey home, I found many people, more than normal waiting for the bus. As we waited a couple hours for the bus to arrive, more and more people showed up to catch the bus. Someone started a big fire in one of the concrete trash cans to help us stay warm.
When the bus finally arrived, it was every man for himself. I don’t know how we did it, but we all packed on that bus liked sardines. We piled in through the front and back doors. People helped pull others in, and we literately sat on top of each other. Upon finally getting home, I thanked The Lord and promised myself that I wasn’t even thinking about going out again until every thing was thawed out. I remember hearing that some of my managers had to end up spending the night at the office. A lot of people did get stuck downtown and had to sleep in the hotel rooms or lobbies. Snow Jam ’82 I will never forget YOU.
Submitted by Ed StembridgeLink
“Folks would try to take turns at normal speed, and (much like the scene in Cars where Lightning McQueen attempts to turn on the dirt track and winds up in the cactii) would travel at that same normal speed right past their intended path.”
I was an architecture student at Georgia Tech in ’82 and lived with my recently widowed grandmother in Hapeville near the airport, making the 20-minute commute once or twice a day. To help fund college, I worked for a local engineering firm (Newcomb & Boyd) doing drafting as well as mainframe data entry for the accounting department—my Uncle worked there as well, as a PE doing plumbing design for office buildings and the like.
While I was born in Piedmont Hospital and am thus an Atlanta native, our family lived in several parts of the Southeast as I grew up, including my last year of high school in Inman, SC, which received a good bit more snow than Georgia. The manager of the grocery store where I worked was adamant that even the lowliest bagboy had better show up on time regardless the weather, or “Don't bother to come in the next day, ’cause you're fired.” Thus, I learned to drive in snow—not that I needed any prodding to get out and practice power-slides in my ’71 Vega.
So January 12, 1982 found me at work, and when the snow started falling not long after noon, the accounting ladies and I went from excitement to worry to outright concern in the space of about an hour. Folks started clearing out around 2-3pm, as the roads were looking pretty bad by that point.
I left about 3:30 or so, and took my normal route up Northside drive to I-75 to head South through town. I've included a map view, because this is important to visualize later in the story—the intersection of Northside and Bellemeade Ave sits about 2/3 of the way up a fairly steep incline.
Turning onto the ramp for I-75 South, I immediately realized I had made a tactical error, but with cars already behind me, it was too late—I was committed. I inched along with the rest of the traffic, and about 90 minutes later finally came to the 14th street exit (less than two miles from work), where I decided to divert through Tech.
The going was a bit better, but I faced a new problem: other (clueless) drivers who were oblivious to the fact that dry pavement physics simply don't apply on snow and ice. Folks would try to take turns at normal speed, and (much like the scene in Cars where Lightning McQueen attempts to turn on the dirt track and winds up in the cactii) would travel at that same normal speed right past their intended path. Others would obediently stop at a red light on a hill, never to move forward again (tires screeching and smoking in protest).
This frustration was balanced by the fact that the Tech campus had turned into one huge Frat party, with students helping push cars, amid others having intense snowball fights right across the roadway. It was actually fun making my way through that happy mob!
Twenty minutes later, I was through campus and headed down Techwood Drive, which I had to abandon due to snarls of cars at every intersection (still obeying those red lights). Following a city bus, I headed into downtown, which turned out to be a smart decision—traffic was almost non-existant and I made good progress, eventually picking up Sylvan Road South of the Capitol building.
My last challenge of the drive was a long hill on Sylvan that climbed up toward Cleveland Avenue... I knew well enough to keep a modest, constant speed going up the hill, but yet another clueless driver decided to pull out from a cross-street as I was approaching, forcing me to come to a quick stop to avoid hitting him
So now it was my turn to spin my wheels. The Vega, despite being a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive car, actually did pretty good in the snow—the 14" manhole cover I carried in the trunk under my spare tire helped with traction, and I had recently switched to Michelin radial tires, which had pretty good grip. But none of that helped at this point—I was stuck, and but good.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a handful of kids came running up, offering to “push your car up the hill for $20, mister?” Thanking them while politely refusing, I put the Vega in reverse and did a backwards “Bootleg-180” and headed down the hill. At the top of the other side, I again reversed direction, and merrily tooted the horn at the kids as I sped past.
Other than deep snow on Springdale Road where we lived, I had no further problems, and Granny was happy to hear me pull in the driveway—it had been over four hours since I had called her to let her know I was headed home.
I decided I'd better call back at the office and let my Uncle know I had made it. As I recounted my story, I kept hearing occasional roaring laughter in the background. I asked if they were having a party, and he said “No, we're watching cars slide into each other at the intersection in front of the office... they come over the hill and by the time they see all the cars piled up, it's too late to try to stop, so they just slide right into the pile—there are over a dozen cars there now!”
It was truly an epic day. As a postscript, I’ve included a Polaroid of my trusty Vega, which I’m reasonably sure was taken the day after Snow Jam.
I ended up graduating from Tech with an Industrial Design degree (having changed majors), and now live in Central Illinois, where I'm still excited to see the snow fly each Winter. Thanks for putting the site up—it was fun reliving those memories!
Submitted by Washtub JamesLink
“My brother, who had just driven down from Michigan in an old Fiat with bald tires and brakes on three wheels, wondered if any of us knew how to drive in snow?”
I worked in an office near Perimeter Center Mall (Ashford-Dunwoody Road at I-285) and lived in an apartment on Roswell Road south of Abernathy. In normal circumstances, a ten minute commute, using back roads. The evening of of '82 snowstorm, it took over five hours.
When I arrived at my apartment, the power was out. I lit some candles, found a bottle of Scotch, and listened to music on my battery-powered Walkman. Shortly after midnight, there was a knock on the door. It was my brother, who had just driven down from Michigan in an old Fiat with bald tires and brakes on three wheels. He was laughing [hysterically], having seen countless wrecks and abandoned vehicles on his drive into town, wondering if any of us knew how to drive in snow? I told him about my ordeal making it home earlier that evening. One driver would give up, abandoning his vehicle in the middle of the road. Other drivers would go around the abandoned car, eventually resulting in both lanes of a two way street going same direction, only to encounter two lanes coming in apposite direction around the next corner. Major gridlock. In the aftermath, the mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson, had the city public works department install snow plow mounts on all the city's garbage trucks.
Unfortunately, it would be many years before the next big ice storm, and by that time, all the snowplow-ready garbage trucks had been cycled out of service.
Submitted by Kay DockinsLink
“My two children were home alone while my husband was anchored in a sailboat in Miami harbor.”
In 1982 was working for The Friendship Force at The Omni in downtown Atlanta. Huge snow flakes started falling afternoon and we were temporarily mesmerized watching through the large window while the sudden snow quickly covered everything in sight. I had no choice but to try to make way home to Duluth. My two children were home alone while my husband was anchored in a sailboat in Miami harbor and there were no cell phones back then.
By the time I reached the downtown connector, the traffic was a mess...tractor trailers sideways, cars off the road, accidents all over. Determined, I drove my little Datsun into the frey. I managed to get in the inside land behind a big truck and stayed in his tracks. Each time my light little Datsun 210 Honeybee would get a little crooked, some Good Samaritan would jump out of their cars, straighten my car, give it a little shove and I was off again.
I was certain I wouldn’t make home that night. I figured I’d make it as far as I could, then walk to somewhere, anywhere to call my kids. I just prayed that I had done my job as a parent and that they would be warm and safe. Taking the lead from more experienced drivers, each time the truck in front of me started up a hill, I waited at the bottom till he crested it then I followed suit. Amazingly, 4 1/2 hours later I was home hugging my children like never before. It was a scary time. The repeated kindness of strangers and determination and divine intervention was my saving grace that night.
The difference between Snow Jam ’82 and Snow Jam 2014? In 1982 we were driving on pure deep snow and in 2014, these poor folks were driving on ice. Haven’t compared the increase in population between the and now but think that might have made a difference.
