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Helpless: Drivers In South Stranded For 24 Hours On Icy Roads

Birmingham snow Atlanta snow strandedTens of thousands of drivers across the South stuck in their cars for 12 or more hours learned the hard way that carrying emergency supplies in your vehicle is not only wise but even could save your life.

Winter Storm Leon, as it is called, turned a routine commute into what The Atlanta Journal Constitution labeled a “nightmare.”

In Alabama, more than 300 people abandoned their cars and walked to an exit off Interstate 20, and in the Birmingham area hundreds of students and teachers were stranded at school, some having spent the night there. In Georgia, there were 1,254 accidents reported, 130 injuries, and two deaths – all from snowy and icy roads. In the Atlanta area, 2,000 students remained stranded at schools Wednesday morning.

John Labreche, the head of a private school in Birmingham, Alabama, called the region a “zombie land.” Gas stations are running out of gas and grocery stores out of food. And semi trucks that normally would resupply the businesses aren’t able to travel on the roads – because of the gridlock and the icy roads, he said.

“It’s like a Walking Dead TV series,” he told “Cars are everywhere, stuck on the roads. Trucks are jackknifed. People are going up the interstate the wrong way. It is crazy.”

Some cars even slid off the road and into the river, and the drivers had to swim to safety, Labreche said.

He spoke with one woman who spent more than eight hours getting home and then had to walk the final two miles.

“There are people who have been in their cars since 10:30 am yesterday,” he said in an interview at 2:30 p.m. the next day.

Desperate drivers stuck in cars frantically made posts to a Facebook page in an effort to call for help. Many of those trapped were completely helpless once their cars got stuck. One particularly disturbing post read:

My Mom Cynthia Herring and step dad with leukemia in need. stuck on 285 near cascade rd 17+ hrs. They are in a black Kia Soul. Almost out of gas, no food, no meds. For him. Please help

Tow trucks, too, were either stuck or not able to go out on the streets. One wrecker service said it received 50 calls but only responded to four because it did not have the necessary tire chains to go out in the snow and ice.

Could Famine And Hunger Come To America?

The New York Times reported that people trapped in cars ran out of medicine and one woman gave birth to a baby in a stranded car. Stranded drivers were sleeping in supermarkets and gas stations. The situation got so bad that the National Guard was mobilized to help motorists in Georgia and Alabama, even handing out food packets designed for soldiers on the battlefield.

Many in Atlanta are blaming the city government, which seemed helpless and unprepared even though only about two to three inches of snow fell.

Said Matthew Holcomb, a vice president of engineering at CNN:

I’ve been on the road for over 16 hours now. I’ve not seen anybody out. They’ve done nothing. I have seen literally hundreds of cars parked on the side of the road. I saw a lady carrying her kid in a blanket down the side of the road. I mean, people going the wrong way on major, major interstates. It’s scary stuff.

Trapped Motorist Froze to Death in Minnesota

At least one motorist froze to death after his car got stuck in Minnesota. The body of Garry Allen Kontz was found two miles from his stranded car near Stewart, Minnesota. Emergency workers think Kontz may have frozen to death while trying to walk to safety.

The media is blaming Kontz’s death on the storm, which caused blizzard-like conditions and wind chills of 35 to 50 degrees below zero in the area. Like many in the South, Kontz was completely helpless when his car got stuck.

The chaos caused by Winter Storm Leon should remind us an important lesson. We should always carry survival gear and supplies in our vehicles. Such supplies could be the difference between life and death as Kontz discovered.

Turning Your Car into a Survival Machine

One of the most important things you can do is to keep some basic survival materials in your vehicle. Survival supplies include:

  • Blankets or sleeping bags, or an emergency blanket.
  • Extra warming clothing such as gloves, hats, a facemask, jackets, socks, thermal underwear. A good suggestion here is to simply put old winter clothing you don’t always use in your trunk.
  • Emergency rations or other food you can eat without cooking.
  • A good first aid kit.
  • Extra supplies of any prescription medicine you or family members use.
  • A knife.
  • Tools.
  • Fire-starting materials in case you need to keep warm.
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • A cell phone or satellite phone.
  • Paper maps so you can determine your position if GPS goes down.
  • Bottled water.
  • Water purification tablets or drops.

Use Common Sense

Another important lesson to learn from Winter Storm Leon is to start using common sense and pay attention to what is happening around you. Watch the weather report on TV or visit websites like and Weather Underground to check conditions before you travel.

If you see an alert for a major winter storm coming to your area don’t drive unless absolutely necessary. Take the day off from work or ask your boss if you can work from home during the storm. Keep the kids home from school, even if there is no snow day. The safest place to be in such emergencies is usually your home — especially if you keep it stocked with survival supplies.

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  1. I live about 3-1/2 hrs north of Atlanta. All i have to say is this: we jad well over 8 hours advanced notice of tjis storm. People had the time to get off work (or make the decision to stay home), I had the chance to coach my employees (having lived for several years in upstate NY), and went so far as to give my people some control over their schedules so as to help with family and to allow some leeway if the storm was bad.

    Now, if these people were so idiotic as to NOT listen what makes anyone think that tbey have the common sense to actually get tbese materiala together to create a survival kit for a storm that halpens once a generation?

    They’re simply idi_ts.

    • I heard the Gov of GA blamed the weather forecasters. Was he that stupid or did he not listen and prepare the G- DOT. Maybe GA doesn’t have the facilities to meet this kind of small storm. I live in West Central WI and this is what we call a sneeze not a snow storm. I have some relatives in Dahlonega GA and they just stayed home…

    • There is one thing missing I almost never see in one of the home-made kits is TP. I can’t imagine going that many hrs w/o the need to do the poo…

    • Amen Brother!
      I posted issue on my FB account and said, ((Now come on this is just Silly!!
      This is a dusting and the whole town is in chaos??!!
      How sad is it that most Americans are unable to function on their own without Gov help.))
      My feed went crazy from people form the south. Trying to make excuses for why this happened and then even stating that our snow in WI is sticky not ice like that had. The fact is there is a portion of Americans that no longer think for themselves & this is that!

      • This is Thursday and we just got about 5 inches in Wisconsin and their is nothing sticky about it. It’s light, blows all over the place and gets into everything. Sticky indeed. I have two brothers in the south, one in Adel GA and one in Tallahassee FL. They both laughed at the one they got. In fact they’re a couple of nuts. They like to go out and do car donuts in parking lots to show the locals their nothing to be afraid of. Note: did you get a lot of put downs?

        • Yes many put downs and for some reason people in the south thin WI gets no ice. Really?? Nov Dec, Ice March April, Ice!
          The idea the winter weather is worse in the south is just plain ignorant!
          I just feel this is the state of Americans being ill prepared and immune to the Nanny state in which we have.

  2. Is Ray Nagger now the mayor of Atlanta? I guess he moved from New Orleans.

  3. Remember that this started with freezing rain and then the 2-inches of snow. That is by far the most dangerous combination of conditions – the perfect storm. Especially in a place like Atlanta, which never has snow.

    Roads naturally have mostly-dry oil them, from tires and exhaust, but rain wettens the oil and makes it slick, which is why the beginning of a rain, when it just gets wet a little, creates a slick, oily film that is the most dangerous. If it keeps raining, though, it washes that film away.

    However, in the case of freezing rain, it can capture that oil on top of the ice, making a near-frictionless surface. When you add a little snow on top of that, you can’t tell where the black ice patches are. Your tires may catch on the snow on top, but that snow glides on the oil which is gliding on the ice underneath. It doesn’t matter how good your tires are, because you are on top of two sliding layers.

    That’s why there are so many accidents.

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