Friday, January 12, 2007

Celebrating 25 Years of Snow Jam '82 Tall Tales

Gather 'round, chirruns, and I'll tell you about an incredible happenstance that took place 25 years ago this very day. It was dubbed "Snow Jam" by a local pundit, for reasons that will become clear to those of you who didn't experience it.

January 12, 1982. Typical winter day in Atlanta. Temperature in the high 30's/low 40's. As far as I can remember, if there was talk of impending snow, it certainly didn't set off the usual Atlanta stampede to the grocery store for milk and bread - not that morning, anyway. We were all busy little beavers in the production department at Turner Broadcasting - taping shows in the studio, editing promos, writing copy, having production meetings. Life as usual, in other words.

Seems like about mid-morning word got out that snow was headed our way, but we all pooh-pooh'd it. Just the weather-folk stirring up the usual hype. Back to work, everyone!

Around 1PM, word came down that all but essential personnel needed to leave for home immediately. (Essential personnel in television is a grey area, but it certainly included engineers and Master Control Room folks that kept "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Three Stooges" running 24/7 on TBS.) It had, indeed, started to snow. And snow. And snow. We still didn't take the thing very seriously, jaded TV folk that we were, and many of us left it a bit late for safe travel home.

The folks that left it too late have stories that grow on the Scandal-o-Meter by the year. Tales of bedding down together in hastily requisitioned hotel rooms near Turner or crashing in the studio are legendary, 'Nuff said about that.

I didn't leave it too late (not late enough to have to bunk with a co-worker, thank God) but got out around 3PM having been offered a ride by two hot-shots new to Atlanta from Kentucky. I left my car in the parking lot and climbed in with Gerald and Paul. Whoa, Nelly!

Immediately the hot-shot snow drivers from Kentucky realized that - uh-oh! - ice and a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam (that pesky cause-and-effect thing, see) made forward movement in a car truly impossible. After sitting on 14th Street headed west and moving about 6" in three hours, I said, "Ya' know. I can walk home faster that this car's moving. See ya' and good luck, guys. Thanks for the ride!"

Fortunately, I lived about two miles away, so I left the warmth of the car to try to fend off blowing snow and icy pavements, willing to do whatever it took to get me moving toward home. Yes, it was cold, and it was slippery. Had a couple of nasty spills, but my momentum certainly outpaced that of the motoring public. It was a long two miles. Took me almost two hours to slip-and-slide my way through my little front door. But, oh!, what a relief. (Found out later that Gerald and Paul didn't get home until early evening.)

Husband Jack almost didn't make it at all. He'd abandoned his car by the side of I-75 and had attempted to take a short-cut to a surface street near our house. Of course, between the freeway and the street was a sort of gully or small ravine - he got down it OK, but it took him hours to climb up the other side because of the ice. He finally crawled in around 8PM.

It continued to snow heavily for several days afterwards. I managed somehow to get back to Turner to put in a few hours (had to make sure "Winners" and "Nice People" - two silly magazine programs we produced - got on the air) and indulge in the free food that Ted (Turner) provided for all the folks that were living in the studio during those days.

Though the city was paralyzed, there was a general party atmosphere that lasted for days. One of my favorite stories is how a new Atlanta restaurant built a loyal clientele because of the storm. According to one of the founders of Longhorn Steakhouse:

" . . . there was a major snowstorm in Atlanta that brought the city to a halt, so we pulled a sign out front that said ‘Drinks $1 While It Snows.’ So all these people forced to pull over walked in ’til they filled the place up. And over the storm’s three days, the steaks plus the genuinely friendly atmosphere surprised people, generating loyalty.” That event—taking place January 12, 1982—became known as the “Snow Jam."

It was party party party, amidst the slippin' and slidin', with - of course - the obligatory "baby boom" hitting Sept-Oct. 1982. Ah, the stories. Believe it or not, I can't find a lot about Snow Jam on the internet, which surprises me since so many folks love to tell their tales. There are certainly no pictures. Hm. Send 'em if you've got 'em, people!

Cheers to Snow Jam '82! (Just remember: "What goes on in the snow, stays in the snow.")

26 comments:

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a great story Mary. It made me think back to the couple of snow storms that hit the midwest and crippled us for days on end. There's some great stories to come out of times like those. This was fun...thanks sweetie...