Submitted by Peggy EmreyLink
“An actual genius decided to book a couple of hotel rooms—just in case.”
I found this site after spending a week listening to commentators insist that the January ‘14 snow event was unprecedented in the history of Atlanta, and thinking, like many of you, “No! No ... this exact same thing happened before!” (But I Googled “Snowjam 83”).
A couple of years out of college, I worked downtown at a now defunct discount brokerage firm. All morning the weather was the topic of buzz in the office—but no one knew what to expect. There was great discussion and conflict of opinion—I distinctly remember one meteorological genius insisting that it was way too cold for snow to stick—it would just blow around in the wind. Fortunately, an actual genius decided to book a couple of hotel rooms—just in case. By mid-afternoon it was apparent that we were in for trouble—so I left the office and went out and took a seat on the number 23 Peachtree to try to get to my little hovel of an apartment halfway up the road to Buckhead. After sitting there for 45 minutes and moving maybe 10 feet, I gave up and went back in the office. Nobody else had gone anywhere either, and at some point we all went out for a nice dinner. We heard at 10:00 or so that the roads had cleared, but everybody downtown was way too drunk to drive home by that time. I had 3/4 of one of the beds in those hotel rooms and considered myself lucky. MARTA got me home sometime the next day. It occurs to me that if this city could stock up on sand and salt as efficiently as it stocks up on liquor we would never have these problems.
Submitted by Betsy HolbrookLink
“I wasn’t able to get my car for several days ... the attendant wanted to charge for the parking fees.”
I slept in a conference room in the pathology department at Emory Hospital. Several of us from the Microbiology Lab could not get home. I had spent 2.5 hours traveling from the Emory parking deck and up a block on Clifton Road before I could get into the parking deck at Egleston Hospital.
I rounded up blankets, pillows and towels from the OR while others retrieved tooth brushes and wine from the old Kroger in Emory Village. The hospital fed stranded workers.
The next morning we got up, and did the day’s work. I went into the hall restroom to find a middle-aged coworker stripped down naked, having her morning bath from sink! A kind spouse with a large and heavy van came to get us and take us all home.
I wasn’t able to get my car for several days from the parking lot, and the attendant wanted to charge for the parking fees. I can’t remember if I ended up paying, but I was not happy!
Submitted by Ken JayLink
“I survived with little but frazzled nerves.”
I arrived in Atlanta to work on some controls at Georgia Tech Bookstore on Monday 11 January 1982. The equipment was located on the roof and clear story skylight over the bookstore lobby. Tuesday morning proved interesting in that it appeared very few people were going to make it in for work. I just could not believe this ... really ... just a good dusting of snow. Maybe 2-3 inches. During the next couple of days working there I had to make several journeys to and from the airport to pick up replacement components. The greatest degree of frustration I had was having to navigate people who had no respect for the driving conditions, folks who don’t have a clue as to what “traction” is! Anyway, I survived with little but frazzled nerves.
Submitted by Ginger TaylorLink
“The city froze before dusk, was scary, of course no cell phones.”
While navigating my way from Hammer Chiropractic Clinic on 14th Street where I worked, I slid up and down Northside Drive to Peachtree Battle and home to my condo on Muskogee Avenue and Peachtree. My 1970 Mustang had bald tires, with thread showing, and I was only 20 years old with no cash on hand. The city froze before dusk, was scary, of course no cell phones. I didn’t have proper winter coat and was wearing inappropriate shoes, albeit good for dancing at Zazu’s and Harrison’s!
I think every Xerox and Coldwell Banker employee slid on in for a couple of days as we lived walking distance to the Peachtree offices.
Submitted by Paul FreetLink
“With our pockets bulging with cash ... we headed back to campus.”
I was a freshman at Georgia Tech when Snow Jam ’82 hit. I was sitting in the lobby of the Kappa Sigma fraternity house when someone came in and told us about all the cars stuck on the freeway. We quickly came up with an idea and two of us made a dash for Spring Street liquor store, then located at Spring and 8th Street. We bought a case of beer each and walked over to the downtown connector. This was before they dug it out—it was still easy to walk onto the freeway then.
We started selling the beers to the stranded motorists for a dollar a piece. Quickly sold out and went back for more. On the second trip, someone asked if we could make a phone call for them. To let their wife know they were OK. 1982 was well before cell phones were column. So we sold phone calls too. A dollar and a quarter. They would write down a number and a note.
By now there was a short line at the liquor store with Tech students coming for their snow day supplies. So, I went to the pay phone outside and made all the calls while my friend stood in line and bought more cases of beer.
I remember one carload of businessmen driving in form the airport. They had the biggest smile on their faces when they saw me. Bought the entire case. Called me an angel.
I think we made about eight trips back to Spring Street liquor store until we finally grew tired and traffic started moving a bit better. With our pockets bulging with cash and hordes of extremely happy customers, we headed back to campus.
Submitted by Becky CoverLink
“That experience back in 1982 guided me to the brilliant decision to telework on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.”
I was working in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. My mom worked for the Forest Service off of Peachtree Street, across from what used to be the Beer Mug (anyone remember that wonderful establishment and Trivia night?). She left out that day on her way to pick me up and head for home. Only that’s when the storm hit. She got stuck somewhere on Spring Street and was able to pull off the road into a hotel parking lot. She called me from a pay phone (remember those?) to let me know where she was. I called my dad. We lived in Monroe, GA, at the time, which was about 48 miles from the office. So he called my then boyfriend, who luckily had a 4-wheel-drive Jeep, and they made their way to my office to pick me up. They arrived around 8 p.m. or so, and it was off to rescue my mom. LOL, she ended up waiting in the hotel bar and having a margarita. How bad could that be, right? Anyway, we made it there. What was funny, was seeing all the young people out playing in the streets. Some of the college kids were getting around on snow skis. We maneuvered around many abandoned vehicles. I’ll never forget all the abandoned vehicles in the grassy median of Stone Mountain Freeway. Hundreds and hundreds of cars. We ended up at home at midnight.
And it was that experience back in 1982 that guided me to the brilliant decision to telework on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. No telework options back in 1982! So I’m happy to say I was warm and safe during what might be referred to now as Snowmageddon 2014!
Submitted by a Snow Jam ’82 ReaderLink
“Learned a huge lesson ... I never leave home without water or snacks (and a coat and gloves during the winter).”
I was working in Peachtree Center downtown and in the middle of a meeting at about 3 p.m., the office manager informed us about the snow. It had been snowing for a while. Several of my co-workers decided to stay, but no, I had to brave the elements. I should have known better when it took two guys to help me get my car out of the parking garage. Of course, my co-workers had a big party at a restaurant/bar downtown, then stayed at a friend’s condo next door. At the time, I lived in the Cumberland area.
After seeing that the northbound connector was already a parking lot, I decided to get on the connector going southbound to I 20 out to I 285. There were times when I would sit in one place for an hour and a half. I passed the time by reading an old Farmer’s Almanac which I found in my glove compartment. By this time it was dark. No food and no drink. I was bound and determined that I was not going to stop. I soon learned how to go a little then slide. Of course, the traction on my tires was terrible. After about six hours I made it to I 285 which was a lot clearer. The salt trucks had been able to get around that part of the perimeter. That is when the real fun began.
It had been extremely cold for the past few days. The water pipes in my apartment building had burst the day before so I had gone over to a friend’s apartment to take a shower that morning. This meant at least I had some clothes and toiletries with me. Her apartment was on a hill off of Powers Ferry, so I decided to go there. Well, when I got off on the exit ramp at Powers Ferry, that was it. Once I stopped I couldn’t get traction. Somehow I got my 1974 Camaro pulled over to the side of the exit ramp, and hit the road by foot wearing high heel boots, in a skirt and carrying my suitcase. There was a gas station at the corner, and I Immediately made a beeline for the little girl’s room. I bought some snacks and a six pack of Cokes. I don’t remember having bottled water back then. There was a long line for the pay phone so I skipped that. There was a bar in the shopping center behind the gas station, and everybody was out partying in the parking lot, which was very annoying at the time.
