Columbus residents caught in Atlanta traffic nightmare - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Columbus residents caught in Atlanta traffic nightmare

Danah Carver (left) and Shamieka Thomas (right) Danah Carver (left) and Shamieka Thomas (right)
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Shameika Thomas and Danah Carver were trapped in a sea of cars moving at a snail's pace through the snow laden Interstate.  Thousands of drivers shared their fate, including a school bus they encountered on the road well after dark.  

"There were kids still at school, kids still trapped on the bus- we were actually beside one bus full of kids and that broke my heart because these kids haven't even been home from school," said Thomas. 

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said in a press conference, "By nine o'clock p.m., it was down to five thousand children who were either on buses or in schools."

 Our news partners at WSB-Atlanta interviewed a small child as she was being reunited with her family, "I was super scared, I was like, if I don't get home to my parents, I'm going to freak out." 

Thomas added, "They were frustrated and sad, like they just wanted to get home.   They looked hungry, honestly, and that's actually when people started to really step up.   You really saw people coming together.   People finding whatever they could in their cars- crackers, chips, water- giving them to the kids.   The milk man was out there, and he jeopardized his job.   He had a truck full of milk, and he didn't even care.   He said, 'hey, I've got a truck full of milk. If ya'll are thirsty, here's free milk.' and they were passing out milk!"

Anyone who's been in Atlanta during rush hour can tell you that traffic moves slowly even when every car on the road is operational. But add to that a series of accidents obstructing the lanes of travel, and cars running out of gas from spending too much time stuck on the road, and you have a real disaster on your hands.  

"Nobody could get to them because of all the traffic, it was so congested.   Horrible.   People were walking.   That's all you saw were people abandoning their cars.   People riding bikes.   Cars sliding.   People abandoning their cars really in the middle of the highway," said Carver. 

Thomas and Carver snapped this photo from their Atlanta traffic ground zero.

When they finally got to an exit where they could escape from the highway, the first thing they did was head to a gas station.  

Thomas said, "Some of the gas stations actually ran out of gas.   But my main concern was, I have seizures.   So it was actually kind of scary being out there in that type of situation.    When I get nervous, or stressed out, or over-worked, that's when I have my seizures.   So my main thing was just praying. And we didn't have a phone.   Our phones were dead.   Our laptop- we didn't have WiFi. We couldn't call anybody. I knew my mom and everyone was worried because they knew we were in Atlanta."

Seeing no way out of the city, they attempted to find a hotel that would let them stay the night.   Most of the places were booked solid, and according to the pair, one hospitality chain was trying to take advantage of the situation by charging more than the regular rate, and more than they could afford.  

"And that was just horrible to me, because I just felt like they were more concerned with making dollars off the whole situation instead of actually trying to help people," said Thomas.

After searching for hours, they finally found refuge at a homeless shelter.  

"Almost two o'clock in the morning, it was either that or in the car with no blanket, no anything- just us in our clothes," said Carver. 

Once at the shelter, a volunteer allowed Thomas to borrow her cell phone to call her mother and tell her she was alright.

The next morning they put four more hours on the road and returned to Columbus by mid-afternoon.

 Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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