Fun with friends
Probably like everyone else in Rome, as soon as the snow started sticking, we all went out to play in the snow and throw snowballs. My son, Ted, even had his best friend spend the night to enjoy the snow.
We went to bed late because of all the excitement, and because we had lost electricity, but were woken up around 1 a.m. because of either thundering, or the fact that the snow had accumulated too much on the roof of our four-story dorm and was landing with a crash outside our windows.
In the morning, the boys wanted to go out and play, but the snow was deep and, if I remember correctly, had a sheet of ice over the top of it. No fun there.
But, there was still fun to be had. We had good friends who were student workers at Berry, and our place became the gathering and sleeping place. We had an advantage over most people. We lived in a dorm where the third floor didn’t have students that semester. We went upstairs and brought down 11 mattresses and put them side-by-side in our long living room. Friends brought their blankets and pillows, and we had several games, and we just settled in. We had more than enough food to eat because my freezer was filled and thawing.
My sons remember this time with great fondness because at 7 and 9 years old, they were allowed to stay up all night, playing the board game RISK around candlelights.
On Sunday morning, the roads had been plowed enough and we had a 4-wheel drive car, so we all piled in and drove to Waffle House for a nice warm wonderful breakfast.
Cold nights, warm hearts
The National Weather Bureau had not only predicted heavy snow on Friday, March 12, 1993, but also alerted our radio stations, WRGA and Q102 that it was going to be huge. It was hard to believe. Even though accurate weather reports were part of our daily routine, we were skeptical. A snow of such magnitude could paralyze our town for days, if not longer. This is the South, for heaven’s sake. Blizzards belonged to the eastern seaboard of the Northwest. Canada, Minot, Chicago or Fargo. Not Rome, Ga.
How do we prepare for that?
Ready or not, a winter storm with the potential of depositing upward of 12 to 18 inches of snow was whipping its war toward us. With repeated calls to the weather bureau in Birmingham, our news reporters were hearing the same matter of fact prediction. So sure their models were correct, the bureau could even give us the exact time it would begin to snow, which was unusual in those days. We were told the first flakes would arrive at 3 p.m. in the afternoon.
Since the 1950s, WRGA had been the radio station designated by the emergency broadcast system where listeners were told to tune in case of emergencies; we then were required to alert other stations in the area. As owners and operators of the stations at that time, it was a somber responsibility, and regardless of our insider laughs about how the weatherman never got it right, we were under the obligation to act accordingly — and we took it seriously.
The possibility of an actual blizzard, real or not, rated our full attention.
There were other considerations. The last thing a radio station wants to be is “of the air.” Dead air, as we called it, was not an option.
We had backup generators to depend upon and arranged for staff with the least family obligations to stay overnight in the station for their air shifts, reserving substitutes in case someone couldn’t make it in to the downtown Rome studios.
Welborn Chevrolet (now Riverside) kindly loaned a four-wheel drive vehicle to us, and Mike and I were confident about getting from our home to Sixth Avenue — normally a mere three to five minute ride from our driveway.
At 3 p.m., right on cue, the first beautiful flakes began to fall. The temperature was perfect, and snow met a receiving ground. It had begun, just as predicted.
At our house, power was gone by eleven o’clock that night. During the early hours of Saturday, the 14th, I heard the first alarming sounds. Swoosh! Then, Crack! It was the sound of crashing trees unable to bear the burden of snow and wind, and they were falling all around us. Looking out, we were mesmerized by an eerie greenish color that reflected from clouds to ground ... what is that?! We later learned blown transformers and downed power lines caused the alien-like glow.
When daylight came, the view was shocking. From the crest on which our house stands, we could look down to see most of the neighborhood had tall pines and large oak trees crushed upon and into their roofs. Ten-inch-thick-branches blocked doorways, collapsed porches, littering the ground and streets like matchsticks. Trees were tangled and stacked like split rail fences blocking roads. We knew that as rugged as the four-wheel terrain vehicle may be in the thick of things, it couldn’t drive over, or through, pine trees. No one was going anywhere — at least not in our neighborhood.