As I was coming in, I remembered seeing a 4 wheel drive truck gassing up. So I asked this kind gentleman which way he was going. My friend’s apartment was about two miles away up a steep hill ... he said that he would have to ask his friends who he came to pick up. They said sure. The only problem was the truck only had a cab, and there were five of us. His friends were a husband, wife and son trio. Needless to say it was a cozy ride. I sat in the husband’s lap, and the son sat in the wife’s lap. We got to the steep hill and cars were lined up to attempt the icy climb. One by one they all slid back down, some hitting other cars. When it was our turn, success. Finally got to my friends after about eight hours total.
There are truly good Samaritans in this city. The next morning my boyfriend came to pick me up. He had been out helping people, but when he got to my friends apartment parking lot, ironically he got stuck. We had to get a neighbor with a jeep and pulley to tow him out. We went to pick up some supplies from my apartment. I lived in a hilly apartment complex, and had to park at the entrance and walk, slipping all the way. We left town for the warmer climate of South Georgia. My car sat on the ramp for three days. I was surprised it was still in one piece when I got back to it. I started getting flop sweats when the stories started coming in this week about all of the cars stranded. At least I was home this time. The scariest thing back then was that no one knew where I was. The only other thing I could compare it to was the ice storm of ’73 when the electricity was out for about a week. I learned a huge lesson from this Odyssey which I still practice today... I never leave home without water or snacks (and a coat and gloves during the winter). Stay safe.
Submitted by Debra SidesLink
“Sure wish I could thank that same young man again today.”
My son was four years old and I was at work about to get off when the snow came, just like today (January 28, 2014), except in 1982 it hit at 3:00 in the afternoon. My car was in the shop and my husband worked in Marietta and could get home. A friend’s brother picked me up and tried to get me to my son’s sitter’s house, but was unable to get up the hills in his car. The sitter said he could stay, but I wanted him with me.
I stood at a gas station until a young man came in with a four wheel drive truck. I asked if he could take me to get my boy. He took me and we were able to get my baby home. Sure wish I could thank that same young man again today and tell him how much his kindness meant to me and my baby!
Submitted by Dan ShumakerLink
“A 45-minute commute, an hour if there were an accident, took seven and a half hours that night.”
I live with my family in Colorado now but will never forget that day.
My sister and I worked at and attended Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta and were still living with our parents in Sandy Springs. It had been relatively warm outside when the beautiful, wet snow began to fall, in huge clumps. Our mother called and said that Birmingham was gridlocked from the storm and the worst of it was on its way, in a bad way. But we needed our supervisors’ permission if we were to leave early so we stayed and watched the snow.
When the temperature dropped like a brick, all the snow that had melted when it hit the warm ground turned to ice and the rate of snow accumulation increased. It seemed like all the downtown businesses let their people off at the same time, about 3pm, so that alone created a traffic jam, parking lots in the streets. My sister and I were driving the family’s ’71 Chevy wagon, a heavy monster, so we could navigate easily despite occasional slipping and sliding. We decided to treat the whole thing as an adventure and just be patient. I knew how to drive in snow since we grew up in North Carolina with more of it than Atlanta usually saw.
The problem, of course, was all the ‘other people.’ There were two main problems: folks who didn’t know how to drive in slippery conditions—not their fault—and... the hills. As you who live there know, most of Atlanta is not flat and even slight inclines are problematic in slick conditions. Right out of the GSU parking lot, we found ourselves in another one; it had a street name I don’t remember now but it was a parking lot nonetheless. It seemed like night fell by about 4pm but that’s probably because of the overcast and snowfall.
The whole night was an odyssey from one parking lot to another. We’d be able to move a car length at a time, after idling for 10 to 20 minutes; other times a gap would open up and we’d cheer because we could advance five or 10 car lengths. But most of the time, we just sat still in our car, for as much as an hour, before we could inch forward. We had a full tank of gas but sometimes we’d cut the engine for a while, windows cracked some to keep steam from building up inside. We’d listen to WGST for a while and debate our route home to avoid as many hills as possible, regardless of the directness for getting home—if and when the traffic opened up.
But it wasn’t just the hills. Like I said, we could move; but large expanses of the streets were blocked by other cars sprawled out, spinning their tires like crazy and pointed every which way, preventing others from getting past them. It wasn’t so bad on the one-way streets because a few of us could skirt around the others, a few of us at a time, very slowly. The two-way streets, though, were the worst, especially on the hills. Folks would be trying to come up the hill but would end up sliding into the opposing lanes, blocking anyone from going down the hill, which was so ridiculous a position to be in. A few people were getting angry and acting out, yelling, but most of us were patient, trying to offer helpful advice to others.
At almost every intersection with a slight incline, there were several pedestrians offering to push cars over the hump. I think the news called them Good Samaritans. They all seemed to be having fun and were really just trying to help, not trying to earn a buck. I kept worrying someone would get hurt but I never heard later on the news that any of them got injured.
I remember now that we had a cell phone so we’d call home about every hour to say where we were. Our mother suggested several times that we find a hotel to stay at overnight but we suspected—and later knew, from the news and stories from co-workers—that they were all full, and I figured that we’d be able to make it home sooner or later, because our boat of a car could get around just fine.
While we were in one of the parking lots—on Peachtree Road north of mid-town I think—we edged up by a bus on the right side of the road. All of its lights were off and it dawned on us that it had run out of fuel. Then we noticed it was a Route 82 bus (who knows if the same route exists anymore), one that we’d ridden before, and the route was on our way. So I got out, stepped on the bus, and saw about five stranded passengers. I asked each where they were headed and, if it was even close to our way home, I invited them to ride with us. After all, it was a 9-passenger station wagon. We ended up taking on 4 passengers, whom we kidded would be the extra weight we needed to navigate the streets. Each of us introduced ourselves to each other and said where we were from, something about ourselves.
I can’t remember but that was about four or five hours into our commute home. Not long after that, after we finally made it down that steep hill, it seemed that we could make better time. Once we got moving, we hardly ever saw another car; they must all have been in the parking lots we’d left behind! As we got close to where one of our passengers needed to be, we’d offer make a detour to drop them closer but every one of them said, “Just let me off here; it’s not far to walk,” and were profuse in their gratitude. A couple offered us some money, “for the gas,” but we cheerfully declined, said we were happy to do it—and thanked them for the extra traction their weight gave us!
When we got to our street, I didn’t even think about trying to get up the steep driveway; I just pulled on to the flat part of the lawn on the other side of the curb. But when I took my hands off the wheel, I realized I’d been holding it so tightly that I had to bend my fingers open. What was ordinarily a 45-minute commute, an hour if there were an accident, took seven and a half hours that night; we drove up at 11:30pm.
Submitted by Jim SchiltzLink
“It took me over two hours to go a little over one mile to get to the on-ramp of I-285.”
Being from northeast Ohio, I was used to driving in severe winter conditions. But this experience is something, thankfully, I’ve never quite experienced since.
Having left my final sales call in downtown Atlanta around 4 p.m., I noticed an early departure of office workers due to the incoming weather and the pre-Doppler forecast being broadcast on the radio. Remember, no Internet or cell phones yet.
After working my way to the nearest entrance to I-285 to make my trek to Marietta, normally a 30 minute drive from downtown, I knew I was in trouble. It took me over two hours to go a little over one mile to get to the on-ramp of I-285. The roads were a sheet of ice and most people were totally inexperienced in driving in these kind of elements. I spent the majority of my time helping push the car in front of me to allow me to move, all the while giving driving instructions such as ‘easy on the accelerator!’ Ten hours later, I rolled into my apartment complex in Marietta completely exhausted and gas tank level on fumes.
