Snowpocalypse 2014: PHL to ATL to TKR

Photo of center city Philadelphia in a snow storm

Downtown Philadelphia the morning of Margaret’s flight back to Atlanta.

Here begins the story of my ultimately successful trip home from Philadelphia to Tucker, GA, during the Snowpocalypse that stranded thousands of others. Like any intelligent librarian (is there any other kind?) going to the ALA Midwinter Meeting (in Philly, this time), I’d been keeping a close eye on weather forecasts for the past couple of weeks.

Since I was prepared for snowy and cold weather, getting to and around Philly went pretty well (once my luggage caught up with me). Unfortunately, as my departure day of Tuesday approached, it became increasingly apparent that, if my flight from PHL to ATL wasn’t canceled, I was likely to be flying into some nasty winter weather in Atlanta. Delta did cancel several flights from PHL to ATL in the middle of the day Tuesday but my 4:45 flight kept showing on time.

I left my hotel knowing I wouldn’t need my room for an extra night and headed to the Philadelphia airport. My flight ended up being delayed for about an hour but it was uneventful and landed in Atlanta at around 8 p.m. After retrieving my luggage (yea!) and trying unsuccessfully to get on the *&#@% ATL wi-fi, I finally called my husband, who confirmed what I’d seen and heard earlier — all routes home were hopelessly gridlocked, with the possible exception of I-85 S to I-285 E. What to do?

ATL to TKR, Part 1 – Peachy Parking

I considered staying overnight at or near the airport but ruled that out because 1) the airport was already full of people settling in for the night, 2) there reportedly weren’t any more hotel rooms near the airport, anyway, and 3) the roads were likely to be even worse Wednesday morning. I also considered taking MARTA but decided not to, because 1) my car was waiting for me at Peachy Parking’s indoor lot and 2) we live between the north and south rail lines, so getting home from the closest station would require someone driving several miles on surface streets that were probably as bad, or worse, than the interstates.

After hearing that most of the parking shuttles had stopped running because of gridlock getting to their lots on Camp Creek Pkwy, I confirmed that Peachy’s shuttles were still running to their lots on the other side of the airport. Figuring that 1) I could get a feel for the roads from the shuttle ride and 2) I could sleep in my car if I had to (in my down coat and blanket from the trunk), I decided to at least let the Peachy people get me to my car.

The shuttle driver and the ride itself indicated that the roads were indeed a bit slick but passable IF (yes, that’s a big IF) you were on one that wasn’t already jammed with traffic.  Fortunately, given Peachy’s location, it looked like taking I-85 S to I-285 E just might get me home without undue risk and/or delay. While live traffic maps were showing most of Atlanta’s roads as an ominous red or black color for the past several hours, the stretches of these two highways were a (relatively) promising yellow. I set out for Tucker with a reminder that if I didn’t like the feel of the road once I got on it, I could spend the night in the heated waiting room of Peachy’s outdoor lot just down the street.

ATL to TKR, Part 2 – I-285 (11:30 p.m.)

Interior photo of a parking facility

Peachy Parking’s indoor parking lot.

Getting out of Peachy’s sloped driveway was a tiny bit tricky thanks to a rear-wheel-drive car that had stopped before turning out of the driveway and gotten stuck. After shuttle drivers gave the car driver a ride back to the indoor lot, I backed up to get out of icy tire tracks and onto snow. Then I drove slowly up the hill and, with no cars in sight, onto Sylvan Rd. There was definitely ice under the snow but, like on the driveway, driving slowly between the icy tire tracks seemed OK. The next test was the sloping cloverleaf entrance to I-85 S.

I was prepared to stop at one of several hotels along the way if that and/or the highways proved too scary. The good news is that, as indicated, there was very little traffic going south and east from the airport and I got onto I-85 and then I-285 just fine. I don’t remember seeing much traffic in either direction on I-85 and, when I got to I-285, there weren’t many cars besides mine going east (yea!). However, the westbound lanes were another story. They were chock-a-block with tractor-trailer rigs and cars barely creeping along (if they were moving at all). It was like that for most of my drive around I-285 to Tucker—relatively few cars moving steadily east and north, while cars and trucks going south and west were jam-packed & hardly moving. I saw a number of vehicles on both sides of the hwy that apparently had slid off the road and/or otherwise been abandoned. However, most of the lanes on my side were safely passable (at a top speed of about 35 mph).

The one real trouble spot on I-285 was a one- to two-mile stretch around the I-20 interchange. Apparently, exiting traffic had gotten backed up on I-285 earlier in the day and, w/temps now in the low 20’s, it was becoming a big ice-slick of melted and refrozen snow. That stretch took 30-45 nerve-wracking minutes to get through. The good thing was that no one could go fast enough to hurt anything even if they did slide around some. I’m sure some big trucks and rear-wheel drive cars did get really stuck there but most of us inched along the icy road as best we could until we realized we had decent traction again.

ATL to TKR, Part 3 – Tucker, GA (12:15 a.m.)

Going slow and steady, the rest of the drive on I-285 to Lavista Road was uneventful. The only other trouble spot was about a mile from my house, in front of Cofer Crossing. Again, earlier heavy traffic must have melted the snow on the road and by the time I got there it had mostly refrozen into an icy mess. I did slide into the curb turning onto Lawrenceville Highway but didn’t hurt anything or anyone. Other cars and a MARTA bus were having trouble with the intersection, too, so I backed into Cofer Crossing, drove slowly through the empty parking lot (I think Kroger was closed), and back to Lawrenceville Highway on the other side. I then drove carefully to my neighborhood and safely navigated the hills and sloped driveway leading to my very own garage! Needless to say, I was very happy to be home and I knew I was very lucky, too.

My 30-ish mile trip from the airport had taken longer than usual at 2+ hours. However, given what I knew other people were still experiencing on slick and gridlocked roads, I knew I had nothing to complain about. As the Bard says, all’s well that ends well. Whew!!

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