Although there was power outage, we were fortunate to have telephone service (for three days, anyway) and gas service. That meant that two fireplaces and a gas grill would serve us for warmth and to heat soup or coffee. We kept in contact to the radio stations and could supervise and problem solve, if necessary. Calls were pouring in. Any thoughts of a few fun snow days had quickly dissolved, and sobering reality was setting in.
This was a true blizzard, and it was bigger and more widespread than we had ever imagined it would be. Relief could come with restored power, but the multitude of fallen trees stymied Georgia Power, and they were going to need a lot more help.
When night fell, it was strangely quiet. With the cushioning depths of the snow and tall drifts and the absence of people and traffic, there was no sound at all. Hundreds, perhaps a thousand, homes were cold and without power, and people within were coping; but, outside there was only silence.
From our house we couldn’t see any lights at all, save a flicker or two from someone’s candle or flashlight. The object was to stay warm and make the best of it. I would claim a small fireplace lighted with gas longs in one room, and Mike took another. With our flashlights, piled on blankets, the phone and radios, we settled in.
We listened to the announcer on the radio that night as he tried to follow his nightly routine, but we knew his timing and demeanor was off track. On the air, he seemed controlled and pleasant enough, but during long breaks for news and updates, he was frantically trying to answer all the calls lighting up the phones.
It was obvious people weren’t interested in the latest Garth Brooks release.
They wanted to know if mama was all right in Texas Valley, or did anyone know if there was power on Mount Alto? My cat is missing. My child is afraid. Will pharmacies be open tomorrow? It was then we made the decision to discontinue regular programming and stop any music or commercials. It was more important to air the questions and hear the comments of people who needed to connect. To give them information about what was happening around them. People were out there in the darkness, huddled with their radio, just like we were. Listeners began calling in and to send messages to family members, friends and neighbors. We’re all right.
They calmly talked and responded to messages through the announcer. Gentleness and kindness settled in. They called in to inquire about the status of neighborhoods, friends and family asking if anyone listening knew of the conditions. Strangers connected with strangers to learn how to make coffee on a gas grill; they called to dispel rumors, to ask for help and offer it. People talked, and we all listened. If a special need arose, someone was listening with a solution. They talked about their children, their pets — even how to care for a boa constrictor. They talked about their own living conditions, sharing thoughts, strength and resourcefulness — even a laugh or two. If anything, it was cathartic.
It took two days before Mike and I made our way through the rough-cut path through tangled trees and strewn branches to get to downtown Rome.
Everyone was getting tired. Power was still unavailable in many areas, and there was no idea when it would be returning. Even 911 was off-line for a time. Being on the air, we could help by broadcasting directions to emergency vehicles and report schedules needed for medical personnel.
We stayed in close touch with the utility companies and city and county authorities so that important information could be delivered quickly and accurately.
Georgia Power workmen, the fire and police department worked tirelessly. Romans with heavy-duty trucks volunteered for any and every need asked of them. Restaurants found ways to serve hot meals to work crews. Churches assembled makeshift kitchens and anonymous guys with trucks and chainsaws volunteered to remove trees from driveways, roadways and houses. People bought new space heaters to give to those without heat, and the list of food deeds was long.
As the town thawed out, the national news proclaimed Rome, Ga. To have been “ground zero” for that weather phenomenon we simply called The Blizzard.
In a week, power was restored at our home. I think we were the last on the list.
Today, remains from the blizzard have mostly faded, but you can still catch traces of its path if you look hard enough. When I look at the crooked Chinese Cherry tree at a side fence near my yard, I am reminded — how deep the snow, how cold the night and how warm-hearted were the southerners who braved it.