Submitted by Jack YoungLink
“I had no problems out to Avondale [but] from there, my daily commute crashed.”
I left work at the Downtown YMCA about 2 p.m., when the snow started to pick up, headed home in Stone Mountain. My daily commute was the bus between Stone Mountain and the Avondale MARTA Station, and the train from there to the Omni. The two block walk to the Y was a snap! So, snow starts and I am out the door, headed to the Omni and the next train. It was late, due to snow, but I had no problems out to Avondale. From there, my daily commute crashed.
It was snowing hard by then, and the buses were stopping their runs. OK, guess I will have to walk home, which by Mapquest is about 9 miles. Now, this isn’t too bad if I was hiking the AT through New York or South Carolina, but it wasn’t. I was decked out in “white collar” clothes, new shoes, hat, gloves and a briefcase. I called my wife from Avondale and told her I was walking home; don’t hold supper. Ha! I pulled in about about 7 p.m.
I don’t remember the traffic conditions, but they couldn’t have been too threatening to me. Of course, I heard stories that others in my situation had elected to take hotel rooms downtown; they had driven in and were not about to get on the roads. And that’s my Snowjam82 story.
Submitted by Kevin CryslerLink
“When I first saw people abandon their cars I thought they were nuts. Finally I caved and abandoned mine.”
With what’s been happening in Atlanta since yesterday (Jan. 28, 2014), it made me reminisce and I found this site. Here is my story:
I was working on Northside Drive. Saw the snow and thought, well, I’ll just finish up a few things and then cut out early to beat the traffic. Big mistake. Should have bolted when I saw the first flake. I left around 3. So did everyone else.
It took me more than an hour to make it about two miles down the Downtown Connector (right around 17th). Stayed in my car until around 6 p.m., but by then, we hadn’t been moving for more than an hour. When I first saw people abandon their cars I thought they were nuts. Finally I caved and abandoned mine.
As luck would have it, my brother had an apartment on Peachtree around 26th street—so I hiked the mile up to his place and spent the night. We ended up having a pretty fun night—an impromptu party actually. I hiked back down the next morning and drove home—a bit difficult given the number of cars still parked on the highway—but I made it.
My brother passed away last year, so I now look back on that night pretty fondly.
Submitted by Susan MoodyLink
I left my office at I-75 and North Avenue and immediately got stuck on I-75.
It took me another three hours to go to the next exit, get off and go back to my office. I spent the night there and got home the next afternoon.
Submitted by Blair SutterLink
“It turns out he was an FBI agent ... we looked at each other and said ‘I know you.’”
I worked downtown for C&S Bank, and always took MARTA from Decatur. We were sent home at 3:00 in pouring snow. I got on the train. No need to hang on at stops, the train was packed! Got to my car to make my way home. (My first car; I had just bought it.) As I grew up outside of Chicago, I wasn’t terribly concerned about driving. I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker, but I saw this poor man in a suit and trench coat so I picked him up. He was astonished at how well I drove in the mess. It turns out he was an FBI agent, and months later he came to the bank to serve papers for some carpet we had financed. We looked at each other and said “I know you.” (It turned out he was working on the Wayne Williams child murder case.)
Submitted by Clark DardenLink
On that day my father walked in the snow from Midvale Road/Henderson Mill Road to the Briarcliff Road/Clairmont Road area and back looking for my mother. She was returning from her shift at Grady Hospital. She had made it to St.Bede Church and walked the rest of the way home. 12 year old me raked the snow on our flat driveway to assure her safe arrival the last 100 feet!
Submitted by Elaine KennedyLink
“The son I was pregnant with had a son born today and this 2014 storm is keeping me from getting there”
I was trying to get home from work. I left work at 12:00 and did not get home till 8:30 that night. To top it off, I was hit from the rear while trying to get to my son at the daycare. I was seven months pregnant with my second son and had to be rushed to Henry General Hospital. He was not born that night as it was false labor.
Now with this winter storm warning, the son I was pregnant with had a son born today Jan 28, 2014. He lives in Arkansas and this storm is keeping me from getting there. How coincidental can that be?
Submitted by a Snow Jam ’82 ReaderLink
“He ran up the road to stop traffic on N. Peachtree and let about 50 cars out”
I was in the 9th grade at Peachtree High School and a recent transplant from Colorado. We were dismissed from school in the early afternoon on that day. Trying to turn left onto N. Peachtree Road was very challenging, so one of the passengers in our Cherokee Chief got out and ran up the road to stop traffic on N. Peachtree. He let about 50 cars out then jumped in as we pulled out and my brother got us safely home. While not as adventurous as some stories from that day, that is my memory.
Submitted by Kim NorrisLink
“There I slid off into the grass and that was the end of driving for days.”
I was a senior in high school at Westminster and as I recall, the snow started falling around 10:00 in the morning. I was in History and I remember we all were looking out the window wondering what was going to happen. It didn’t take long for the intercom to come on and for the students to be released. I went out to my orange Volkswagen bug and made it almost to the front gate of my school, almost to W. Paces Ferry. There I slid off into the grass and that was the end of driving for days. I noticed a similar scenario was happening to other students so a group of us (about 20) started walking together down W. Paces towards the closest person’s house. I lived North of Chastain Park so this venture started a four-day trek with friends from one house to the next. I didn’t reach my parents until the following morning because my Mom didn’t make it home from work until 2 in the morning. And, like you said, no cell phones.
By the 4th or 5th day, a group of us had made it to a house off Mt. Paran and Tara Trail, and I very could have walked from there but we were all having so much fun I stayed one more night.
And to end the story, I ran into someone on day five who said they had passed my car on day two taking a walk back on the school grounds and it was locked but my little car radio was going. So I knew as expected that when I finally made it back to my car I’d need to do a little battery charging. But the thought of the little radio going in the complete quiet of the snow days and nights always made me laugh a bit.
Submitted by Elaine HightowerLink
“The next thing I knew I was clobbered in the side of the head.”
I was a Georgia State student studying graphic design and had a night class. The night before the storm started, I was mugged near Georgia State and the Ivy Street Library (bar and restaurant where I worked as a waitress). There was usually a security cop at the door from the art building to Ivy Street who would watch me and make sure I got inside the restaurant safely (where my co-workers would give me a ride home—I was a downtown girl without a car).
But it was so cold that night, and I had already called to let them know I was on the way, so off I went. Halfway there I was aware of someone running behind me—the thought crossed my mind—what if?? The next thing I knew I was clobbered in the side of the head and my assailant tried to drag me into an empty parking lot. I instinctively became dead weight and so he gave up, grabbed my purse and took off into the night.
That night, my coworkers took me to Manuel’s Tavern for a couple of shots of tequila. The next day, a dentist friend assessed my jaw, and told me that I needed an oral surgeon—top and bottom were not lining up. I went to Dr. Brickman’s office in Decatur, and finding my jaw was broken in two places, he worked me in through his other appointments and wired my jaw together. I was “feeling fine” but the snow and ice fell as the day wore on, and my mom was there with me. Nurses and office workers left, and many of them returned, unable to navigate the ice.
We stayed most of the night I think—finally my stepfather arrived and we ended up at some point at my grandmother’s house nearby. It was surreal. I was pretty heavily sedated. I was so grateful for Dr. Brickman and his staff. There was an underground tunnel between the doctor’s building and the hospital, so we were able to get to the cafeteria for food for my mom, broth for me. They took good care of us. The next day we made it back to my mom’s in Alpharetta and I stayed there cozy and warm while the city shut down for the following three days.
Submitted by Kyle CollinsLink
“Left around 8 p.m. and got home in 15 minutes or so...”
I worked at Lockheed in Smyrna. We all started to leave early that afternoon. I got in my 1978 Honda Accord Hatchback and had less than 1/4 tank of gas. Went back inside and waited until after 7 p.m. Kept listening to the radio. All roads were parking lots. Finally left around 8 p.m. The roads were deserted and front wheel drive worked great. Got home in 15 minutes or so. Surely glad I waited out the craziness.
