As you may have heard, this week Atlanta was paralyzed by ice and snow (and an ill-prepared city/state government).
Nearly 1,000 wrecks and impassable roads left hundreds of thousands of people stranded overnight in their cars, many without food and water (my brother and many friends among them). Others abandoned their cars – or ran out of gas – and walked for miles in ice and snow to safety. Children were stranded on school buses until 10:30 pm with tens of thousands of children left to sleep in schools. People slept in pharmacies, retail and grocery stores. There were more than 104 injuries, twelve reported deaths and one birth on I-285.
As I eagerly texted and called and Facebooked and Tweeted with family and friends to ensure their safety or attempted to entertain them while they sat in their cars through the night and into the morning, I was touched by how our community came together through social media to help each other.
Local resident, Michelle Sollicito created a Facebook Group called SnowedOutAtlanta to connect people in need with those who want to help. The group currently has more than 45,000 members and is credited with helping thousands of stranded Atlantans and reuniting loved ones.
One Facebooker called out to the group that her husband was stuck at a RaceTrack and asked if anyone could help him.
Seconds later, a complete stranger responded that he was “heading there to get him now” and soon after told the worried woman he not only had her husband, but one more cold, stranded stranger and he would take them back to his house.
In some cases, the situations grew dire as people were stranded without necessary medicines, food or water.
My cousin is stuck on 285 West, exit 22… He has been stranded for 18 hours and is now out of gas. Will someone please assist him? He’s in a silver impala and he’s stopped off the exit. Please help! He hasn’t eaten and he is disoriented.”
Within minutes of the post, a complete stranger responded that he was “moving that way as fast as possible.”
A half an hour later, he reported that he picked up the young man and four others who were safe and sound, bundled up in the car drinking hot coffee.
People also used Hashtags like #atlsnow on Twitter to help stranded people connect with those who could help them.
And, individuals shouted out on their own Facebook pages offering to bring people into their homes to spend the night. A local television personality, Conn Jackson offered to help anyone near him:
”Help Offered: Anyone headed I-75 North near I-285 in Atlanta. Please come stay with me. Only 1000 feet off exit. Anyone stuck, I have four wheel drive and will come get you right now.”
Mr. Jackson quickly headed out into the icy streets to help those in need. Soon after, a second post revealed that his heroism wasn’t as easy as all that:
“Help Signal: Numerous people are starting to abandon cars, including me, on highways. I’m walking several people to my place…”
Like so many others, Mr. Jackson found the icy roads and stranded vehicles strewn all directions too difficult to navigate. But, he eventually made it back to his home where he welcomed ten strangers to spend the night.
While city and state officials point fingers and play the blame game on how two inches of snow and ice could create such havoc, it’s good to shine a light on the many ways Atlantans came together to help each other.
Thanks to all the incredible heroes who welcomed people into their homes and helped them reach their worried families.
Have a “Snowmageddon Story?” Share it in the comments.
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