Cobb roads paralyzed by 2-3 inches of snow
by Jon Gillooly and Leo Hohmann
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
lhohmann@mdjonline.com
January 28, 2014 04:06 PM | 16362 views | 30 30 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Motorists are bumper to bumper on U.S. 41 heading north near the Big Chicken near Roswell Road early Tuesday afternoon as vehicle gridlock gripped Cobb County.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Motorists are bumper to bumper on U.S. 41 heading north near the Big Chicken near Roswell Road early Tuesday afternoon as vehicle gridlock gripped Cobb County.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
slideshow
MARIETTA — A winter snowstorm clobbered Cobb County Tuesday as schools and businesses closed early, sending motorists scrambling to get home on clogged streets, leaving cars abandoned on roadsides and students stranded in schools.

The snow began falling at 10 a.m. By lunchtime, travel by car became impossible.

Motorists reported it taking more than four hours to get from Marietta High School to the Square Tuesday afternoon on Whitlock Avenue.

As darkness descended, things only got worse. The snow flakes became smaller but the traffic headaches became a full-on migraine.

All of the main arteries into Marietta came to a standstill, including Whitlock Avenue, Roswell Street, Cobb Parkway, Burnt Hickory Road and Powder Springs Street.

Even side streets became clogged and treacherous as temperatures dropped and cars slid down icy hills out of control.

By nightfall, empty cars littered the roadsides as motorists had to abandon their vehicles or risk running out of gas.

Hotels filled up, and some allowed motorists to sleep in their lobbies for free.

Some local residents posted on their Facebook pages that anyone who found themselves stranded within walking distance of their homes were welcome to stay the night.

All this havoc came compliments of a relatively mild winter storm that dumped 2 to 3 inches of snow.

Marietta Board of Education Chairman Randy Weiner left Buckhead for Marietta at about 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, but didn’t get far.

“It took me three hours to try to get out of Buckhead, and I went one mile, so I decided to just turn at the nearest hotel I could find. Luckily they had a room,” he said.

Parents, he acknowledged, are not happy with the school district.

“I’ve talked to several parents that are very upset,” he said. “They’re not happy because they, rightfully so, said we should have closed the schools, and looking back, we should have closed the schools today.”

A number of Marietta schools kept students overnight where they were provided with food, heat and shelter.

“I can almost guarantee every school is going to have a slumber party because the buses couldn’t get out,” Weiner said.

Walking down Whitlock

Marty Hohmann, who lives off Dallas Highway in west Cobb, tried to pick up her son, who works at Marietta Pizza Company on the Square. The restaurant closed early and Hohmann left her house around 1 p.m. By 5 p.m. she still had not made it to the Square.

“My son met me on foot. I’m sitting in my car and I passed the (former) Governor walking home,” she said. “You make a lot better time if you’re on foot.”

Former Gov. Roy Barnes said that was exactly why he eschewed driving on this snowy Tuesday.

When he arrived at his law office off the Marietta Square Tuesday morning, Barnes said the weather was fine. His daughter, attorney Allison Barnes Salter, let everyone go home at noon.

“I worked on till about 3 and I noticed the cars were not moving, so I flipped on the TV, and they told about all the traffic jams so I said, ‘I’ll just walk,’” Barnes said. “The traffic is everywhere and they were just slippin’ and sliding.”

Barnes said he walked about a mile down Whitlock to get home.

“I couldn’t see the sidewalks, it was covered in snow, and so I was having to be careful where I walked,” Barnes said.

The cars on Whitlock were at a standstill as he walked by.

“It was bumper to bumper both ways,” Barnes said. “I was going a lot faster than those folks in the car.”

The problem, Barnes and others said, was caused by everyone leaving for home at once – too many cars, too little space on the roadways.

“They let everybody off from work at the same time,” Barnes said. “And what’s happened is it’s clogged the roads. The roads are really not that bad. Traffic is backed up everywhere.”

Sleeping at the office

Some administrators at the Marietta Schools central office were trapped there and will be sleeping in their offices, Weiner said.

Marietta bused students home early from the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy and Marietta Center for Advanced Academics because those students are on the last tier of the bus schedule, but Superintendent Emily Lembeck didn’t dismiss the rest of the schools until the normal time.

“Looking back, we should have closed school today, but you don’t know.” Weiner said. “You can’t predict the weather, and it came in stronger and sooner than expected. We anticipated it not coming in until the afternoon.”

