Atlantartica

I can't even believe I was one of the many stranded in the snowpocalypse that quickly overtook our city.
I wrote a post about my experience while I was stranded, not realizing that was only half the story. I never realized my "rescue" would be so dramatic. I left it as the last post because it was so raw. I was still stuck when I wrote it. 

Tuesday started out just like any other day. Josh and I got up before the kids, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and made plans for the day. He had physical therapy near Northside Hospital that morning (9am) and Luke had preschool (9:30am). I checked my weather app and saw that we were under a severe weather warning, but since they had been predicting the snow to fall South of the city and Cobb County schools were still open, I figured it would be fine to take Luke to preschool. The most snow we were predicted to get was a dusting to an inch. So we started our morning. He headed out a little after 7 since he figured traffic would be pretty bad. It was supposed to start precipitating around 9am. Ironically Josh thought he would get stranded, so he packed a bag with necessities- hat, gloves, boots, food, water, etc. and off he went. 

Luke woke up,  got dressed, and ate breakfast. While he was eating I went to get Emberly up and dressed. I quickly threw together my day bag which consisted of my laptop, camera, phone, and wallet- sometimes when Luke is at preschool I stay at my parent's house and work or help mom do some things. His preschool is about 25 minutes (without traffic) from our house and about 10 minutes from my parents. Especially on a day with such unstable weather I wanted to be close by.

You know... just in case.

We loaded the car with my day bag, the diaper bag, Luke's preschool bag/lunch and the stroller. Yeah the stroller was an afterthought. A blessed afterthought. So much an afterthought that I had already put the van in reverse and backed down the driveway and it caught my eye. I decided to pull back in the  garage to get it. I thought I MIGHT want it when I ran in the Post Office to mail a sewing order. It would help in case the line was long so I didn't have to wrangle/woman handle a wiggly 21lb baby (just about the equivalent of a 21lb sack of snakes). 

I jumped on 75 and was pleasantly surprised that there was NO traffic. I got to East Cobb 25 minutes early so I stopped at the Post Office and mailed the order. I didn't need the stroller. Both kids were super content so we all just walked in together. I dropped Luke off at school at 9:30am and Emberly and I went on our way. 

That particular morning I was helping my mom organize her Christmas decorations. As I was sorting and putting away, Josh called me saying he was finished. This was around 10:15am. Since he was going past my mom's house to go back home and he knew that we were organizing, he asked me if it would help if he ran by and got Emberly. She's usually down for a nap by now, but that day she wasn't.  He was there in 10 minutes grabbed her and her stuff, and headed home. I continued what I was doing. And it started to snow. But nothing was sticking in Marietta. Josh was texting me from home saying it was sticking to roofs, but that roads were still clear. At one point he even suggested I head home early. 
Around 11:00am I got an email from Luke's preschool saying that they were going to dismiss 45 minutes early since Cobb was releasing 2 hours early. They wanted their teachers to be able to pick up their children. 45 minutes early was 12:15pm, so I decided I would leave to get him around 11:45am. We were buckled in the van on our way home at 12:10pm. I passed my mom's house on our way home (OH how I wished I had just stopped then) and made our way home. I got about 5 miles in 30 minutes (what usually takes me 10 minutes TOPS). I was actually making fun of how ridiculously cautious the drivers were being. Driving 10mph when the roads were still relatively clear. I was still confident that we would make it home. 

One of the roads I travel before the highway has 3 schools. Since the schools were releasing 2 hours early that made dismissal 12:30- which was about what time it was (maybe a little after). So I got stuck in tons of bus/car rider traffic. That road seemed to be the turning point. When I got on the road everything was fine. By the end of the road I saw a school bus skid down a hill. Once again, I should have turned around then.
I kept going. I jumped on the loop (which is like a mini-highway) and was SHOCKED at how bad the road was. But once I was on it, there was no turning back. I began to skid and witnessed 2 accidents. It was at that point that I realized I probably wasn't going to make it home. All I could think of was the traveler's Psalm (Psalm 121). "He will not let your foot slip.... He will NOT let your foot slip". I was scared. And I cried. I was really trying to hold it together for Luke, but I had never been in a situation where I felt so.helpless.

My goal was to get to highway 75 hoping that the road would be warm since it has constant traffic. But by the time I got to 75 not only was it stopped, but I needed gas. I wasn't on empty, but I was getting close. 

