On Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, ramps leading onto and off Interstate 75 and the 120 Loop were backed up for miles.
As night rolled in over the lines of cars stretching through Marietta, the white powder turned to black ice.
Gov. Nathan Deal declared metro Atlanta a state of emergency as cars evacuated the Square with honking horns, screeching breaks, squealing tires and constant sirens from ambulances zig-zagging through the packed streets.
Motorists on Atlanta Road south of the Square and on South Marietta Parkway approaching Whitlock Avenue began making their own lanes. The cars were bumper to bumper with drivers ignoring traffic lights so their spot in line would not be lost.
Officer David Baldwin with Marietta Police said he did hear some calls on the police radio about fights breaking out, but did not know how they started.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Baldwin said in a news release, “Per our traffic cameras placed throughout the city we can positively confirm that ALL major thoroughfares and some intersections throughout the city are still gridlocked.”
Baldwin, in that release, provided another number for stranded motorists to call because the 911 center was “slammed.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Baldwin did not have numbers of the amount of calls the Marietta Police received during the “chaotic night.”
Residents, for the most part, decided to walk home or stay at shelters.
Baldwin said all through Tuesday night officers "worked tirelessly and diligently" to respond to every emergency call, taking stranded motorists to shelters.
The effort to get stranded people home continued Wednesday as Marietta Police escorted school buses and drove people back to their abandoned cars.
Cobb’s 29 fire stations became makeshift emergency shelters Tuesday night, which had not been preplanned before the storm hit, said Cobb Fire Public Information Officer Denelle Boyd.
In Marietta, four unplanned shelters were opened, two at Marietta fire stations, one at Roswell Street Baptist Church and another at Marietta High School, said Perry Sapp, interim church administrator with Roswell Street Baptist Church. He said he received a call from Marietta Police Department at 3 p.m. Tuesday requesting help.
Sapp said Roswell Street Baptist Church had already sent its entire staff home at noon that day, but six people were able to return, two with the help of Marietta Police squad cars.
On Tuesday night, 115 people took shelter in the church, including businessmen, a college professor, teenage girls, a 5-month-old baby and “people off the street” who otherwise would have been out in the cold, Perry said.
“So we had many segments of society,” Perry said.
Cobb Fire: No major accidents
Most calls to 911 Tuesday night were from motorists running out of gas or not being able to move. Boyd said by Wednesday morning, most of the calls were of people falling down and injuring themselves trying to walk on ice.
There was only one house fire reported in Cobb, which took place Tuesday afternoon before maneuvering around the traffic was a much greater concern.
Boyd said there were a couple of fire engines stuck on the roads Tuesday night, with one sliding into a ditch.
There were no major injuries from the long list of accidents, even though two overturned cars had been reported, Boyd said.
“Nobody was going fast enough to be severe,” Boyd said.
Boyd said Cobb “was very fortunate” that the storm hit during the day, but she admitted it was “very confusing and frustrating that in 2014” the county faced such a crisis.
“It seems like there should have been a better solution,” Boyd said.
Boyd said the situation was made worse by drivers not having charged cellphones, or traveling without a blanket or water bottles in their trunks in case of an emergency. On Wednesday, area fire and police departments were checking each vehicle that was stranded to make sure there was not a person inside. The cars were then flagged with red or yellow tape.
Baldwin said all day Wednesday that sand trucks were clearing Marietta's major roads, which were at this point passable and not blocked by abandoned vehicles.
One man's long journey
Dave Penticuff left work from CAN Capitol in Kennesaw at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but it took him more than a hour to go less than a mile.
“I decided I better stop watching my clock, because that was more aggravating,” Penticuff said.
In 20 years of living in Cobb, Penticuff said, he has never seen major roads that icy after a snowstorm that dumped just 2 inches.
Penticuff said Cobb officials were not prepared and none of the roads he traversed had been treated.
“I think people lost all reason and just compounded the problem," Penticuff said. “Even side streets off Barrett Parkway were backed up.”
After leaving work, Penticuff had made his way to the top of the ramp from Barrett Parkway to Interstate 75.
As he looked down the southbound lanes, Penticuff realized there were three accidents in less than a hundred yards, one involving two semi-trucks.
“I-75 had turned into a giant ice rink,” Penticuff said.
He watched one woman's BMW slide across all three lanes of road and pass the shoulder before stopping.
“She went completely horizontally,” Penticuff said. “She missed my car by two or three inches.”
Penticuff decided to get off at the next exit at Canton, and decided to take Allgood Road instead of the 120 Loop.
However, when he got to Groover Road that runs over Black Cat Mountain, Penticuff decided to wedge his car on the side of the road, put his hazards on and walk to his mother's home nearby.
The next morning Penticuff's car battery was dead, so he walked for more than two hours to get to his east Cobb home, back to his girlfriend and their 3-year-old son.
Since Tuesday afternoon and throughout Wednesday, Cobb Public Safety, along with Cobb DOT, Parks and Recreation, Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Management Agency and Cobb Schools responded to thousands of requests.
Cobb County 911 received more than 8,000 calls from 12 p.m. Tuesday to 12 p.m. Wednesday, resulting in more than 2,700 dispatches. There were 821 accidents, 72 of those with injuries.
Cobb Fire responded to more than 250 calls in the same 24-hour period, which is 50 percent more than normal call volume, said Public Safety Director Sam Heaton.