Hundreds of Snow-Stranded Atlanta Students Finally Head Home

By Terrell Johnson
Published: January 29, 2014

AP Photo/Branden Camp

A Dekalb County School bus sits abandoned near Interstate 285 early Wednesday in Dunwoody, Ga. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the National Guard was sending military Humvees onto Atlanta's snarled freeway system in an attempt to move stranded school buses and get food and water to people.

UPDATE 5:43 PM: The hundreds of Atlanta students who had to spend the night in their schools Tuesday thanks to the dumping of snow yesterday afternoon have now been reunited with their parents and taken home.

Some 10,000 students had been stuck in dozens of Atlanta-area schools at one point Tuesday night, a number that had dropped to roughly 2,000 by the next morning. By Wednesday afternoon, few students were still waiting for rides home, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Governor Nathan Deal's office released this statement this afternoon:

"Metro Atlanta's children are home safe and sound, and I would like to thank all of the dedicated school officials, Guardsmen and law enforcement who worked through the night to reunite worried families," Deal said.

"Yesterday, I ordered the Guard to prioritize stranded school buses full of students. With Humvees, they were able to get the buses moving and deliver food and water to the students. Last night, we had at least 95 immobile buses. We had cleared them all by this morning, and that was a big task. Our next task was getting students home from school, and now we have achieved that.

"As I said this morning, my goal for the day was to get all stranded motorists moving or to a secure location by the end of the day. This afternoon, I joined law enforcement officials on an aerial inspection of our roadways, and we've seen tremendous progress with traffic moving steadily throughout the region.

"Even with this progress, work still remains. I encourage people in areas where snow and ice remain to stay off the roads, which state officials are continuing to treat. I have told state employees to not report to their offices tomorrow in an effort to limit traffic. I encourage others to do the same. With rising temperatures, we hope to return to normalcy tomorrow."

More than 100 children and 35 teachers and staff members had to spend the night in E. Rivers Elementary School in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. One father walked six miles to spend the night with his 5-year-old daughter there, where the students watched movies and ate pizza from the school's cafeteria.

A group of students from Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs slept on their school bus, which had been stranded on Interstate 285 before they were taken to a nearby grocery store, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We’re upset because the school didn’t reach out to us to know what was going on,” said Anneqah Ferguson, the mother of an 11th-grade student. “We can’t get to them. We’re iced in. We don’t really know what the next steps are.”

Most of the several hundred students who remained stranded were in nine City of Atlanta public schools, largely across the north and western parts of the city, according to Kimberly Willis Green, a spokesperson for the city's school system.

Roughly 1,400 students were stranded Tuesday in the Marietta City Schools outside Atlanta, the AJC reported. By Wednesday morning, about 480 students remained as parents walked through the snow and ice to pick up their children.

In Cherokee County schools north of Atlanta, more than 400 students spent the night at 15 different schools across the county.

Here's the situation many school buses faced last night, captured in this Instagram video:

Parents of children at some schools resorted to walking to pick up their children themselves Tuesday afternoon, declining to wait for long-delayed school buses to make their routes home. Others met their children's buses mid-route, as they saw cars spun out on either side of the road.

The situation was a shock to many – one WSB-TV anchor called the situation "bizarre" – because the city's schools and government offices chose not to close early in advance of the storm.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed acknowledged the traffic travails in a press conference Wednesday morning:

"Government, schools and business[es] closing at the same time, and releasing everybody out into the city was a mistake that we all were a part of," Reid said yesterday.

For a full list of school closings Wednesday in the Atlanta area, click here.

MORE: Photos from Winter Storm Leon

Snow covers the grounds at Talladega Superspeedway Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

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