Like Barnes, Weiner said the gridlock was caused by everyone leaving for home at once.

“At lunch everybody decided to leave, everybody – schools, parents, work, everybody, employees, everybody just decided to leave at one time. The roads couldn’t handle it,” he said.

By 4 p.m. most local businesses, even many fast-food restaurants, had closed.

Government offices on the Square were among the first to fold up and close for the day, causing gridlock up and down Roswell Street and on Whitlock Avenue.

Cobb Parkway was also at a standstill.

Snowfall was expected to last into the night with up to 3 inches accumulation.

Cobb and some Marietta schools’ early dismissal combined with the early closure of both Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University put more traffic on the roads, overwhelming public safety resources and wrecker services.

KSU announced it would remain closed today with all classes and activities canceled. The same was reported for Cobb and Marietta schools.

“We have a lot of accidents. At the moment I have probably about 13,” said Denell Boyd, spokeswoman for Cobb Fire at about 12:30 p.m. “We never have this many all at once.”

Austell Police Chief Bob Starrett said his department was also overwhelmed with accident calls.

Cobb police officers and firefighters were marking stranded cars with red and yellow tape to signify to other motorists the vehicles had been checked by public safety personnel and would be removed when wreckers became available.

Schools release early

Schools across Cobb closed early on Tuesday attempting to beat the worst of the weather, but many motorists and school buses were greeted instead with jammed roads and crawling traffic.

All Cobb schools closed two hours early and after-school activities were canceled.

Irene Berens, vice chairwoman of the Marietta School Board, said the snow moved in much earlier than originally forecast.

Some TV meteorologists, however, did forecast Monday night that the snow could move into metro Atlanta as early as 10 a.m., which is exactly what happened, catching the school systems off guard.

“Sometimes your best preparedness just doesn’t work,” Berens said.

Randy Scamihorn, vice chairman of the Cobb School Board, echoed that sentiment.

“We have to rely on the weatherman, and the weatherman said at best Cobb County would probably get a dusting and then we went under advisory, so it’s a gamble,” Scamihorn said.

----

Weather-related closures today:

• All Cobb and Marietta schools closed all day

• Kennesaw State University closed all day

• Southern Polytechnic State University closed all day

• Chattahoochee Technical College closed all day

• Cobb County government offices open at 12 p.m.

• CCT express bus service canceled

• Cobb Juvenile Court closed all day

• Cobb Senior Services Transportation canceled

• Cobb Superior Court closed all day

• Marietta Municipal Court canceled

Staff reporter Nikki Wiley contributed to this report
Comments
(30)
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tyler durden
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January 31, 2014
I heard most of the Cobb folks thought it was a sign from revelations...blamed gay marriage and President Obama...is that true?
FURLOUGH
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January 29, 2014
I'd like to FURLOUGH the higher ups that made the decision NOT to close the schools Tuesday.
Alta Angel
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January 29, 2014
I don't understand why salt/sand trucks and snow plows were not stationed in specific, strategic locations in the County BEFORE the storm hit. What will happen if we ever experience a terrorist threat or some other natural disaster if the roadways are congested and/or impassable?

No one wants to talk about it but a rail system is essential to Cobb County becoming a accessible, progressive County.
Peaches Fox
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January 29, 2014
The tragedy here is that the School System placed money ahead of safety of children. So long as children are in school for a "full day," then, the school system gets $ from the Feds. As a parent, I kept my child home. To all parents - do your own weather analysis and next time, keep your children safe at home. You know what's best for your child (and your own sanity).
Lib in Cobb
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January 29, 2014
In another article with pictures, Cobb County stated they were ready if snow falls. "Ready", just what do you mean by ready? Is that why it took a friend of mine 3 hours to drive from Life University to the corner of Delk and 75, all of 4 miles.

