Atlanta

Celebrating 75: A look back at ‘Snowmageddon’ and the changes it brought

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News is taking a look at the biggest events in Georgia history as WSB-TV celebrates its 75th anniversary.

One of the biggest stories to impact Georgians in recent years was Snowmageddon, which happened nearly nine years ago this month.

The snowstorm and its aftermath paralyzed metro Atlanta for days.

There wasn’t that much snow, but a perfect storm of events led to one of the biggest messes in Georgia’s history.

Also called Snowpocalypse, Jan. 28, 2014, is far from forgotten by the metro Atlantans who lived through it.

The storm only produced about two to three inches of snow. But throughout the late afternoon and evening, the snow became slush -- and then sheets of ice.

Once frozen over, the metro’s interstates turned into parking lots.

“It’s impossible to drive right now. The roads are full of ice,” one driver told us at the time.

The conditions led to crashes all over the place.

“Authorities told us that they responded to more than 200 accidents this afternoon,” Channel 2′s Justin Farmer reported throughout our coverage of the storm.

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Some drivers slept in their cars. Others ran out of gas. Many abandoned their cars and just walked home.

The storm also had a major impact on schools and children. Some bus trips were delayed for hours.

“I was super scared. I was like if I don’t get home to my parents, like, I’m going to freak out,” one student said.

Other buses were flat-out stranded.

Metro Atlanta was paralyzed for days.

In the aftermath, this headline led the front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “How did this happen?”

“Within a very short window of time, many more motorists got on the roadways and during that same timeframe is when the amount of snow continued to come,” then-Gov. Nathan Deal said about the storm.

Since 2014, there have been major changes on the state level, including the creation of a state meteorologist position to monitor our forecast and coordinate with state agencies.

Also, there is more pre-treatment of the state’s roads.

“We’ve had events where we have had more snowfall than in 2014 and because GDOT and some of the other agencies supporting them have gone out and pre-treated the roads and done the leg work beforehand, it has kept lanes opened when it’s below freezing,” state meteorologist Will Lanxton said.

Another big change, the state installed a network of road sensors across Georgia providing a precise measurement closely monitored by Severe Weather Team 2, the state, and GDOT.

“They’re able to pre-position their resources to be able to treat the roads when it happens as opposed to being reactive. They can be proactive on that,” Lanxton said. “Just having that data available in real-time in an event has truly been a game changer.”

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