Submitted by DutchLink
“That left the last option, my old 10-speed bike.”
As a high school senior, there was no way I was going to spend a week snowed in with the family. My problem was my girlfriend lived off Riverside and and I lived in Dunwoody. After much negotiating, I was denied the use of the front-wheel drive car and the motorcycle. That left the last option, my old 10-speed bike, which I dusted off and pumped up the tires. They never thought I would do it, and I would turn around at the top of the hill that was steeper than Mt Everest.
I left the house with an old back pack headed to I-285, the the snow showers began to fall. It was a great ride and I passed everyone just sitting idly in traffic. As I approached 285, my fellow ‘drivers’ began honking and giving me the thumbs up as I passed them like they were sitting still—which they were! Once on 285 the real fun began as I passed car after car. No one was changing lanes and it was the safest i ever felt traversing in snow.
All of the ‘patrons’ sitting in their warm cars and trucks (pre-SUV) were still honking, rolling down windows and ‘cheering,’ if you will.
It only took me about 45 minutes to travel the north end—it was two or three lanes, under construction and in complete gridlock.
When I left Dunwoody, I recall a dusting of snow on the road and upon arrival at Riverside we were making snowmen!
It was a week of memories I will never forget, but the true inspiration to leave the house was the 70s ice storm that locked our family in one room for a week so we could all enjoy the gas fireplace.
Submitted by Maurine KennedyLink
“Due to get married ... made it back to Decatur without being in an accident, but it was treacherous!”
I was due to get married on Friday evening, Jan 15, 1982. I was already taking the week off, thank goodness. I’m a nurse and sometimes nurses don’t get to leave the hospital when there are snow storms. My fiancé was a doctor at Grady. When we realized the weather was not going to cooperate, I insisted that he take off from work on Wednesday and come and stay at my parents’ home in Decatur. Otherwise, he would have gotten stranded at Grady. The wedding was going to be a small home wedding with about 20-30 guests expected.
I’m not sure which day that week that it started, but I know that my sister-in-law and I had gone from Decatur to Lenox Square for some last minute honeymoon clothes! When we came out to our car it looked almost identical to what it has looked like today (Jan 28, 2014). The roads were terrible and my 22 year old sis-in-law was driving and very nervous. Thankfully we made it back to Decatur without being in an accident, but it was treacherous!
As it turned out, the wedding did go on as planned. The preacher made it, and several close friends were able to get there. But none of my husband’s family from Raleigh was able to attend.
Just celebrated 32 years together!!
Submitted by Penelope MaloneLink
“Many people straggled in ... the night of Snowjam, and from there it became extremely popular in Atlanta and the rest is history.”
My husband and I both worked at an office in Colony Square, 14th Street and Peachtree Street. The snow started coming down about 3 pm. Our employer was a very no-nonsense kind of company...you keep working no matter the weather. Finally about 4 pm they decided to close the office and send everyone home. If you have lived in Atlanta, you know that generally it snows a while, everything that comes down melts, and maybe after a couple of hours, a little snow starts sticking to the edge of the roadways here and there. This time the snow started freezing and sticking instantly. Everything that fell out of the sky from the first snowflake turned to either ice or snow and accumulated.
We had parked in the very bottom parking deck of Colony Square, where employees were allowed to park. We spent approximately 45 minutes just working our way OUT of the parking deck onto Peachtree Street. Then the traffic was solid bumper-to-bumper on Peachtree. It took us another couple of hours to get to Piedmont Hospital. People we talked to along the way said that the problem was at the Peachtree Road and Peachtree Battle intersection. We were told that the six lanes of Peachtree (three northbound, three southbound) at that intersection were down to ONE lane—not one south and one north—only one lane—and no one could go anywhere. At this point, I looked at my husband and said, “Why on earth did we leave a place where at least we were warm?” With this, we turned the car around and went back to Colony Square. Fortunately, the company had a three-bedroom corporate apartment in the Colony Square condos. That was the good news. The bad news was there were about 25 stranded employees sharing the apartment. My husband and I slept bookended on a couch in the living room, with other people spread out on the floor around us. After a decidedly uncomfortable night (I remember one guy who woke me up, snoring like a steam engine), we arose the next morning, got in the car and drove home past hundreds of cars stranded all along Peachtree Road. It was unbelievable.
I am told that Snowjam was the making of George McKerrow’s Longhorn Steakhouse. He had opened the one restaurant in 1981 in a small, nondescript building on Peachtree that was a former antique furniture and later peep show location, next door to the Benihana. No one went in there, but many people straggled in, taking refuge from the gridlock on Peachtree the night of Snowjam, and from there it became extremely popular in Atlanta and the rest is history.
Submitted by Bob DowisLink
“The cooks made fried bologna sandwiches for us drivers—I can’t eat that to this day!”
I was working for Fulton County at the prison farm in Alpharetta. The warden wanted me to come back at 4 pm to drive a sand truck. I pulled two 16-hour shifts, dodging cars that had been abandoned. Johnson Ferry was the worst, trying to get the truck back up while missing cars. I finally had to go through a subdivision to get around them. I remember that the cooks at the farm made fried bologna sandwiches for us drivers—I can’t eat that to this day!
Submitted by Roy OldenkampLink
“Folks ran their engines to stay warm, depleting their gas and blocking traffic further.”
No one had car chains. We didn’t really know what they were! As I recall, there were just two snowplows for all of Atlanta, and they smoothed out the fifty feet from the State Capitol to the parking lot. Everyone else was cursed in traffic. Living in Midtown off Ponce de Leon behind The Mansion restaurant on Tenth Street, it was a slooooow trek up to Peachtree to Buckhead. Like, seven hours slow. Folks ran their engines to stay warm, depleting their gas and blocking traffic further.
There were no real side streets off Peachtree that didn’t have a fairly steep slope and ice, so we cowards stayed the course. I vaguely recall a dude in a bunny outfit offering shots of Jack Daniels, a cheerleader rallying the troops, and assorted other costumed characters. By the time I got to work in Buckhead, all our clientele at the Hedgerose Heights Inn had cancelled or would be no-shows. We feasted like kings and queens and spent the night uptown in the rarefied environs of Buckhead, staying warm with brandy and sharing laughs over the craziest day ever in Atlanta.
Submitted by Pete YauchLink
“She walked to the hotel ... they were full but she could stay in the lobby”
My wife and I lived in the Norcross area; she worked off of Windy Hill Road near I-285, and I was traveling on business in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She left work at about noon and got to the Northside Drive interchange before everything came to a standstill. She walked to the hotel at the interchange ... they were full but she could stay in the lobby.
That night I tried repeatedly to reach her by phone, but no answer at the house. Finally, her mother called me at the hotel in Grand Rapids; she had heard from her and all was all right.
She didn’t get home until the next afternoon. When we talked then, I was watching the live video of the rescue attempts for Air Florida 90 in Washington ... the plane that crashed into the Potomac after experiencing icing on the winds due to the snow.
Submitted by Rose WilliamsLink
“I kept thinking ‘I need to go home!’ I was pregnant and didn’t want to get stranded on I-285.”
I remember thinking how I just needed to get home. I worked in Decatur and lived in Jonesboro. My job was right near Hwy. 278 and I-285, so I didn’t have far to go to get on the highway. Our boss let us go home early, but I found out so did many other bosses! And people would not just drive carefully and go! They wanted to go too fast, or hardly go at all. Many tried to get off I-285 and jammed the exit ramps when they couldn’t drive on them. Many people left their cars on the roadway.
It took me more than two hours to drive what should have taken 45 minutes. While we sat on the highway waiting our turn to get around other cars, I kept thinking “I need to go home!” (I was pregnant and didn’t want to get stranded on I-285. There are no bathrooms there!)