Berry College campus camping
I was a senior at Berry (and a sports intern at the Rome News-Tribune) when the storm hit. We knew snow forecast for that weekend, but none of us expected a blizzard. Friday night, as the snow was starting, we went out to eat in Rome and then stopped by a local grocery store to pick up supplies for s’mores. At the time, it never occurred to us that we wouldn’t have the power to make them. The snow was still falling when we got back to campus, big wet flakes that were perfect for snowballs. At that point, it wasn’t really that cold, so a bunch of us went outside and had a huge snowball fight (one friend was even throwing buckets of water on people). As the night wore on and the snow continued to fall, the temperature dropped and the wind really began to howl. Watching the trees bend, we realized for the first time that the power might go off. We turned up the heat in our townhouse and moved our cars out from under the swaying pines. Not too long after (probably between 11 p.m. and midnight), the power went off. In an effort to preserve heat (and in the spirit of adventure), several of us moved into the bedroom on the south end of our three-bedroom townhouse (the wind was blowing from the north, so this gave us a little protection). Huddling in the darkness, we watched a pine tree outside the window bend more and more until finally it snapped – falling between two cars. None of us had ever experienced thunder snow. By the time we awoke, the air was frigidly cold and the campus was absolutely buried under more than a foot of snow.
Our power wound up being off for two days, though the folks on Berry’s mountain campus were in the dark for much longer.
Looking back on it, one of my biggest memories of that weekend is how people came together to help each other, on campus and throughout Rome. Obviously, many of our faculty and staff were trapped off campus, so students had to step up in areas such as food service to help make sure those of us on campus had something to eat. The resident assistants also stepped up, as I recall, making sure to check in with us to be sure we were okay. According to the campus newspaper, some guys actually broke into the dining hall to get it up and running. That evening, we stood in a line that stretched the full length of the student center to get whatever food they were serving — and we were GLAD to eat it! Then it was back to our townhouse to hunker down for the night.
When the power finally came back on in our neck of the woods, we immediately hit the road to Waffle House. I’ll never forget getting out on Martha Berry Highway and seeing that only one side of the four-lane had been cleared. It was like the other two lanes didn’t exist.
Ostriches in the snow
By the beginning of ’93 we were deep into the ostrich business. When the storm hit, the young ones were safe in their part of the barn with a heater burning, but where were the adults? We thought they would be in the big barn for shelter. They were not. We found them in the far corner of the pasture, as far from the barn as they could get. Brain power is not their long suit. We knew we had to get them to the barn. We tried to coax them with the feed bucket. That didn’t work so one by one we got behind each ostrich and pushed and shoved toward the barn. They didn’t know how to walk in the snow. We would stumble and fall in the snow and get up and push again. It seemed like we went one step forward and two steps back. By noon, we were cold and exhausted but all those big, stubborn, “money making” birds were safe in the barn.
London trip trumped by Mother Nature
On the evening of March 12, 1993, our bedtime was interrupted by a loud knock on our London hotel room door. When my husband, Bill, and I opened it, we found our daughter-in-law standing in the hallway, saying, “Did you hear what Peter Jennings just said on the news? (The London television station had broadcast Jennings’ 6 p.m. news live at 11 p.m.) A monster storm will be heading up the Eastern seaboard tomorrow, all the way from Miami to Nova Scotia! We have to fly back to Atlanta!”
At daybreak on Monday, Sandra and Billy (daughter-in-law and son) were on their way to Armuchee, normally a 1½ hour trip that turned into an eight hour, fear and anxiety-filled trip made on a one-lane rutted I-75, and numerous back roads. The rest of us left later that morning and made the trip from Atlanta to Rome in a little under six hours. All of us checked in with each other and knew that we’d gotten home safely under harrowing circumstances.
When Sandra and Billy finally arrived home, they found that neighbors in Armuchee, knowing the bleak situation with their children and grandparents, had taken food, water, firewood, a Coleman stove and a generator to them.
Up to that point, they’d had only very cold canned food. Without those good neighbors and Susan (Sandra’s sister), who knows what might have happened.
Fortunately, when we arrived home, we found that we had power, heat and water.
In the week to come, Bill’s brother, David, and his wife Carol, came to stay with us after they were finally able to get out of their frozen home and travel Horseleg Creek Road. Also, our children and grandchildren came to our house to get warm, have hot food, and take showers.
The disappointing part for our children was that nobody wanted to hear about their highly anticipated and exciting trip to London. It had been unequivocally and permanently upstaged by Mother Nature!
