It’s likely not the birthday celebration James Freeman wished for.
The Atlanta resident spent his 31st birthday slogging across 72 miles of icy metro-Atlanta roads for 12 hours after leaving Norcross at 2:30pm.
“Some called it ‘Snowpocalypse,’ others ‘Snowmageddon.’ I called it my birthday,” Freeman wrote in a first-person account for Yahoo News on Thursday.
While his wife awaited him with cake and presents, he crawled along in his car: “After 10 minutes, I had gone a whopping mile.”
After learning of “grim” traffic reports that warned of “gridlock in every direction,” he spied a nearby Target store and hopped in to buy Cajun-style beef jerky, roasted peanuts, bottled water, and lighters.
The next six-and-a-half miles took him seven-and-a-half hours.
“Although my drive was less than fast, it was full of excitement. At one point, the man in the car next to me jumped out of his vehicle and made a pit stop in the nearby bushes.
"Additionally, I saw a group of mothers blocking the 400 south exit onto Holcomb Bridge in order to help their children's school bus get through the intersection and into the parking lot to unload the kids.
"In this encounter, there were plenty of curse words, middle fingers, and horns, but the mothers fearlessly stood in front of traffic to hasten the retrieval of their children.
"It looked dangerous but was fueled by motherly love. I was just glad to have a couple lanes between me and the raucous scene."
“Over the course of 12 hours, I saw countless cars stuck on ice, abandoned and crashed after sliding off the road. After 72.5 miles and almost getting stuck 50 feet from the house, I finally arrived safely home at 3 a.m. I might have missed my birthday, but my wife greeted me with a kiss and a glass of wine, and we toasted my birthday adventure.”
Here are more tales from this week’s storm that dumped three inches of snow on metro Atlanta, iced roads, canceled nearly 800 flights, caused roughly 1,200 accidents, injured at least 130 people, killed two, wrecked countless commutes and stranded thousands in local schools and businesses.
"On Camp Creek Parkway, there were enormous amounts of traffic, but I couldn't turn around to go another way. The traffic was at a standstill. I said to myself, Where are all of these people coming and going? It’s only 2:45 p.m. Little did I know my 15-minute drive home was going to turn into a four-hour nightmare.
"The traffic was “moving” at 5 mph, with large 18-wheelers turned over and others' cars in ditches; needless to say, it was cluster of accidents. I wasn't driving in the snow. I was driving on ice. Three hours later, I was two miles from home. At the intersection of Camp Creek Parkway and Campbellton Road, cars were piled up on top of cars. It was surreal; there was no law enforcement around to get motorists out of this mess."
— Garry Jones
"By 1pm on Tuesday it was obvious the snowfall was too steady for the predicted light sprinkling. It was really snowing, and I innately knew that Georgia was not prepared.
"I phoned my mother to see if her job was letting employees out early. "It's business as usual today," she said. But about three hours later she was stuck in the massive traffic jam that hindered commuters. Fortunately, she was able to get home in three hours instead of the 20-plus some Atlanta drivers endured.
"Public officials are dancing around key concerns of metro Atlanta citizens: What time had workers officially started pre-treating roads with salt? Who gave the official go-ahead for schools, government and private businesses to send people home at the same time? These questions haven't been answered.
"I thought Atlanta had learned from 2011's winter atrocity, but apparently not fully."
— Nicole Denise