Anyway, I finally got to my exit, drove to my subdivision, never having to stop for a red light, which was good ... I just cruised home. At the last intersection before my house, there was a stop sign. Silly me! I stopped for it and I don’t know why ... there was no one on the snow filled streets by now. I couldn’t get up the hill from the stop sign so I had to leave the car and walk the rest of the way home. Thankfully it wasn’t too far, and my husband was able to coax the car home.
And all that time I was thinking ... these Georgians do NOT know how to drive in this weather! (I’m from up north so I felt like I could handle it.)
Now when it snows I stay off the road until the worst is over. Too many people take risks and I don’t want to get in their way, plus I don’t feel as comfortable as I felt up north where everyone knew how to drive in the snow and ice and where I had plenty of practice every year.
Submitted by Bambi MaxwellLink
“Produced a special edition of our newsletter featuring stories [of] SnowJam... probably the most popular issue I ever produced”
I was putting together our company newsletter that afternoon when one of the executives walked down the hall telling everyone to go home early. Out the window I could see just a few flakes of blowing snow. It had been bitterly cold for a couple of days and I knew any snow that fell would stick, but it didn’t look to me as if much was falling. I decided to stay for a while and let the traffic clear out of our parking lot. Luckily a friend came by my office and insisted on walking me out, and luckily I was parked at the front of the lot; there was a bottleneck leaving our parking lot, and a number of my fellow employees were never able to get out of the parking lot that day. They had to spend the night in their offices.
The main problem was that every business in town closed down at around the same time, about 3:00 pm. The traffic jam that resulted would have paralyzed the city for hours in the very best of weather. Because we had the very worst of weather, the traffic jam was epic.
I worked on Peachtree Road near Lenox Square, and I lived in Peachtree Hills. My commute was only two or three miles and it was against traffic. It took an hour that day. The snow fell steadily, not a single flake melted, and the traffic was too slow to keep the snow from building up on the roads. It got to the point that the engine vibration in my car caused the car to slowly fishtail across the lane even when I wasn’t moving forward. I had to steer the car while I was sitting still! What scared me was that not everyone around me was entirely successful in doing that. I saw several slow-speed fender benders.
It was a huge relief to get home without having an accident. I changed clothes and walked to Peachtree Battle, where miraculously the Kroger was still open. When I went in, I noticed an older lady standing in the front of the store with a cart with several bags of groceries in it. When I finished my shopping and checked out, she was still there, so I asked her if she needed help. She said she lived in the senior center up the hill and had taken a taxi down to the store before the snow started. She had called for a taxi to take her back, but she had been waiting for hours and feared the taxi wasn’t going to come. She was afraid to walk in the snow; she still had pins in her wrist from a recent fall. She also didn’t know what to do about her groceries; she said the store manager let residents of the senior center use carts to take their groceries home (every couple of days he’d send an employee to collect the carts), but she couldn’t push the heavy cart up the steep hill. I was young and strong, so I volunteered to walk in front and pull the cart up the hill while she held the cart’s handle for balance as she walked. She was dubious, but no better plan presented itself, so off we went. By the time we got back to the senior center she had talked herself into seeing the whole thing as an adventure. She gave me a hug that made my day.
For a while I helped some people who were pushing cars up the hill toward Piedmont Hospital, but when a car nearly slid into me I realized what I was doing was foolishly dangerous. I picked up my grocery bags and walked home through beautiful snowy Peachtree Hills, thinking how lucky I was to have my car intact, my apartment in easy reach, and enough food to last for several days. Except for the scary car ride home, the storm was a wonderful experience.
When the office reopened a few days later, I abandoned all the mundane material I’d been working on and produced a special edition of our newsletter featuring stories of our employees’ experiences during SnowJam. It was probably the most popular issue I ever produced, and it was certainly the most interesting.
Submitted by Helen AllenLink
“Here we are (January 2011) in the middle of a new Snow Jam.”
I can’t believe how many times I’ve told this story, and here we are (January 2011) in the middle of a new Snow Jam.
I was a senior at Georgia State, and lived in Smyrna off of Atlanta Road. We had heard weather was going to be bad but didn’t have access to the information we have today. I stocked up the pantry and went off to school that day.
Even though we kept hearing hallway rumors that the "snow was coming from Alabama," the administration did not release us until about 3 p.m., as I recall. By the time we left, the downtown streets were already virtually gridlocked. It took me an hour to inch my way around the block to get up by Grady from the parking deck. I attempted the slide to get on the interstate, driving my very lightweight Pinto, I might add. I do remember there were guys out in the intersections pushing people’s cars when they were sliding. I was trying to go out I-20 to 285 to get to Smyrna.
I only made it as far as Hightower Road before I, too, had to ditch my car. I made my way down the exit to a gas station where I got to a pay phone (no cell phones back then) and called my roommates. They were safely at home but knew they would not be able to get me. I got on the train and went to Five Points to see if I could get a bus out toward home. No way. Then I waited to get a bus to another friend’s house in Virginia Highland. That bus didn’t run either. I finally got back on the train and went to Inman Park station and walked to another friend’s house in Little Five Points. Seems like I got there around 8:00 that night. She was shocked to find me at her door and welcomed me in.
I had to stay there for three days, I think, until my roommate’s father could pick me up back out at Hightower. I had been worried because the news reports were stating that cars were being looted and broken into all along the interstate. Thankfully for me, it stopped before they got to where I had left my car. I finally got back home and found out what my roommates had been up to. One — who was working for the food vendor company at the airport — had been picked up by a big 4WD truck and spent many days at the airport and in a hotel until things got back to normal. My other roommate had a great time at our apartment cooking and baking.
Unfortunately, I did not have any pictures from that time period, but look forward to others sending some in. I have said over and over since then, to those that faulted Atlanta for their "knee jerk" reaction when bad weather comes, it’s much better for the city and schools to be cautious than to put folks in the same bad situation that many of us lived through during Snow Jam 82.
Submitted by Anne LawrenceLink
“At Northside Hospital ... nine months later we noticed a bit of a baby boom.”
My fiancé was working at Georgia Power (The Leaning Tower of Power) and they would not release the employees until 3 p.m. Of course, this only contributed to the downtown mess. So he goes out to Gopher (our nickname for his trusty 1962 Ford Econoline van — full name, GopherEver Van) and slip-slides his way home. Gopher got stuck at a Wendy’s on Piedmont, but living in western Pennsylvania as a young man for six years helped him drive out of that, and he made it home to the Buford Highway – Clairmont Road area.
I was working at Northside Hospital at the time (affectionately known to the staff as Babyland General). We had a few moms and babies show up after delivering “on the street.” Nine months later we noticed a bit of a baby boom — guess folks had to keep warm somehow!
Submitted by Cliff DavisLink
“I had a death grip on the chicken bar as my senior accountant flew along the road.”
Snow Jam ’82 occurred my first week in the field with Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. After a week of training, I was sent to Eastman, Georgia to work on the audit of Stuckey’s (remember the candy stores along the interstates). On Monday morning we heard bad weather was going to hit Atlanta. The senior accountant said we were not going to get stuck at the Carriage Inn in Eastman (although it was better than most places Atlantans slept that night). We pushed through and finished the audit early getting on the road as the first flakes started to fall. By the time we reached I-16, the snow was accumulating. I-75 consisted of two ruts in the snow where the tractor trailers were running at 55 plus. I had a death grip on the chicken bar as my senior accountant flew along the road. She was from Pennsylvania so I felt comfortable. Then I learned that she had never had a car until she moved to Atlanta after graduation. Boy was I glad there was a six pack of beer on the floorboard!
We made reasonably good time to the south side of Atlanta. Luckily it was after the mad rush from Atlanta where cars were abandoned. Following the trucks around 285 we made it to my place in Tucker where I was dropped off — about a four hour trip. I called my parents and learned it had taken my dad nearly as long to travel the six miles from his office in Decatur to home.
Submitted by Brad LawrenceLink
“Cars are sliding and spinning in the snow.”