I have never driven in snow, much less ice before that day. And I never wish to re-live it. My next plan was to jump on Hwy 41 which parallels 75. There would be gas stations, and God-forbid if I get stuck there are places to eat and pull over. I have never felt so helpless. And my cell phone battery was beginning to die. Oh yeah- when I ran out of the house that morning, I left the car charger sitting on the kitchen island. I watched it go from 45% to 30% in just an hour (between checking the news and calling Josh and my mom). And traffic was barely moving. I moved about 1 mile in 2.5 hours. I cried again when the traffic light at the North loop and 41 had changed 5 times and we hadn't moved an inch. I had no answers for Josh. He was trying to look up alternate roads, but I couldn't go anywhere. So I couldn't take an alternate. As I turned from the loop onto 41 there was a gas station immediately on my right. People were beginning to walk, and I even saw some carrying gas cans. I was stuck behind a school bus, so it took me a while to get in to the station but I filled my tank, grabbed a few snacks (snickers bar, doritos, a pack of gun, peanuts, 2 packages of peanut butter crackers, and 2 bottles of gatorade) and used the restroom. When I pulled back out onto 41 20-30 minutes later, the bus had only moved 5 car lengths. And I knew we were doomed. 

It was 3:15pm. I began looking up hotels. 41 is littered with skeevy "don't tell motels". And at this point I didn't care where we went. All I wanted was to be out of the van, safe, and warm. I was SO worried about hitting someone or someone sliding into us. I was NOT dressed for the weather either. The only jacket I had was a fleece zip up and I was wearing Sperry's. They're boating shoes for crying out loud- not snow boots.

I spotted a motel, but it was on the left side of the road (across 5 lanes of traffic). But as I continued to sit, and we continued NOT.TO.MOVE I decided that I'd have to go for it. But there was no way I could cross 41 in the van. So my next goal was to find a place to park. I spotted a motorcycle shop and pulled in. Instead of writing "stranded" with goldfish across the dash (yes that thought went through my head- and I didn't have a pen to write it on the pad of paper I had) I decided to ask permission to park in their lot since I knew I'd be leaving it for a few days. As soon as I opened the door they graciously offered their restroom, but that's not what I was inquiring about. When I asked about parking I think they thought I was crazy because at this point in the day (3:15-3:30pm) people weren't yet abandoning their vehicles. But I knew it was the best decision for us. This was what 41 looked like right before I parked. Notice how we weren't even driving in the lane.
I left the van in their lot, grabbed the stroller, our snacks, Luke, his school bag, and my day bag and began the trek up 41. The irony? I actually have an emergency kit for the car, but since the van isn't technically ours (we're buying it from mom this month) I hadn't put it in yet. Also I was incredibly thankful that in my mom's van my dad at some point had left one of his rubberbands. He's a mailman and we had gobs of these in our house growing up from him emptying his pockets. I'd never been so happy to use it to pull my hair out of my face!!
I crossed the 5 lanes of traffic first and then walked up the hill. It was maybe 2 blocks to the motel that I had spotted.

My only fear was that we would get there and they would be full for the night. I can't even imagine how Mary must have felt being turned away. In labor. I felt like I was almost home free, but all my plans could have vanished if they were full. A lady hollered from a car asking if I needed help. I declined since I was so close to the motel. Also, as I was walking 2 men appeared behind me. I say appeared because I didn't see them coming. Of course I wasn't really focused behind me. One walked up and said "I promise I'm not a creeper, but we live 1/2 a mile away. If you can't get a room we'll put you up for the night." I told him my plans, but I knew that if the motel didn't work out, that I would have to take him up on the offer. He told me "to make it less weird" that if I decided to come he gave me his wife's cell phone number. I'm planning to call her this weekend and thank her and her husband for the gracious offer. They really put my mind at ease as a plan B. 

When I got in the lobby (which was barely bigger than our half bath and had bullet proof glass and a credit card tray to slide under the glass) I had snowflakes on my eyelashes and hair. Like I said we were NOT dressed for the weather, so Luke was screaming and I was just about in tears. When I asked if they had room, the hotel owner kind of chuckled. He said "we always have rooms!" I paid the $42 and walked to room 125, thanking the Lord for providing. 

It was there I realized the severity of the situation. I turned on the news and saw what was happening- what the Lord had just delivered us from. I had just left Johnson Ferry Baptist and I was incredibly grateful for making it as far as I had.

I began thinking about all the events of the day. Of course I regretted taking Luke to school that morning, but beyond that I began realizing how thankful I was. I didn't have Emberly. Oh I don't know what I would have done with her. After her first feeding that morning I only had enough formula for 2 bottles. And she was a little sick- stuffy nose, coughing. I was thankful that I had a jacket even though it wasn't much of one. There are many days I do drop off and don't bring one. I walk from my house to a warm garage, to a warm van, drop Luke off in carpool, and drive back home, to my warm garage and warm house never even getting out. Most days I just don't need it! I was OH SO THANKFUL for the stroller. Not sure how I would have transported Luke and all our belongings to the motel. Not to mention I think this aided in our recovery. I was thankful for my computer! I rarely EVER carry it. And I had my charger. So as I sat in a dive of a motel, I was amongst my friends. I was grateful for the landline phone so I could stay in touch with Josh, my mom, AND my dad (who was soaking up the rays in Florida). And most of all I was thankful to be warm.

