Not going to happen this time: Lessons from Atlanta’s stranded snow survivors


Story highlights

Atlantans stranded in last month's snow talk about plans for new possible storm

Top tips: Don't leave the house if you don't have to; Technology can help you work from home

Most importantly: Have pants available at all times

CNN —  

Atlanta residents stranded on icy interstates and at strangers’ homes during a January 28 winter storm aren’t taking any chances now that another snowstorm is brewing – they’re taking matters into their own hands.

While rain, sleet and snow are expected Monday evening, above-freezing temperatures will likely spare the city of commuter drama, according to the National Weather Service. It’s Tuesday night through Thursday that the big show is expected, with a major ice storm forecast, say CNN meteorologists.

Two weeks after 2.6 inches of snow paralyzed the city, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is taking a proactive approach this time around, declaring a weather-related state of emergency for 45 counties. City and state officials were heavily criticized for their handling of the January 28 storm, when workers and school children dismissed at the same time caused massive gridlock in Atlanta. Some people were stranded 20 or more hours on icy, jammed interstates, and others abandoned their cars to seek overnight shelter.

But despite government precautions, many people who were marooned on Atlanta’s icy roads say they’re taking matters into their own hands this time. CNN followed up with some of the stranded snow survivors and got their hard-earned lessons for how to deal with a rare snowstorm, Southern style.

1. Don’t leave the house if you don’t have to

Charles Davidson spent a grueling 7½ hours trying to get from Georgia Tech to his home in Marietta during the last storm. He wound up ditching his car and running the last 5 miles home – he tracked his distance via the Nike+ app. This go around, he’s planning to hole up at home.

“My wife and I decided a few days ago that we were going to get groceries early in the day and we’re going to stay in. We’re going to stick around for the next two or three days,” he said.

The 33-year-old, who lives outside the city perimeter, doesn’t want to repeat that scenario anytime soon. He’s already cancelled his Tuesday plans downtown. “I decided it doesn’t need to happen,” he said.

Jagannathan Santhanam had a similar nightmare commuting tale. After being in his car for six hours, he gave up and walked the last 2 miles to pick up his son from Kennesaw Mountain Magnet School. With that experience fresh in his mind, he figures it will be easier to stay at home this week.

“I will work from home and keep my kids home too,” said the software developer. “It was not fun, especially with family members stranded for more than 24 hours in different places during the last storm.”

2. Technology can help you work from home

Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t interact with your colleagues.

Santhanam will have meetings over the phone or video conferencing software. He also suggests updating your contact list, as he did. “You never know who may help you the next time around.”

And for Keisha Owen, who works in recruiting, she has changed her in-person interviews to virtual interviews.

“We are having our candidates do Skype interviews so that we can work from home if the weather is bad and have them come in at a later date to fill out their application forms,” said Owen, who spent one night at a hotel and another at a friend’s house before she could get home during the last storm.

“I hope that other businesses allow their employees to work from home if possible so that there are as few people on the roads as possible,” she said.

3. Make an emergency necessity kit for your car

Faith Evangelista spent 11 hours in her car on an Atlanta interstate two weeks ago. The health care administrator, who lives 40 miles from work, has already prepared for the impending winter weather.

“I actually packed my car last night with the following: phone charger, an extra coat, warm and comfortable clothes, walking shoes, bottles of water, ice scraper and snacks,” she said. Evangelista also made sure to fill up her car with gas.

Greg Ranallo of Powder Springs, Georgia, is thinking along the same lines. He wound up walking 10 miles over the two days he found himself stranded. He walked to a friend’s house to stay there and then trekked to work both mornings.

Ranallo, an avid hiker and distance runner, is used to going great distances, but it was the cold that got to him.

“I was unprepared for the bitter cold,” said the 25-year-old. “This time I have an extra pair of socks, a pair of boots, and a hat in the car.”

4. If all else fails, ask the North for help

Martin Cousin’s experience during the last snowstorm would drive anyone insane – he spent 23 hours stuck in his car, 18 of which were spent on Interstate 285.

Cousin works in aviation and doesn’t have the option to work from home. Instead, he’s praying that city and state officials have hatched a viable snow plan.

“I’m hoping that they’ve gotten their wits together and have called Minnesota, Wisconsin or some of those Northern states’ leadership to see how they get ahead of it,” he said.

5. And most importantly, have pants with you at all times

Joe Schenck now knows that even Georgians have to dress for frigid temperatures.

Schenck was on his way to the gym from work when his car got stuck just 3 miles into his commute. He decided to walk, but there was a problem: He was in gym clothes.

“He was in shorts for a planned workout and was not dressed for the cold,” said his wife, Noel Schenck. “Nobody anticipated this kind of weather or gridlock.”

As he trekked along the side of the road, a bus full of middle schoolers pulled over and welcomed him aboard. Schenck snapped a selfie of him surrounded by students to show his wife his unbelievable story.

At least they have the memory of the “hilarious photo” to look back on, Noel said. That, and the important lesson to always have warm clothes on hand.

What are your hard-earned winter weather lessons? Share them in the comments below, or upload to iReport.

CNN’s Henry Hanks, Jareen Imam, Dorrine Mendoza, Daphne Sashin, David Williams, and CNN intern Maggie Blaha contributed to this story.