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Not so Hot-lanta

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Kentucky couple spends night in pharmacy as snow left them stuck in Atlanta

By Stephen Lega

Erica Ferguson of Lebanon and her boyfriend David Chavez of Brownsville got to see firsthand just how crippling a few inches of snow can be when they drove through Atlanta last week.
"It was seriously like 'The Walking Dead.' People were just panicking," Ferguson said. "It was awful."
Chavez agreed.
"If there were zombies walking around, it would have been exactly like that," he said. "I saw a grown man cry."
They had been to Jacksonville, Fla., where they'd visited Chavez's sister and his nephew who was born in November. On Jan. 28, they left Florida to return to Kentucky.
"We hit Atlanta right around 1 in the afternoon. It had just started to snow," Chavez said.
As traffic crept at a snail's pace, they listened to radio news reporting that government workers were being sent home early and schools were closing, which meant millions of people were getting in their vehicles and trying to get home.
The traffic problems were compounded because nothing had been done to treat the roads before the snow started falling, according to Chavez.
"There was black ice from one end of the interstate to the other," he said.
By 10:30 p.m., they had driven three miles and they were hungry. Ferguson said they hadn't eaten since breakfast.
So, they ditched their car near Exit 255 on I-75 to go get food, and they weren't alone.
"There were abandoned cars everywhere," Ferguson said.
In 19-degree weather, they walked to a CVS Pharmacy near the exit.
Shortly after they got to the store, they got some relatively good news.
"They came over the intercom and said people could stay all night," Ferguson said.
Sixty-three people slept in the pharmacy that night.
"One lady had a 4-month-old baby. She was four miles from home and couldn't get home," Ferguson said.
Chavez said he spoke with a couple from Michigan who could not understand how that little snow could be a problem. Chavez added that he's not sure Kentucky schools would have closed with as little snow as fell in Atlanta.
"If there was an inch of snow, then I am seven feet tall," he said.
According to Ferguson, the CVS employees checked on the customers spending the night, brought them water and generally tried to make people as comfortable as they could. Around the store, people made makeshift mattresses and pillows from paper towels, toilet paper and anything else they could find.
"We slept on bags of cotton balls and a Valentine's frog for a pillow," Ferguson said.
The news reported that the National Guard was called in to put salt and sand on the roads.
Chavez woke up around 5:30 a.m. Jan. 29, and he said he wasn't sure they were going to be able to leave that day, either. They could see the interstate from the CVS, and when the sun came out, they could tell that no vehicles were moving.
Around 10:30 a.m. they could tell that traffic was flowing slowly but consistently. A little while later, they made the walk back to their car.
"We ran across six lanes of traffic, so you know how slow it was going," Ferguson said.
Chavez said they finally made it home around 7 p.m. Jan. 29.
“It was the most grateful I’ve ever been to be back home,” he said.
Chavez added that he called CVS’s headquarters to tell them how much he appreciated what the employees had done for them and other people stranded at the store.
Ferguson is glad to be back in Lebanon, too, and she’s learned at least one valuable lesson from the experience.
"I'm never going to Florida again in January," she said.
 

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