Fears of widespread power outages came to fruition as the ice and snow storm that forecasters have been warning about for days pounded metro Atlanta and the northern half of the state.
More than 168,000 Georgia Power customers had lost electricity by 1 p.m., with service already being restored to some 48,000 of those customers. At 4 p.m., Georgia Power reported about 131,000 customers currently without power.
– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (or AJC.com, or whatever else they’re calling it these days)
My home state of Georgia is getting slugged with its second winter storm in three weeks, and this one looks to be even worse than the last. Ice storms are unusual even in the frigid Midwest. I remember the last big ice storm we had in Kansas City, and I hope the one this week in Atlanta doesn’t have the same resounding effects as the one we endured.
It was late January 2002. My wife and I had been married for five months, and were still getting used to living together. Then, The Storm happened, starting innocently enough on a Tuesday morning with a little sleet and ice, nothing to get too excited about. Except that it kept coming down, all through the day and into the night, until the tree branches outside our home sagged painfully low, each limb perfectly encased in a full inch of crystal.
We woke up the next morning without power. The house was freezing, and the bathroom filled up with steam when we turned on the hot water. The streets were pretty slick, but my wife and I went to work. When we got home, there was still no power. It was still freezing, and the branches that sagged under the weight of all that accumulated ice were starting to snap. We huddled together under all the blankets we could pile on the bed that night, listening to the occasional cracks of branches collapsing all through our neighborhood. Then, a loud pop and a white flash right outside our window. A tree branch had hit a transformer, turning it into a sparkler from the Fourth of July. A few minutes later, we heard another blast. Then another one. The whole town was falling apart.
Long story short, we went without power for seven long days and nights. Our neighborhood looked like a war zone: power lines sagging almost to the ground, tree branches scattered everywhere. Utility workers and tree trimmers were disbursed throughout the city, and many workers came from out-of-town to help clean up and restore the power grid. When one of their trucks came through our area, my neighbors and I gathered around, peppering the poor workers with questions about when the streets would be cleared, when the power would be restored.
After three nights without light and heat, my wife and I stayed at a friend’s apartment across town. Then we got a nice, warm hotel room and watched Tom Brady and New England upset the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl (warning: beware of hotels that will price-gouge you during an ice storm). Then, we spent a night at a relative’s place. Finally, the power returned on a Tuesday. It was perhaps the happiest day for my wife and I since we came back from our honeymoon.
The storm lasted only 24 hours, but left its mark on our city for years to come. Thousands of trees collapsed or had to be cut down. Our leafy neighborhood looked almost bare the following spring, so many of its stately oaks were nothing more than foot-high stumps. It’s been 12 years since that ice storm. Unfortunately, it seems we are past due for another one.