The schools in Cobb should have been cancelled, every meteorologist nailed the forecast, but did the decision makers listen, NO they didn't. I will guess none of these Mensa members were stuck on a school bus or forced to sleep on a gym floor.
ball dropped
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January 29, 2014
Everyone involved dropped the ball. I think this explains why test scores are so low. Saw Nathan Deal,and Kasim Reed, for instance, congratulating themselves for "being prepared". I had to laugh at the press conference. And the school people!! There is no excuse, none, for them not closing the schools. The news was out very early a.m. and they are supposed to have plans in place for events like this. It is absolutely disgusting and would be funny if these were not people we are actually PAYING to make these stupid decisions.
furious
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January 29, 2014
quit saying the weather guys got it wrong..by 4:30 AM all the stations were saying the snow was coming, I was watching thinking, this is going to be a disaster since the schools aren't closing. When the school decided on the early release, and the parents racing to get home...that meant all the business and govt and other workers going home would be on the streets at the same time. This ALL could have been avoided if schools had closed Tuesday morning, all of it!!!!
Seen the Light
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January 29, 2014
That's the reason the "leaders" get paid the big bucks (with NO FURLOUGH DAYS) - to make good decisions. Well I'm just a stupid teacher, but I knew at 5:30 that they were calling for more than just a dusting for Cobb County. I watched the early news that morning. By then the "leaders" should have known to cancel school in Cobb.
Just Wait
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January 29, 2014
It's amazing how many people are experts in weather prediction, snow prep and removal AFTER it happens. Yes, it was a huge mess. Yes many people were inconvenienced. Yes, there are lessons to be learned from all this. But remember, this snow event is a great definition of the term "Act of God."
anonymous
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January 29, 2014


Our individual ability to predict the weather is irrelevant. We have this thing called the National Weather Service. One of their jobs is to warn us when dangerous situations are developing. Guess what. They did a good job. Prediction was not the problem. Even before the warning was officially updated and extended north (3:08 AM Tuesday morning, plenty of time to cancel schools), they said to watch closely because data was trending in that direction.

Monday night @ 9:36PM: "Please understand that even a slight shift in the moisture could result in significant differences in snow amounts and may require an upgrade to warning."

Tuesday morning @ 3:08AM (officially upgraded to warning): "All metro Atlanta under a winter storm warning starting 9 a.m. Tuesday

Impacts: 1 to 2 inches of snow. Snow expected to begin mid-morning and last into Tuesday night. Snow-covered roads will make for hazardous driving conditions through Wednesday morning."

Prediction wasn't the problem. The problem was county and schoolboard officials ignoring those predictions. I'm not calling for anyone to lose their job, but we deserve something better than "well, can't predict the weather."

A little too late
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January 29, 2014
The school districts knew they were going to close before they dropped off the middle school children. They simply should have turned around, dropped them off and started releasing schools. They waited three hours before sending the kids home, mistake! The teachers and administrators did the best they could to get the children home. Every school had administrators who had to spend the night and could not get home to their own families. I applaud the administrators, teachers and bus drivers for all they did yesterday to keep our children safe. MANY parents could not be reached because the schools said they did not have current phone numbers. Parents need to wake up and be responsible.
J Q P
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January 29, 2014
I think that the better question is, "Where was Cobb County Government during this event?." I think that it is a pity that county officials did not learn from the 2011 snow event with the lack of snow plows and sand/salt on the county roads. The traditional "lets wait and see" attitude that the county adopts truly did not serve the county residents well this time.
Up North
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January 29, 2014
I live in an area that we get an inch or ten inches of snow and its not a big deal; but an inch or two of ice and the roads are a mess. I have friends in Marietta that were literally trapped in their cars for almost 10hrs - was the problem the traffic or were the roads icy? We've never had traffic issues like this here (even with ice) so I'm just wondering what happened......
Lib in Cobb
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January 29, 2014
@Up North: The problem here was no one bothered to listen to the forecasts. Then the storm hits, everyone rushes for the exits, by that time road conditions are deteriorating significantly, so it was a problem due to ice and traffic. Then road conditions further deteriorate, then accidents, jack knifed tractor trailers and on and on. I would like to smack the people who make the decisions not to cancel school even though there were multiple scientific forecasts. Too many of the people of Cobb don't follow science.
OldVet2
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January 29, 2014
I don’t think most of the drivers in those jackknifed 18-wheelers were just poor dumb Georgia drivers! Many of the out of state truckers kept trying to pass other trucks already stalled out in front of them and then blocked all the traffic lanes. But, also the hills in north Georgia just naturally make any icy conditions harder to drive on. It’s much easier to drive in the mid-west where most the roads are flat. Governor Deal and his cronies may have attended seminars to learn from other State officials, but all the events were held in places like Hawaii and Los Vegas. The only thing they learned was how to pat yourself on the back, blame other people and skim money off disaster funds for your supporters. They learned these lessons from the NJ governor during a fact-finding tour of Atlantic City casinos. I don’t know where some of the idiotic drivers were born, but we do have our share of The Stupid. They are the ones who were passing in the center turn lanes and emergency lanes then darting back in causing everyone to stop to make room for these morons. Also, the jerks that just had to go home and get out in their jeeps and 4-wheel drive trucks to prove they could drive in snow. I was glad to see some of them found out the hard way that ice is much different!
Come on
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January 29, 2014
What would have happened if the school boards had cancelled school and the snow/ice never came? I mean how many times has the weather service predicted inches of snow/ice for Atlanta and we received only a trace or just flurries? Uh 99 out of the last 100!