My story is a unique one as when it snowed like that my mom was taking my twin and me out of the hospital. We were born January 8 of that year and my mother says it was scary — here are two newborns not even crying as cars are sliding and spinning in the snow. In fact my mother says I even laughed for the first time then. So she says at least. :)
Submitted by K PeckLink
“What my mother remembers is that the snow suddenly happened that afternoon, and she and my father were both stranded.”
This is all from others as I was too young at the time to remember. :) I was 3 1/2 and my brother was coming up on his second birthday. We lived in Lithonia and my parents worked downtown. What my mother remembers is that the snow suddenly happened that afternoon, and she and my father were both stranded. Daddy insisted that he could drive in the snow, being from New York, but my mom didn’t want to chance it — her office in the state capitol complex had a good view of what the interstates were like. Mom spent the night on her boss’s sofa, as he, being a gentleman, offered her the most comfortable place and he slept on the floor out by her desk.
And my brother and I? We were at a daycare center in Lithonia, who was holding fast to their “all children out by 6 p.m.” policy — even in this situation — and told my mother that she would call the county (child services) to come and pick us up if someone didn’t come to get us, because she was leaving at 6:00. My grandparents did live in the area, but stuck behind a terrible sloping driveway, so my mother started calling everyone she knew. Finally, some neighbors agreed to go get us. They were an older couple with grown children and had no baby supplies — they had to wheedle with the daycare owner to get a few spare diapers for my brother! My parents were able to make the hours-long journey home by the next day, and there are some cute pictures of us playing in the snow, old bread bags on our feet and hands since Georgia children didn’t have proper snow boots and waterproof mittens!
After things were back to normal, my mother put us in a different daycare.
Submitted by Tami DickinsonLink
“We were experiencing white-out conditions — seriously.”
Maybe someone can help me a little on the timing of things. But as I recall, December 1981 had been a particularly cold month. I was a high school junior attending Cass High School in Cartersville, but lived in Acworth. I remember that just before Christmas break we had to hold our vocational classes in our auditorium since the heaters had become ineffective. At the same time, there was a widespread “epidemic” of absenteeism due to the frigid cold and the flu going around, so classes were sparsely attended. We hadn’t been back to school from the Break when forecasts of possible snow began to be bantered about on the local media. The extent of the snow event wasn’t yet known due to the kind of technology we had then.
We were waiting for the final bell to dismiss classes for the day when we learned it was “snowing” outside. To us then, “it’s snowing” was just the flurries that danced around in the air, hardly accumulating. But, it was rare to even get that — the flurries. When the dismissal bell sounded, the flurries were indeed floating in the air but not too densely. Nothing unusual. However, during the time we were in the bus lanes waiting the usual amount of time for all students to load the buses, and then during the subsequent drive down Grassdale Road leading to Highway 41, the snow began to pick up — larger and larger flakes, and an incredible amount of snow sort of burst downwards heavily. By the time we made it to the traffic light at the corner of Grassdale and Hwy. 41, we were experiencing white-out conditions — seriously. Our bus driver, Stella, had to slow down even on 41 because the road surface was quickly icing up. Our bus route had us turning east (or left) onto Red Top Mountain Road which crosses Lake Allatoona. Well, big problem: The road sharply descended then sharply curved towards and then eventually across the lake. It took us 30 minutes to negotiate that due to the icy roads. Dismissal time from school was at 3:15; usual commute time was an hour (first on in the AM, last off in the PM). My brother and I didn’t arrive home that day until 5:30, and we had to walk the rest of the way. My mother was out of her mind worried about us, and had no way of contacting us since we didn’t have cell phones back then.
I do recall my father had a similar odyssey. He worked at Lockheed in Marietta at the time. His shift ended around the same time my brother and I were dismissed at school. He had to literally drive onto people’s lawns to get around the cars that had been abandoned in the middle of the streets. He had to take so many alternate routes that it took him five hours to get home.
My recall from that time was that we were out of school the rest of that week. It seems that we might have been out of school a couple of days into the following week as well, but how many days that second week I can’t remember. We learned of the widespread chaos this snow event caused only by watching the news, and it was also where the term “Snowjam ’82” was created. I think the only other snow event that could ever come close to matching the January 1982 event was the snowstorm of March 1993. It came in the overnight hours of a Friday night into Saturday morning. My family had to call and wake me up for me to notice that the “snow” we were getting was much more than our usual. But, Snowjam ’82 continues to live on in infamy in my personal opinion.
Submitted by Louis SchubertLink
“The city looked like one of those scenes from an ‘End of the World’ movies...”
From my NW 21st floor office in the (then) Life of Georgia Tower, 600 West Peachtree Street, we could all see the approaching weather as early as 1 PM. Some took it upon themselves to leave, but management kept the office open. By the time the snow began to fall in earnest, we were told the office would close early and everyone should go home. HA!
My wife, also a Life of Georgia employee who worked on the 23rd floor, and I climbed in our Mustang along with one of her co-workers for the drive home. HA! We made it as far as the VFW building at Piedmont Park. Traffic on Piedmont was at a total standstill and we luckily made it into the parking lot where we left the car. One of my co-workers lived on 7th Street and we trudged thru the fallen snow to his house only to find no one home. We then managed to make it back to the Tower on North Avenue. Fully 50% of the company was still there.
There was to have been a meeting of the field managers from throughout the Southeast and quite a number of them were staying at the adjacent hotel. Several of them ‘doubled up’ to allow those stranded to have a room for the night. Thankfully, we managed to snag one of the ‘emergency’ rooms.
Life of Georgia provided meals for its employees (and I suppose tenants also) for the duration at LeCroy’s Cafeteria on the 5th floor. Some folks actually made a party out of the whole ordeal. I managed to get a ride back the next day to Piedmont Park and re-claimed the stranded car. The city looked like one of those scenes from an ‘End of the World’ movie as it was littered with hundreds of abandoned cars. I’m darn sorry I didn’t have my camera.
Submitted by James CasteelLink
“Each of them ... was back within several hours unable to make it far from the campus.”
I was working a 3-11 shift at Emory University that day. The 7-3 folks hightailed it out the door at 3:00 as the snow was already coming down. Each of them (including one MARTA rider) was back within several hours unable to make it far from the campus.
I admit my life during the storm was not bad at all. That night the physical plant department used vans with chains on the tires to take some (including me) home while others where put up in empty hospital and dorm rooms and fed at no cost by the University. The next afternoon the van picked me up and repeated the process until two days after the storm when I was able to drive home.
Submitted by Lorena C.Link
“The next morning, the hotel fed all of us ‘homeless’ folks breakfast for free.”
I was a 25 yr old single girl at the time. I left my office at Peachtree and 17th street at about 3:30 pm. My destination was Douglasville, Ga. where I lived at the time. It didn’t take long to see that I was not even going to make it to the interstate so I decided to park my car up on the curb (where so many others were already) and get a hotel room... (NOT!)
By that time there were no rooms available. I did meet some interesting folks at the hotel (can’t even remember the name of the hotel) including a Japanese businessman who offered to let me “stay in his room.” No, thanks was my reply.
I eventually found a bench and laid down with my purse as a pillow. The folks at the hotel were very nice and accommodating to the extent that was possible. At some point, someone came by and covered me with a table cloth.
The next morning, the hotel fed all of us ‘homeless’ folks breakfast for free. Then I went out to my car, got it in and drove home to Douglasville at about 20 mph. It was eerie that morning to see the total chaos that was there the day before replaced by abandoned cars scattered up and down the interstate (I-20) from downtown Atlanta to Douglasville.
Submitted by Amy P.Link
“Roswell Road from the triangle north was a parking lot — people just left their cars and walked.”
