Winter Storm

We had moved from Phoenix to Atlanta in August of 1976 and by January of 1978 had really settled in. We didn’t live in the city but in an unincorporated area of Fulton County, Sandy Springs, that was a ‘buffer’ between Atlanta and Roswell. We had selected a home in the Lost Forest Subdivision and it truly was a lost forest, very hilly, a lot of pine trees, 10 minutes from my work and outside of the Atlanta ISD.

Being ‘flatlanders’ and since the winters of 1976 and 1977 had been mild for the area, we really didn’t know what to expect when the TV weather alerted us for ‘a severe winter storm and possible ice storm’. Since this was a new, high corporate mobility area, most of our neighbors were at a loss too. Finally a local surfaced and told us, “Folks you’d better prepare for the worst. We could be shut down anywhere up to a week!”

Early the next morning the storm hit in full force, rain, sleet, snow, high wind and plummeting temperatures. By evening the temperature had dropped to +5 degrees and by early morning of the storm’s second day, -5. The coldest weather I’d ever seen!

Sleeping soundly, I awoke to the loud crack of what I thought was a rifle shot, but in reality was the crack of a pine tree snapping. At the time, I didn’t even know that could happen. Trying to turn on the lights, no power. Rats, we had an all electric home too! At least we had fireplaces on 2 floors of our 3, story house along with a cord of wood. The fireplaces and wood certainly came in handy over the long haul of the storm.

Long haul it was! We were iced in and our house was in the middle of a hill and we couldn’t go up or down. We knew we would slide down and never tried to go up the hill, even in our 4WD, Dodge Power Wagon. Our freezer was in the garage and since we had below freezing temps for 2-1/2 days, we just about cleaned it out and even had ice cream.

The biggest fireplace was in the basement and our lives, for 3 days, centered around it. We were without power for almost 4 days and all cooking was done like the early settlers, over the fireplace fire. The family, 5 of us, and our pets, Rooster and Nick, the cat, all slept around the fire. We never lost water pressure and our bathwater was heated over the fire and they were only quick ‘rinses’.

The fourth day of the storm the weather moderated some and we loaded up my 4WD, Dodge Power Wagon with a sleeper, camper on the back end, with 4 of my neighbors, we all worked for the same large company, and crept in slowly to our office. Nothing much could be accomplished since we only had a skeleton staff that could make it in, but by the next day, schools were opened, business began ‘humming’ and power was restored to our part of Fulton County.

Tending to personal needs, keeping the fire roaring, heating water for baths, cooking all day long, venturing to the colder portions of the house for clothes and needed items, took care of most of our time. Our time outside the protection of our basement fire was spent visiting with neighbors and helping, and being helped, with the clearing and cutting up of the numerous pine trees splintered by the ice accumulation.

This was a real learning experience for me, but just stop and think all that our forefathers had to endure, that today, we take for granted. Think of the effort expended, cutting, trimming, splitting, hauling and stacking a cord, 4’X4’X8’, of wood; or raising enough food to feed the family and livestock for the winter; or digging a 10 to 20 foot well for water or hauling water every day for the family’s and animal’s needs; or shearing, making the yarn, weaving and sewing clothes.

No power tools, no electricity, no running water, no cell or telephones, no ‘modern medicine’, only the strength and ingenuity of the individual. I think we’ve gotten soft!