Chris said...

Oh, I DID enjoy that!

It's a bit of a revelation to hear that you good people over there also sometimes get fazed by the weather. Most people here, I think, are under the impression that, when it snows in America, you all just sweep your bit of the sidealk clean, put on the tyre chains, and carry on as if nothing has happened.

Of course, in this country these days, it seems that everything closes down if there's even a hard frost so you can imagine what it's like if it actually DOES snow hard

Bro said...

What I find absolutely amazing is that no one sitting in that "snow jam" traffic had a cell phone, no one! Damn, those were the good old days!

MaryB said...

Joy - I can't help but think you guys are used to this stuff by now and truly shrug off a little blizzard now and then. (And you're right - great stories - and a lot of babies - come out of times like those!)

Chris - Nope. Pretty much Atlanta handles any sort of precipitation the way that you handle it over there. Panic bread-and-milk buying and closing down everything!

Bro - I was thinking the same thing about cell phones as I wrote the story. Jack could have called from the bottom of that gully to let me know where he was. Don't know if I'd done anything to get him out, though. ;-) (Just kidding, Kate.)

jcb said...

This is when I started using the catchphrase "City Paralyzed!" in response to any snow whatsoever. Walked to and from TBS twice during that (just under 2 miles then.) Remember typing winter storm crawls for local (as opposed to satellite) and just kinda arbitrarily putting them on. There is a great edited tape from snowjam that still makes the rounds.

So what year was it that ice coated the WTBS tower, closing off an entire block of West Peachtree, and dropping deadly ice shards all over the place?

As I remember it, WAGA came to interview Bill Tush and parked their shiny new PM Magazine van right out front and....WHAM! No more van.

MaryB said...

Yeah, I lost the windshield of my 1973 Chevy Malibu when ice fell off the Turner tower (actually, a fairly regular winter-time occurence, back in the day). That old parking lot was a dangerous proposition. I'm guessin' they still have that problem, right - ice off the tower? And I think the WAGA van was hit when we were still WTCG (or maybe just recently WTBS). At any rate, death ice from that tower was pretty darn common.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Roswell and remember just about everything about Snow Jam. As a background, Atlanta had been peppered with ice storms for several winters in the late 70's and early 80's that had brought down power lines, felled trees, iced roads, etc., so TPTB were very cautious with any winter weather.

Plus the ATL at the time was much smaller than it is now so the infrastructure was less developed and the resources of the DOT were not as deep.

Also, it had not been the typical winter day in Atlanta. Snow Jam occurred on a Tuesday. We had been out of school due to weather on Monday and Tuesday. I had gone on a Winter campout with my Boy Scout troop over the weekend. We knew it would be cold, but we had no idea when we work up on Sunday morning that the temperature would be close to zero. We left the campsite early Sunday morning and I came home to watch the AFC Conference Championship game between the SD Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. That game was played in a -52 degree weather.

The Monday morning before Snow Jam was even colder - something like 7 or 8 degrees below. School systems had difficulty getting the buses to run so school was cancelled at the last minute. There was an uproar about having some kids already waiting at bus stops when the announcements began to get made.

The forecast the next day was not bad. I think the for Tuesday morning was in the 20's. However, there was a real possibility of snow at some point during the day. So guess what ... school systems that had egg on the faces from the previous day made the early call cancel school for Tuesday. The day was cold but not too cold and pretty nice.

After lunch the sky turned grey and then with much disbelief it started snowing - I remember it starting in Roswell about 3-ish. Ironic (?) because we would have been out of school by the time it actually had started snowing.

It snowed pretty hard the rest of the day and night. My Dad worked for an Ad Agency at North Ave & Peachtree and since the was long before the days of the wider and extended 400 he had a long slog home. I think he waited until after 6 to leave but he made the trek up 75 to 285, around the Perimeter and up 400 to Holcomb Bridge before 9 PM. He got a good laugh about traffic and the panic since he learned to drive the in snowy hills of Ohio.

We were out of school the rest of the week. It snowed until about midday on Wednesday and stayed around until the weekend. A quick second follow-up snowstorm came on Friday but it was all gone by Monday.