I was working in Norcross/Technology Park — had just started the job in Nov. 1981. The predictions were all over the radio and TV for snow, during some of the coldest temps of the century. I went into work that morning, but kept an eye on the windows. Late morning, we heard that the storm was in the western part of the greater Atlanta area, and shortly afterwards I saw one of my stalwart co-workers, who was a veteran of many northern storms, briskly walking to his car in the parking lot as the first flakes were falling. I took his cue and high tailed it out of there too. Good decision as it turned out.
I made it to 285 from Peachtree Industrial and turned west to go to Roswell Road (I lived in Buckhead at the time). The snow intensity continued to increase. When I exited on Roswell Road and turned left (south), there was probably 2-3 inches of fresh snow over ice on that GIANT hill. Although there were not many cars on the road, the drivers that were out were just insane — spinning their tires and fishtailing back and forth as each of them lost momentum on that hill. I soldiered on in my trusty little Honda Civic (with front wheel drive), got a head of speed going and pushed up the hill. I remember going between fishtailing cars as they cycled away from each other, and made it on to the top. The ride from there was uneventful — I stopped at the grocery to stock up, and they still had plenty of milk and bread left. Picked up some Chinese food and headed to the townhouse. The car didn’t move again for several days.
I went walking down into Buckhead proper a few hours later, as the snow lightened up. Roswell Road from the triangle north was a parking lot — people just left their cars and walked. The bars were full of folks, many of them going from place to place as they made their way homeward. I think it was four to five days before the cars all cleared out. The storm was followed by several days of single-digit temps, so we all stayed put for a while.
I doubt I’ll ever forget making it up that hill on Roswell Road!
Submitted by SandyLink
“This total stranger drove me to my daughter’s babysitter, then took us both home.”
I remember this very well. When the streets started turning white on that day while the weather broadcasters were saying, “no snow predicted during the day.” I was stranded in a high-rise office building on Peachtree Street. As a single mom at the time my first thought was “gotta get to the baby-sitter and get my only child,” a precious seven year old daughter. I immediately left the office and started home — Stone Mountain, GA. I got about three miles from my office and got stuck. My mind and my heart was telling me — get home to your child.
At that moment I spotted a 4-wheel drive truck coming around a corner. I ran out and started waving my hands. I asked him if he was going anywhere north. He said yes, “Chamblee.” I said “close enough” and jumped in. A total stranger helped my petite frame inside his huge truck and asked “where to.” I said “Stone Mountain.” He said “I am not going near there.” I said “get me as close as you can and I will walk the rest of the way.”
This total stranger drove me to my daughter’s babysitter, then took us both home. He asked “can I use your phone to call my wife?” He came into my kitchen and used the phone — no cell phones in that day. He thanked me for using my phone and started his way to his home and family in Chamblee.
To this day I do not know this man’s name, but have thought of his kindness many times over the years. I was never afraid for myself — not once. I could only think of my precious daughter. The man was a perfect gentleman and in fact on the way to Stone Mountain he assisted many others stranded in the sudden down-fall to help get their cars pulled out of harms way. What a special person God sent to my rescue that day. We were stranded in Stone Mountain for almost three days.
Submitted by AliceLink
“I’m supposed to get married tonight. Will that happen?”
Working at Dekalb County Police communications at the time, it was interesting to go to work that Tuesday night, January 12th. I worked the morning watch, 11pm - 7am, and as the night progressed, the police officers let us know that the snow was getting worse.
As Tuesday night turned into Wednesday morning and the snow got worse, everyone was wondering how they would get home, knowing that more than likely, we would have to hitch a ride with a police officer in a police unit. It was more important that people who were coming on duty that morning of the 13th who were being brought to work by police officers got there so we COULD go home!
My question was, “Wait, I’m off today and I’m supposed to get married tonight. Will that happen?”
As predicted, a police officer took me home where my two small children awaited my arrival, excited about the snow and upcoming wedding. We would only be going to the preacher’s house in Tucker, just the children, my mother, my soon to be husband and his parents. As the day progressed, not only did I not hear from Dan, my future husband, but he wasn’t answering the telephone.
Unable to sleep, I went outside with the boys a couple of times and we slid and played in the snow. Finally I called the preacher about 3 PM and told him that it appeared that we would have to postpone, but Dr. Kelly firmly believed the wedding would take place and said that he and his wife would look for us that evening.
Shortly after 5 PM, the telephone rang. Dan had been calling around all day and found a friend that had a four wheel drive pickup that was willing to take us to Hugh Howell Road to the preacher’s house, but there would be no room for anyone but the driver and the two of us.
My Mother’s house was on a hill and around seven we heard a vehicle slowly making it’s way up the hill to the house. Dan came to the door, got me, we kissed the boys goodbye and literally slid down the driveway to the truck.
It took a while to get there, but after about an hour we arrived. It was then I remembered that the pastor’s house was in a valley and had a steep driveway down to the house. Unable to just park on Hugh Howell Road since it is a main street, very carefully the driver inched his way down the driveway. Unfortunately the truck decided to slide down the hill. Fortunately he managed to stop the truck before it ran into the house.
Greeting us warmly, the pastor and his wife welcomed us into the house. After visiting for a few minutes, Dr. Kelly did a full wedding service, pausing when it came to time say “honor and obey.” He looked at Dan, then at me, then at Dan again, laughed and said “Dan, there’s no sense in telling her to obey you. I’ve known her since she was four years old. Believe me, she won’t!” With laughter, he continued with the service.
When it came time for him to pronounce us man and wife, Dr. Kelly said he would only if I would play his favorite song for him on the piano. Mrs. Kelly smiled and cleared off the piano bench and I played the song. He then pronounced us man and wife.
Dan offered the preacher $50, but he would only take $20 at Dan’s insistence as he told Dan that my music had more than paid for the service.
For years afterward up until his death in 2003, Dan always jokingly told me; “I paid $20 for you and I still ain’t got my money’s worth!” I would always reply, “But I’ve been trying to pay you back for years and you won’t take it!”
And that, on what would have been our 26th wedding anniversary, is my story of the storm of ’82.
Submitted by RachelLink
“I stayed with her in her room from the time I was born until five days later when we were able to get home.”
I was born in Snow Jam (Jan. 12, 1982). My parents have always told me stories on my birthday about the “big” snow. My mom always tells me that she has never gotten a break from me since the day I was born (I am now 27) because there were no nurses to work the nursery. I stayed with her in her room from the time I was born until five days later when we were able to get home. She could not leave because there were no lights, heat or water at home.
She always talks about how she did not get any flowers, visitors or rest. She has also told me about her watching TV and seeing the crash of Florida 90 on the TV. My Dad always talks about trying to get my grandparents and two aunts back home.
We live in Newnan — about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta — and they had to leave their car near the Union City exit on I-85 and have my uncle come and get them in a Jeep. I hope some of this info helps for your site.
Submitted by AmyLink
“The party at Mi Casa went on and how!”
I was working in an office off Peachtree Dunwoody at Lake Hearn — normally I would be out of town but had a big party scheduled at my apartment complex, the famous “Mi Casa” on Saturday night, and wanted to be in town to get all the details under control. I left the office around 3pm and headed north on Peachtree Dunwoody to make a right on Hammond to eventually get back to I-285 heading west — normally I would have just gone up Lake Hearn to Ashford Dunwoody, but I guess I knew making a left turn on A-D then would be difficult. It took literally hours to get near Perimeter Mall on Hammond. I finally just gave up, abandoned the car and walked over the Marriott bar. After spending a few hours there commiserating with my new found friends I THINK I got back in my car and drove back to Mi Casa, arriving around 1 am. By then the gridlock had dissipated and ... I got home safely.
I don’t actually remember what day of the week it was that Snowjam ’82 began, but I can promise you the party at Mi Casa went on and how! All the pipes were frozen so no one could use the bathrooms in the clubhouse, but that didn’t stop us! The beer and wine and laughter flowed freely and everyone who chose to go back to their homes got home safely. Ahhh, the 70’s and early 80’s — nothing was finer than being young and single in Atlanta then!