The school boards made an educated decision based on what the weather experts told them could happen and the weather experts were simply wrong.

It took me 10 hours to drive 30 miles home and it is what it is. People are resilient. They can move on. This weekend when its in the 60's and people are grilling out this will be laughed about. But let up on the school board's decision makers. They are human and made an educated decision. It just didn't work out. No "heads need to roll".

Any moron can predict the weather after the fact!
Up North
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January 29, 2014
Was the problem just traffic caused by people in a panic to get home just because they saw snow? Up here in the North no one would leave early for a couple of inches of snow, but if its really icy the accidents do snarl the roadways, but not for 10hrs........ I have friends in Marietta that were impacted by this, so can't help but be curious what happened down there :)
KBCGA
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January 29, 2014
The weather experts were not wrong. Ample warnings were issued ahead of time. People just didn't listen.

This _is_ the school boards' fault.

And you have no shame in writing the whole thing off with comments like "people are resilient" and "we'll all laugh about it over the weekend." No we won't, not after my friends and I had to endure sleeping at the office, our kids stuck on school buses and in school houses overnight, wrecks, accidents, and 12-hour commutes.

These are _not_ things to be written off as an "it is what it is".
V Chandler
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January 28, 2014
It took my wife 3 hours to get from Civic Center to Chatahoochee Tech. Total drive time 6 hrs to Powder Springs.
Swampus
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January 28, 2014
No excuse for the schools being open. The NWS updated their warning at 3:30 AM to include areas north of the previous warning, including Atlanta and Marietta. All of this was very accurately predicted before most of us woke up and started our day. There is really no excuse for schools being in session today. We were under a winter storm warning.
Mark M in East Cobb
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January 29, 2014
I knew about the coming storm for 3 days - just by watching a few minutes of news. What weather report does Cobb County School District follow? CCSD chose to gamble and risk lives. Unacceptable. I'd guesstimate maybe 1 of 3 cars on roadways yesterday and overnight was because of schools getting out early. Ever notice how much better traffic is during the Summer. Mr. Superintendent: News Flash: When school is in session parents go to work after their kids leave home and then when school is called off early, parents must turn around and go home (and/or pick up their children from schools because buses can't run in icy gridlock). Leaders are always supposed to plan for the worst case scenario - not the best case scenario. Of course, politics play into everything. e.g. Did yesterday's school fiasco help the future school budget request to increase? I am sure that angle is already being worked. What additional expenses can they now ask for next year? Speaking of which - why aren't furlough days for teachers staff taken when kids aren't in school? CCSD consistently hurts Cobb's businesses and families and then cries out that they are the victim of bad weather reports, bad budgets, etc. I'd say the real issue is simple: lack of leadership. CCSD employees, bus drivers, and many parents went through hell yesterday. When you have that lack of leadership - it effects all things - and in this case of bad weather - it effected and endangered lives.
anonymous
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January 29, 2014
That warning was CANCELED Monday morning. Hmmm, why not say the whole truth?
anonymous
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January 29, 2014


Canceled? No, on the contrary, they stated that confidence was high (low chance of error).
tsmom
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January 28, 2014
My daughter left her job at CarMax off Barrett Pkwy at 1pm this afternoon and is still sitting in traffic tonight at 9:20pm..she lives in Marietta off Cunningham Rd. UNREAL!!!!
old timer
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January 28, 2014
Cobb Schools bus drivers...bless you...You deserve a pay raise..
anonymous
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January 28, 2014
Mr. Scamihorn, the super should have sent the kids home early once he realized it was more than a dusting. (but that would have actually required for him to actually be engaged in the process and not turn it over to others).

A simple look at counties to the west of us could easily confirm it was more than a dusting. Sorry but this is not acceptable, your super needs a "dusting" when you are talking about 107,000 students.
anonymous
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January 28, 2014
5 hours Smyrna to Kennesaw
Joellyn Mumcian
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January 28, 2014
Stay safe out there Mariettans! I'll bring the warm weather with me when I visit in a couple of weeks! It never fails…..
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