We made the best of the evening. Luke kept asking what was for dinner. Doritos, peanuts, a snickers bar, and a pack of gum.
He watched TV and I looked up news reports on the computer. Then we switched. I watched TV and he played Thomas and Jake Pirate games on my computer.
All in all the motel was gross. See that light in the distance? No light bulb in it. I'm pretty confident the sheets hadn't been washed. There was only a sheet and a comforter (which I don't even use at a Hilton), so we used the sheet and covered up with our fleece jackets. I used Emberly's shopping cart cover from the van to cover my feet. I realized again how blessed we were because in Luke's preschool bag is a set of weather appropriate clothes in case he has an accident. So just in case he wet the bed that night, I had a change of pants for him.

As I watched weather reports, they were initially saying that it would get to 35 degrees Wednesday. I thought SURE I'd make it out before lunchtime and before I had to pay for another night at the motel. But as the night went on the high for the next day began dropping. When I woke up Wednesday morning the high was only suppose to be 32 around 3pm. I was so disappointed. 

Luke slept horribly (well I guess he slept great- but he was restless, so I hardly slept). But that was okay because honestly I felt safer when I was awake. I slid the dresser in front of the door just to be safe.
Luke was up at 7:30am of course asking for breakfast. All we had left was 2 packs of peanut butter crackers and a bottle and a half of gatorade.

And he refused the crackers. I began to think up a plan to at least get food. We needed food if we were going to be stranded past lunch.

Oh how grungy I felt. A little known fact about me is I have to shave my legs everyday. And they were feeling prickly. I had washed my hair Tuesday morning so I still felt fine with 2 day hair. But oh to brush my teeth and take my contacts out. My eyes were just burning. And it put a whole new meaning to only having the clothes on our backs. The same clothes that I had put on Tuesday morning became my "survival" clothes: and my pjs that night, and my clothes the next day. 

I turned on cartoons and called Josh. He was ready to walk to us (about 11 miles). I felt the worst for him because he felt so helpless. I just assured him that he did ABOVE and beyond thinking to take Emberly home with him the day before. I kept walking outside to see how cars were moving. I snapped a few pictures of the view. The hotel that "always had rooms" now had no vacancy. 
We decided that mom would try to get to me. She was about 7 miles away. She began packing her SUV with heavy jackets, snow boots, a sled (yes she brought a sled), a shovel, food, and water. Oh and a really ironic piece of this story? My dad has snow chains for his truck. But they weren't on. And he was in Florida. And mom didn't know how to put them on.

I was beginning to feel the pressure with running out of food, realizing the weather just wasn't warming, and 11am checkout looming. On the phone with Josh I just broke down again. I hate making decisions. And big decisions absolutely make me sick. I always worry that I'll make the wrong decision and regret it. He led me to the decision that I needed to walk and get food, so now was the time. If I could get the van- fine. If not it was okay too. We had even decided that if I needed to stay another night that would be okay too.

Around 10:15am I left. I truly believe it was the Lord's leading.

One minute later would have been too late. 

41 had some cars moving with no problem. Another motel guest left and came back (with coffee) so I figured that 41 was somewhat okay. Even though mom was going to try to make it to me, there was always a chance she wouldn't make it. I knew we were going to need food so my goal was to get the van (if it wasn't stuck), drive to a gas station (or walk if the van was stuck), grab more food, and come back to the motel. I loaded up the stroller with my wallet, a drink, Luke, and I covered Luke in motel towels (since we didn't have a blanket). I didn't even tell mom what I was doing because I didn't want her to worry. I told Josh I'd call him as soon as I got back to the room.

Walking wise, 41 was a lot more dangerous on Wednesday. The big hill that I walked up Tuesday was now downhill Wednesday. I worried about a car sliding into us if they lost control. So I walked as far off the road as I could. There was a stranded tractor trailer that I worried about sliding down the hill. Also I had to wait until all the south bound cars had cleared. In case they started sliding.