A sequel to Snow Jam came a year later in 1983 but it was not as big or as long. The TV station tried to keep the Snow Jam brand alive for a couple of more years, but we never really had anything like it again.

MaryB said...

Great Snow Jam story! I think someone should start a Snow Jam website and collect all the "tales" of the time, don't you? I still wonder if there are any pictures floating around. Perhaps we could find some TV newsfootage to YouTube?

Anonymous said...

I remember Snow Jam very well also.
I was in a Decatur classroom taking a test for a job with several others. I noticed that it began to snow, but went onwith the exam.
As the snow fell heavier & heavier, I asked the person giving the test if we we're going to be allowed to leave. She went & checked with other classes & found that we were the only ones left in the building!
As I was driving down Memorial Dr., up ahead I could see that big hill by Dekalb Co. police station. And while I was watching from the bottom of the hill, I saw cars sliding every which way. I knew I'd never make it, so I pulled into the parking lot of a liquor store (yes, I made a purchase while I was there), & used thier phone to call a cab. All lines were busy, So I set out on foot, walking up Memorial Dr. toward the interstate. A guy in a 4x4 gave me a ride to the interstate ramp & I was walking down the entrance ramp when a womans who had just picked up her daughter from daycare stopped to give me a ride. She took me all the way to my house & refused any money I tried to give her.
So don't ever let anyone tell you that there aren't any good people here.

MaryB said...

Oh, absolutely! Situations like Snow Jam '82 DO prove that good folks are everywhere and willing to help out folks they don't know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for remembering this storm! I'll NEVER forget it! There were no real warnings or anything! I was at work in a meeting and saw this icy snow falling and became a little jittery. My boss allowed some staff to leave but wouldn't allow those in my meeting to go home until we completed our business. Finally, at about 3:30 PM, we were the last to leave. It was unbelievable! I was on Northside Dr. creeping along on my way to my home in East Point & giving young men from the projects a dollar here and there to push my car up the hills. I think the kids made a lot of money that day! The ice was just plain dangerous! Cars were sliding all over the place because it was heavy icy snow! Three men approached my car and asked for a ride & for the first time in my life I said "what the hell," told them I hoped they weren't rapists and let them in. Thank God I did...they were security guards and helped me navigate the ice until I was close to home. It took me 5 hours to get there! My usual drive home took 30 minutes. I must say though that it was exciting even with abandoned cars, people filling up every motel and hotel in the city and everyone told their stories for weeks on end! "Snow Jam" started 1982 off with a big bang & is an apt description of the worst storm I'd ever driven through in my life and I'm from Cleveland, OH!!!

MaryB said...

I love your willingness to pick up the strangers - sometimes you have to go out on a limb to do the right thing. Thanks for a wonderful story. Ah, the memories!

Anonymous said...

I was in the 8th grade at the time.I remember it had been extremely cold the week leading up to the storm.So cold in fact that school was cancelled the Fri and Mon before.The ground was frozen solid and because there were far fewer people here in 1982 the roads were a lot less traveled and they were frozen as well.
Anyway around 1 pm we were dismissed from school and around 3 it began to snow...hard. Huge,icy flakes the size of quarters.In an hour it was like northern Minnesota.We lived about 5 minutes from Cumberland Mall where my mother worked.She walked home and it took her 4 hrs.
My friends older brother had a 4wd truck with snow tires and people that were stuck at the bottom of the hill on Spring rd in Smyrna were paying him $20 to pull their cars to the top of the hill.He made over $500.The only storm I've seen that rivaled it was the "Blizzard" of 93

MaryB said...

And the Blizzard of '93 was a weird one, too, eh? Thunder, lightning, and sideways-blowing snow. We had a client down from Chicago who hi-tailed it home as soon as he saw the forecast - took it much more seriously than we Atlantans did!

J_Koz said...