Betty Zane Morris
Rescued by Cave Spring fireman
This is a very late thank you to the Cave Spring Fire Department. It was a Friday afternoon, we went to my daughter’s in Cave Spring to help with a sick baby and her husband, who is a paraplegic, and had just come from Shepherd Spinal Center after having some surgery.
It truly thundered and lightninged that night like a summer storm. We woke up to a world of white.
My 5-year-old grandson was so excited, but when his mother took him outside he was almost buried.
We were OK until we lost power, no lights, no heat, but worst of all no water. By Sunday, the phone was gone and we had no contact with the outside world. We had a fireplace for some heat, but little else. We would have tried to walk down, but we could not leave my son-in-law.
Finally I realized I had a large bulky cell phone in my car that I seldom used. I called a friend to beg for help; she had the idea to call the fire department. On Thursday morning I looked out to see what looked like an angel in yellow coming up the drive. It was a fireman in his raincoat.
They had to get the neighbors to bring chainsaws to cut the trees on the driveway to get the emergency vehicle up to get my son-in-law. We rode down in a large sled and they brought us to my house where it was warm and we had TV.
Thank you, fireman. Without you I think we might have died up there.
‘Nobody in, nobody out
I was attending Shorter College at the time and had taken a science field trip to Ossabaw Island off the coast of Savannah with Dr. Craig Alee’s science class the week prior to the blizzard.
Myself and a busload of college students returned to Shorter College, literally sunburned from camping on the sunny island.
The bus that carried us back to the college barely made it up Shorter Hill due to the snow and slick conditions. The group of students got off the bus at the top of the hill and literally grabbed their gear and scrabbled in all different directions to get rides home, some to get inside the dorms, etc.
My father picked up myself and another student in a 4x4 Toyota truck and we barely made it from Shorter College to our Radio Springs Road home (about four miles), where we were snowed in for four days. Nobody in, nobody out.
Devastated but blessed
On March 8, I left my husband, two nurses, and my comatose son, Reyn, and I flew to New York to celebrate our younger son Tom’s March 14 birthday. During the process of preparing the celebration, I kept an eye on the foul weather reports for Rome.
I changed Tom’s party to March 12, and my return flight to the 13th. However, during the next morning’s conversation, I learned of the serious conditions. With 18 inches of snow, three trees on our house, frigid temperatures, and no electricity, my husband, Hugh, persevered. He cooked food over the gas logs until help managed to open the garage door, which allowed him to use the gas grill.
Upon arriving in Atlanta, two close friends graciously, and bravely, met me at the airport.
The drive home was bad enough, but when we approached our driveway, I was in a state of shock. It looked like General Sherman had paid another visit. Not only were trees on the house, our drive was blocked by several. In spite of the unbelievable circumstances, I felt blessed to be home and into the arms of my dear husband and to see how well he, Reyn, and his nurses had prevailed and provided during this unforgettable snowstorm.
Doggy dreams come true
At the time of the blizzard, my family and I lived in Twickenham. We had a 130-pound Labrador retriever name Tejas. Normally Tejas was kept in the back yard but with the 25 inches of snow we had, he was able to just hop over the fence.
Throughout the neighborhood, in an effort to keep food from spoiling due to the electrical outage, people were putting food out in the snow. One day while I was outside cooking on my gas grill, here came the most excited Lab you have ever seen. He had found a whole ham that someone had put out in the snow. I have never seen a dog’s tail wag as fast as his did that day.
My wife also took advantage of the deep snow by hiking up the hill and skiing back down to our house. First and only opportunity to ski the Rome hills.
Cold enough for tank tops
I had no sooner arrived there (Texas), when I received an urgent call from home. No power/heat. What to do?
My wife’s sister lives nearby, and has a floor furnace for heat. However, 2 to 3 feet of snow made it impossible to drive, and difficult to walk. Then I remembered my foul-weather stuff, still packed for travel, in the back bedroom.
I told them to use my heavy clothing to walk to warmth. They did.
I really suffered through that blizzard. I was on Matagorda Beach on the warm waters of the Gulf. Man, it was so cold there, that I had to put on my tank top and flip-flops, just to stay warm on the beach.