I got about a block from the motel and saw a sheriff's deputy. He was coming north and made a u-turn in the middle of 41. I thought sure he was going to assist the stranded tractor trailer but kept coming closer. He pulled up to me and rolled down his window. He asked where I was headed. I pointed to the van. He told me to jump in and he would take me. He had chains on his tires so I knew he could maneuver the ice. I put Luke in the patrol car, folded up the stroller, and jumped in the front seat. He asked where I had spent the night and I told him my mom was fixing to leave to get to me. Since he'd been on the roads all morning, he knew she wouldn't have made it. I would have loved to make it home to Acworth or to moms and we both agreed that Marietta was closer/less dangerous. Acworth is farther north and we have to cross a lake to get home. The fear was slowly beginning to dissipate and it was at that point that I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I told him we'd just leave the van but if he could turn around so we could gather the rest of my belongings. I ran (literally ran and slipped on the ice and fell flat on my bottom) into the motel room, gathered the last of our things, and jumped in his car. It was SO SURREAL because as I walked in the bathroom to "pack" I realized that we didn't bring anything. So there weren't any toiletries to pack. Weird. 

I just kept thanking him. I felt so dumb because thanks felt so small. He had worked 8am-3am Tuesday into Wednesday. He went home to sleep and was back out at 8am. I was so overjoyed and grateful. I texted my mom and told her that I'd be home in a few and later on she told me she received the text literally as she was putting her SUV into reverse to come get me. Talk about timing. Remember she didn't know I was leaving to walk and get food.
Officer Griffin was our hero. He made roads that were otherwise impassible, passible. As we drove I saw "sightseers" and kids playing and people taking pictures. It was almost like they didn't realize how desperate this storm was for some. It absolutely killed me when I started reading of people with "cabin fever"on Facebook. I just wanted to scream, "Please,  just be thankful to be HOME!!!"

As we pulled into my parents neighborhood there was an accident. Of course it was people who just HAD to get out to see things. I never realized until now that when they say STAY HOME, just please stay home!! The officer couldn't maneuver his car down the hill until they were clear. It took about 15 minutes for all the vehicles to continue on and he slid down the hill. Their neighborhood "Fox Hills" sure lived up to it's name.
{excuse the bumble bee- but there are weirdos out there}

I've pulled up Lamplighter Lane many times in my life under various circumstances. My parents pulled up this driveway to take me home from the hospital. I was taken to prom from here. I left for college down this driveway and I brought my boyfriend, who would then become my fiancé in this home (he proposed to me in the living room), who then become my husband here. I pulled up here to bring my babies to their Lulu and pops' house up this driveway, and we lived here for 5 months last year. There's lots of memories here, but this one will not soon be forgotten.


I think I was in shock the rest of the day. I was in shock at just how bad the roads were. There was no way my mom would have made it to me. I was in shock that I was actually rescued. I was prepared to spend a second night. I couldn't believe when I looked at my phone when I got in that I had 2% battery life. Although it was almost dead, it wasn't dead. 
What absolutely broke my heart through all this is hearing Luke beg to go play in the snow. This is the first snowfall he actually remembers. And he didn't understand why he couldn't. I was so happy when we went out to actually play (while our clothes washed inside).
All our snow pictures are black and white because Luke had to wear a pink jacket that my husband was less than thrilled about. But his jacket was being washed and we made do. At least it can never be used as blackmail later.



Thursday brought the warmer temperatures we needed to melt the ice. There were still lots of slick spots, but by noon Thursday we were on our way home- not an hour too soon. I missed this face like you wouldn't believe. And you have no idea what it's like to have a husband who just steps up. He didn't call me for help with Emberly. He just knew what to do and did it. Not many women have husbands that can just take over.
Once we were home and had the proper clothes for the snow we played the whole afternoon. Our neighborhood had some great snow covered hills that we sledded down. It was fun!

This whole experience taught me that there really are good people in this world. I was on the Facebook pages #snowedoutatlanta and #snowedouteastcobb and the generosity people showed was incredible. People opened their homes to strangers. Others helped push cars. Police officers worked nearly 24 hours to get children rescued from school busses. Teachers stayed at school and had sleep overs with the children whose parents couldn't make it to them. At one point I took a picture of the "safe house" points plotted on the map on #snowedouteastcobb. Can you even believe that?

And I'm very aware that there were people way less fortunate than me. And I realize that I could have been them. Someone had a baby on the side of 285. Others were pregnant or had babies in the car with them. Others were stranded without cell phones or anyway to get in contact with loved ones. And although I had a place to stay, I only did because I stopped before anyone else was stopping.

Thanks so much to all my wonderful friends who were on Facebook praying for our safe return. Thank you to the officers were were out patrolling and looking for stranded people. The officer told me they weren't even doing accident reports unless there were injuries. Their sole goal was to rescue. 

And I will NEVER take being home for granted! 

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