I was working on Peachtree St, near 25th back then. About Noon they said leave - go home - hurry. I lived in Brookhaven and had a 240 Z. I got as far as Green's liquors on Buford Highway. Traffic was stopped in both directions, as far as you could see with the falling snow.
After sitting for half an hour and going nowhere I got out and walked to the driver behind me. I told him I wanted to backup onto the sidewalk, I was going to park and walk. He could have my space in line. It was 8 miles to home and drivers kept rolling down their windows and asking why traffic wasn't moving. The last 2 miles I was the only one out on the streets. Its was completely deserted and wintery quiet for Atlanta.
I got home to find the furnace fan motor had gone out. For three days we camped in our den, in front of our wood burning stove. We had laughed when we bought the house, the realtor had gone on and on, about the cast iron stove.
Finally we were able to get out, buy a new furnace motor, and recover my 240Z. When we got to the Buford Hwy there were two lines of abandoned cars on each side of the Buford Hwy, stretching from Lenox Road well past N.Druid Hills.
Now we live up north of Atlanta. We have a cord of seasoned oak, and a wood burning fireplace. The freezer's full and the cooktop's gas, and our scruffy dog is loving the cold weather.

Anonymous said...

I was in the 10th grade and had checked out early that day for a dentist appointment. My dentist was just down the street from my school so I walked to their office. I remember not getting too far down the steet and I noticed huge snowflakes coming down. Shortly thereafter I heard the bells ring at my school and noticed buses full of kids riding by. I remember thinking,"wow, everyone's getting out early today". I get to the dentist and they quickly inform me that my appointment is being postponed because there is a major snowstorm heading our way. I was like "yeah I know, I saw some flakes coming down but like everyone else in the metro area, I didn't really give it a second thought, figured it would blow over soon. They closed up shop and one of the ladies there gave me a lift home(about 2 miles away). The rest of the evening me and my friends spent hours helping motorists up a really slick hill on Hwy.42 in Rex. We ended up being out of school for a week. Each day we'd get more snow or sleet on top of what was already there. I tell my kids about it, but they think I'm exaggerating. Unless you experienced it, you don't understand. And by the way, the "blizzard of 93'" was nothing compared to Snowjam 82', that was just snow, it was pretty and it melted in just a few days.

MaryB said...

I love all the Snow Jam stories that are collecting here. Ah, memories . . .

Anonymous said...

I long for another snow like that! My 5yr old would love it and I wouldn't mind it myself. A few snow days could be nice. Anyway, to my story, I was a young lad in Kindergarten and we were living near the Conyers,Ga area at that time. I remember the schools letting out a little early and by the time we got the busses loaded and pulled out of the school, there was already a couple of inches accumulating. My bus ride was a long one that took about an hour usually, but we ended up getting home just about the time it was getting dark outside. i remember the bus spinning it's tires as we would start off from a stop and the maximum speed of maybe 10mph if we were lucky. I think we must have had close to a foot of snow after everything was said and done. I also remember sledding down the hillside and building a grown up size snowman that I will never forget. My gramps had an old vw bug that I also remember him doing donuts around the parking lots and riding around looking at all of the snow. This was one event even as a 6yr old, i will cherish forever!

MaryB said...

I remember taking a terrible slide and fall down our driveway a couple of days after the initial Snow Jam day (it snowed for a couple of days after that, as I recall). Those driveways and sidewalks were treacherous!

Anonymous said...

I was only 5.5 years old for Snow Jam, so I don't remember any of the details as far as the media and lack of warnings, but it STILL made a big impression!

My family lived in extreme North Cobb, almost to Woodstock. All of the subdivisions there were brand new, mostly cedar houses. We had a one story ranch. These houses were NOT built with anything approaching those kind of temperatures in mind, so we really took it on the chin.

What I remember most were (as clear as day) 2-3 inches of ice that formed at the bottom of every window in the house. On the INSIDE. As the condensation formed and ran down the windows, it built up on the window sill, and reached 2-3 inches in the thickest parts. I remember my dad explaining why it was happening and that we couldn't stop it. I don't think I understood, but the shock value of having that much ice on the inside of the house was what really stuck with me. I mean, we lived in the snow belt in western NY, and I had never seen ice on the INSIDE before!

Fortunately, since we had only moved here from the North fairly recently, we still had plenty of warm, outdoor clothing. We were all wearing every bit of it for days, as the power was out and we were totally without heat. I think there was a fireplace, which was mostly just for show, but we didn't have any wood.

You could see your breath in the house, and I remember playing with my Matchbox cars with heavy snow mittens on.

I know my family would have more details, but that's my recollection.