Frozen in time
Someone wrote that the fury and beauty of the Blizzard of ’93 exceeded anything seen by southerners in this century. Now, I cannot speak for all southerners of course, but I can speak for myself, and I have seen worse.
In 1916, I along with my mother, father and four brothers lived in a small rural country place known as Tyus located about 12 miles south of Carrollton.
I really don’t remember what month the storm hit as I was only four years old, but I do remember that it was not a nice, soft, snow storm, but a hard-as-a-rock ice storm. Everything was iced over.
I remember dad saying, as he picked a path from the house to the barn, that the ice was at least four inches thick. Nevertheless, the cows had to be milked and the stock fed.
Everything wasn’t all bad though; I can remember the wood stove in the kitchen that my mother kept hot from morning until night, it seemed. Of course, I could never forget the great smell of hot biscuits, country ham and red eye gravy.
My twin brother and I are the youngest and the only ones left of that wonderful, long family of 1916. I thank God every day for his many blessings and pray for those who are less fortunate.
In regard to the Blizzard of ’93, I will say it was pretty rough at 4 Thornwood Drive where I now reside with my daughter and son-in-law, Carolyn and Jerry Richardson. For a few days, we had no water light and very little heat.
After two days of this and without my knowledge, my kind and thoughtful son-in-law made arrangements for me to stay with my grandson and his family who were fortunate enough by this time to have all the comforts of home.
They gave me such a warm welcome and were so nice to me. How good it felt to be really warm again.
Thanks Jeff and Kim Richardson and a double thanks to my nice son-in-law, Jerry Richardson, who tried so hard to make everyone as comfortable as possible under very trying conditions.
I would also like to thank Georgia Power for the long, hard hours they put in. Also, Doug Walker and friends who kept in touch with the outside world, and helped so many in their time of need.
Family, food and comfort
As nighttime set in the snow was coming down heavily, lightning lit up the night sky with eerie blue flashes that made the whole sky blue with a heavy white downpour of snow.
The next morning, we looked out the window of 7 Robinson Avenue in West Rome and viewed a Winter Wonderland.
Everything outside was white and foggy and cold. No cars or people were moving around outside except, occasionally my wife and I would see neighbors going out to observe the unfamiliar surroundings. The snow as we found out later, after going out, was measured to be 18 inches deep and deeper in the drifts. We had no heat from the air conditioning system or power to light up the house or to cook meals. Trees in the back were all leaning over from the weight of the snow.
The previous day, due to the impending storm warnings, we had brought my mom, who lived in the Celanese/Riverside community to stay with us for a while until the weather cleared up. This was a mistake, because her home had gas floor furnaces and heat.
For the next few days, we were without power, so we cooked from an outside gas grill that we brought inside to give a little heat and cook meals. My brother-in-law, Mahlon Busby, who lived about a mile from us down Burnett Ferry Road, had a big-wheeled farm tractor that he used to bring us a kerosene heater for some warmth until power was restored. On the third day after the storm, power was restored to our residence and we were comfortable again and could enjoy the winter scenery outside.
After power was restored, several of our kids came over to check on us and spend some time to just get out and observe the unfamiliar surroundings that had come to us. Our daughter, who lived north of Rome off Old Dalton Road and was stranded at the hospital where she worked, had us go get her boys and bring them home with us for some nourishment and comfort.
Our daughter-in-law, who lived in Cedartown and was stranded at her home and whose water pipes had burst, came with her sons for a night just to have some company and get a bath, get warm and clean up.
Even with the hardship of the winter storm, we had a good family experience and something we will always remember.
Bob and Barbara Anglea
Sharing warmth with friends
I will never forget that Friday evening the snow began to fall and the wind to howl. We had stocked up on all the necessities ... batteries, food, candles, etc. We were ready for a storm but no more prepared for this storm than anyone else was in Rome and Floyd County.
We lived on Mitchell Circle in the Etowah area and were surrounded by towering pine trees. During the night, we could hear limbs, and debris pounding the roof and at one point heard a loud crashing sound … a huge pine tree had fallen between our home and neighbor’s home. A little while later, a very large limb punctured our roof and landed in an upstairs bedroom. I began to cry and my husband to pray.
