I have to admit I didn't take seriously the winter storm that walloped metro Atlanta and other parts of Georgia this week. The forecasts I delivered Tuesday morning on GPB's Morning Edition indicated snowfall would begin around mid-morning, but areas south of the city would likely get much of the accumulation. I expected--very wrongly, it turned out--I would be able to get home as long as I left GPB HQ around 1 p.m. or so. And any ice or snow Wednesday morning as I made my way to work around 3:45 a.m. would be navigable because I would be alone on the roads.
I spent three hours on Interstate 75 Tuesday afternoon and traveled less than five miles. Looking at six lanes of tail lights that weren't moving at that point, I took the next exit and turned back to GPB. The return trip--from less than halfway home--took 40 minutes. (My typical commute, by the way, is about 15 minutes.)
At that point, hotels around the station were booked solid. But we have several folks around the newsroom with couches in their offices. Our human resources director, Veronica Pemberton-Daniels, scrounged up a nice blanket. And, honestly, I was so exhausted from my attempted commute that I slept deeply and well before my 3:30 a.m. alarm blared Wednesday morning. (I should say, many GPB folks spent eight, 12 or 18 hours getting home. I probably would've been one of those had I persisted).
By Wednesday afternoon, roads around the station looked markedly better. I was prepared to trek home. But my wife convinced me otherwise, saying the surface streets around our home north of the city remained icy and treacherous. She estimated I could probably make it, but a return to the station Thursday morning would have been almost impossible. We decided I'd camp one more night in the newsroom--with a quick run to a nearby store for a toothbrush and some sweats. I finally made it home Thursday mid-day, after roughly 56 hours. But my goal--and I hope I accomplished this--was always that our listeners would be none the wiser as they tuned in this week.
I certainly did learn my lesson--and I should've already known this after growing up in hurricane country. I'll be keeping a toothbrush in my desk from now on. And I'll have some clothes and a towel in the back of the car, too.
Read how my GPB Radio colleague Tom Barclay endured being stranded through the kindness of strangers. And check out Blogger Rosemary Jean-Louis's post on how heroes emerged to save each other during the storm.