Now the Storm of the Century in 1993 was a totally different story. I remember everything about that. I woke up to "thundersnow" and lightning and a genuine blizzard. The Tall Tale from that, which is exaggerated a little more each year, is of a 10 hour trip from Peachtree City (where it was bad) to Cartersville (where it was epic) to rescue some family members in our 4WD.

Although it was bad in PTC, we thought the typical Atlanta news media panic was off the mark, but when we witnessed the transformation going north for an additional 80 miles, it was something to behold. We actually drove on the left shoulder with other 4WD vehicles, around the sea of stalled cars and trucks on 75N. Those people were stuck there for days, if you recall.

So there's my contribution to the narrative of Atlanta snow storms past!

Anonymous said...

I was only 5.5 years old for Snow Jam, so I don't remember any of the details as far as the media and lack of warnings, but it STILL made a big impression!

My family lived in extreme North Cobb, almost to Woodstock. All of the subdivisions there were brand new, mostly cedar houses. We had a one story ranch. These houses were NOT built with anything approaching those kind of temperatures in mind, so we really took it on the chin.

What I remember most were (as clear as day) 2-3 inches of ice that formed at the bottom of every window in the house. On the INSIDE. As the condensation formed and ran down the windows, it built up on the window sill, and reached 2-3 inches in the thickest parts. I remember my dad explaining why it was happening and that we couldn't stop it. I don't think I understood, but the shock value of having that much ice on the inside of the house was what really stuck with me. I mean, we lived in the snow belt in western NY, and I had never seen ice on the INSIDE before!

Fortunately, since we had only moved here from the North fairly recently, we still had plenty of warm, outdoor clothing. We were all wearing every bit of it for days, as the power was out and we were totally without heat. I think there was a fireplace, which was mostly just for show, but we didn't have any wood.

You could see your breath in the house, and I remember playing with my Matchbox cars with heavy snow mittens on.

I know my family would have more details, but that's my recollection.

Now the Storm of the Century in 1993 was a totally different story. I remember everything about that. I woke up to "thundersnow" and lightning and a genuine blizzard. The Tall Tale from that, which is exaggerated a little more each year, is of a 10 hour trip from Peachtree City (where it was bad) to Cartersville (where it was epic) to rescue some family members in our 4WD.

Although it was bad in PTC, we thought the typical Atlanta news media panic was off the mark, but when we witnessed the transformation going north for an additional 80 miles, it was something to behold. We actually drove on the left shoulder with other 4WD vehicles, around the sea of stalled cars and trucks on 75N. Those people were stuck there for days, if you recall.

So there's my contribution to the narrative of Atlanta snow storms past!

Jason said...

I was only 5.5 years old for Snow Jam, so I don't remember any of the details as far as the media and lack of warnings, but it STILL made a big impression!

My family lived in extreme North Cobb, almost to Woodstock. All of the subdivisions there were brand new, mostly cedar houses. We had a one story ranch. These houses were NOT built with anything approaching those kind of temperatures in mind, so we really took it on the chin.

What I remember most were (as clear as day) 2-3 inches of ice that formed at the bottom of every window in the house. On the INSIDE. As the condensation formed and ran down the windows, it built up on the window sill, and reached 2-3 inches in the thickest parts. I remember my dad explaining why it was happening and that we couldn't stop it. I don't think I understood, but the shock value of having that much ice on the inside of the house was what really stuck with me. I mean, we lived in the snow belt in western NY, and I had never seen ice on the INSIDE before!

Fortunately, since we had only moved here from the North fairly recently, we still had plenty of warm, outdoor clothing. We were all wearing every bit of it for days, as the power was out and we were totally without heat. I think there was a fireplace, which was mostly just for show, but we didn't have any wood.

You could see your breath in the house, and I remember playing with my Matchbox cars with heavy snow mittens on.

I know my family would have more details, but that's my recollection.

Now the Storm of the Century in 1993 was a totally different story. I remember everything about that. I woke up to "thundersnow" and lightning and a genuine blizzard. The Tall Tale from that, which is exaggerated a little more each year, is of a 10 hour trip from Peachtree City (where it was bad) to Cartersville (where it was epic) to rescue some family members in our 4WD.

Although it was bad in PTC, we thought the typical Atlanta news media panic was off the mark, but when we witnessed the transformation going north for an additional 80 miles, it was something to behold. We actually drove on the left shoulder with other 4WD vehicles, around the sea of stalled cars and trucks on 75N. Those people were stuck there for days, if you recall.