Before the power and phones went out, my husband Gary had contacted our friends Steve and LaDonna Turrentine. They informed us that they had a limited supply of wood for their fireplace. Knowing they had a baby to care for, on Saturday Gary decided that he would rescue them and bring them to our home. We did have a wood-burning stove in our basement and a plentiful supply of wood.
Afraid to stay at home by myself, I bundled up, slipped on my snow shoes and went along. After about three intense hours, all five of us safely returned to our home. Gary had made the right decision to go for them, since they had reached the point of breaking up furniture to burn in their fireplace.
For several days we camped out in our basement where we were warm and safe. I prepared meals and we ate supper by candlelight. Looking back, there are so many fond and cherished memories of sharing our home with Steve, LaDonna and little Rachael while we weathered the Blizzard of 1993.
Like everyone else, we were without power and for us that was a whole week. Luckily, we had a wood-burning stove and plenty of firewood; staying warm was no problem. I actually cooked on this stove as well. Since our neighbors were in the same plight as we were, and we had plenty of firewood we were able to share and help them out, too.
Hot water and a minivan fridge
Friday, March 12, I was working second shift at Golden Gallon (now Cowboys) at Five Points, when it started snowing. By the time my shift ended at midnight, driving to West Rome was fairly treacherous. Slipping and sliding was the norm.
I got home and went to bed, snow still falling, and it was still fun, and beautiful. Lying in bed I heard the pine trees behind our duplex breaking, sounded almost like rifle shots. The power went out about 2 a.m., and eventually I fell asleep.
The next morning, Saturday, March 13, it was apparent that something WAY out of the ordinary had happened in Rome. The snow was above the bumper of my minivan, and had drifted into the carport. The power wasn’t back on, and it was cold in the house. The heat was gas, but it needed a fan, and a striker, both electric to run. We had phone and hot water, courtesy of a gas water heater.
We moved the perishable food to the back of the minivan, since it was cold outside, and we weren’t going anywhere, anyway. The only heat we had was hot water from the shower.
To eat, we used the hot water in the sink to get cans of soup, or ramen noodles warmed up as much as possible, and made do. It was a little tough to explain to a 3–and-a-half-year-old why we were out of milk, though, but she survived.
We kept that up for 6 days. We went to bed at sunset, and got up shortly after dawn, using the sun to keep the house warm.
U-turn at the Gold Dome
Field trip. Destination: the Georgia Capitol. Finally March 12, 1993, arrived. Even though a teacher, I was as excited as my seventh grade class of wonder kids.
We departed as early as we could from Model Middle School. Perhaps what we looked forward to most was partaking in the “cuisine” of the South, none other than the Varsity.
“There it is!” Seventh-grader Jessica Reeves was impressed by the dome glistening in the sun. Our driver maneuvered the big yellow bus into a parallel parking spot overlooking manicured lawn and looming statues. As we readied to disembark, the radio on board crackled. Our driver listened intently on her receiver. The orders? Return to Model’s campus immediately — snowstorm bearing down on Floyd County.
We didn’t tour the hallowed halls that day, but a field trip is always a field trip.
Sweetest sound: Heat kicking on
We turned all the lights off and opened the living room drapes, and she and I sat and watched the storm. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
All the roads were in bad shape with between 15-18 inches of snow and so many trees down. Someone said the Horseleg area looked like a battle zone. Of course, the TV was off and we would have been cut off from all news, but the little radio I had bought Bobby so he could listen to the Braves games while he was out on the deck in the summer would also operate on batteries, and I had four batteries left from Christmas.
Late that afternoon I heard a beautiful sound — our heating unit coming back on. We were so thankful for the heat, the lights were just an added bonus.
Georgia Power had crews in here from all over to help, from Indiana, South Carolina, Florida, etc. They are calling it the Storm of the Century, and I know it has definitely been the storm of my lifetime. I hope I never see another one like it, but I learned the hard way, and I do now have an emergency supply list.
Myra Payne Oakes