So there's my contribution to the narrative of Atlanta snow storms past!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mary, I was the Unit Mgr. for both Winners and Nice People back then. I left our 14th Street office at 4PM that day and live in some apartments on 26th Street. Took me 2 1/2 hours to get home that evening. I stopped at a convience store for some cigs and beer on the way and hunkered down for the rest of the week as the storm seemed to continue. I remember Rosanna Scotto called me on Friday morning and asked if I could give her a ride into work. Because my apartments were located down a large hill that still had ice on it I wasn't able to get out until noon. That sure was a week that was.
Pete Nichols

Anonymous said...

I remember that the forecast said the snow would hit about 5PM, the time I had to be at work at the ATL airport. Not to worry, I would be safe at work by that time. Well, a little before 3PM I looked out and it was snowing pretty hard, and I knew that I needed to get on the road.

Airline employers do not accept weather as an excuse for being late to work or not showing up...at least not in 1982! Well,I was greeted with all those people going home! What a surprise!

When you work for an airline you don't get to go home early, you stay until those who relieve you get there!

Sometimes I inched my way, at other times footed my way south on I-285 West and sometime after 5PM I finally got past I-20.

For awhile there had been a Georgia State Trooper behind me, not pushing for advantage. Had a brainstorm. Pulled my car over on the shoulder and got out and flagged him, told my situation, and asked it he were going toward the airport could I have a ride?

Lo, and behold, he said yes! Well, the trooper just continued on at the pace he had been traveling and the snow and ice continuing to pile up, so it was about 8PM when we finally got to the airport, and I thanked him and found my way to my work position.

If I remember correctly that was a Tuesday afternoon, and I did not see my home again, until Saturday.

With weather like that, the first thing airlines did in those days was to book all the available rooms at the airport hotels for their necessary employees to be available for work. So, I spent the next 4 nights in one of those rooms so that I could work my scheduled shifts.

Expecting it not to be anymore than the usual 24 to 36 hour snow storm, I did not think to pack enough stuff to last more than that time, and my uniform dress was clean and would be okay for an extra day or 2. Well, I was certainly glad to get home and have some clean clothes. Snow Jam 82 is forever etched in my brain!

Sometimes I try to view some of my experiences through your Bartow eyes, Mary. They would be far more interesting and funny if you were telling them.

Cuz A.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Snow Jam '82 like it was yesterday! I was working at Bauder Fashion College across from Lennox Square Mall. Many of the staff of Bauder would park their cars on the lower (in the hole below street level) at Lennox and the Mall's security was nice enough to let us and would watch after our cars for us. Well, around 1:00 PM the college let the students go home first. The staff waited until everyone else was gone so we left out around 3:00 PM. By that time the snow had fallen a great deal already and was turing to ice. I lived in Roswell, GA, so I had a long way to go before getting home, that is IF my car could have gotten out of the Lennox parking lot, lol. My husband came to get me and several of the other staff, getting there around 6:30 PM having come from Holcomb Bridge Road to pick us up in his 4 wheel drive. We dropped the first person off at her apt door in Buckhead. Next to several other places around Atlanta North region and lastly to our own home around 3:30 AM. One of the teachers was met a knife point in her apartment! I man had no where to go and had panicked so he broke into her apartment. She convinced him he could stay if he would put his knife away from her throat!!! He agreed after some time and she told us all this once classes at the college resumed. It was a very scarry time in several places too. Motels were sold out in the area and strangers were bunking in rooms together to wait out the snow jam. Lennox Mall's Rich's store brought out blankets, sheets, pillows, anything to help keep the straded shoppers warm over night as they could not get their cars out either. You could get some food in the main area of the food court but could not get any food utinsels to eat with, fearing there might be some fights break out and they could be used to hurt others. Looking back, that was a wise move on the mall's part but everyone was well behaved, thank goodness! Well once home, we were without power for some time. It took days before classes resumed at the college and I never want to be in that kind of Snow Jam again, if I can help it! Southerners, buy yourselves a generator, it comes in handy during those kind of storms!

mattgt12 said...

I was eleven years old.. I remember playing in the snow for hours