The Atlanta Snowpocalypse as Seen from Space

By Tom Yulsman | January 30, 2014 8:19 pm
Atlanta snowpocalypse Aqua

The snow cover over the Atlanta metro area and the surrounding region as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Thursday, Jan. 30. (Source: NASA)

It was inevitable, I guess, that the breakdown experienced by Atlanta during the recent Arctic outbreak and snowstorm would come to be known as the “Snowpocalypse.”

The term has been used before, of course. But with folks stranded on the freeway for 9 or more hours, kids having to be rescued by National Guard Humvees from ice-bound school buses, and basically the entire metro area coming to a screeching standstill, I’m thinking the term really fits this time.

And yes, photos of those stranded cars on the road really do look like the publicity poster from The Walking Dead.

From space, it almost looks like Atlanta was singled out in some way. I’m not saying I believe that. Of course I don’t. But check out the image above, captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite today. Atlanta sits near the middle of an oval-shaped region covered in snow, with surrounding areas snow-free. The snow cover does pick up again a little to the northeast, out of the frame. But still…

As for those comparisons to The Walking Dead, the AMC television series about the zombie apocalypse set in northern Georgia, much has been written about that in the last day or so. But I think this snippet from a piece by Ian Bogost in The Atlantic is particularly noteworthy, in a creepy kind of way:

So, Atlanta’s post-snowstorm chaos didn’t resemble or recall the pop cultural zombie apocalypse so much as The Walking Dead premediated Atlanta’s infrastructural breakdown. Zombies might make for better television than snow and ice, but both phenomena terrify us because of their total unconcern for our human welfare, their willingness to overtake the grand machinery of our modern society for no reason whatsoever, not even because they hate us. In short, we practiced for the real “snowpocalypse” by means of the fictional zombie apocalypse. Even if we Atlantans may never admit it, we may even have hoped for such an event in order that our practice watching, reading, and playing The Walking Dead might have proven a useful investment, something more than mere apocalypse tourism.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Extreme Weather, select, Top Posts, Weather
  • Loren Eaton

    What’s the old saying, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I live is Raleigh, NC (not too far away). In 2005, I think, Raleigh got 1 inch of snow between 12-1 pm. Employers sent workers home, Wake County School District told parents to come and get the kids at 2 pm. I got to the school at 2:30, and I was the first one into the lot. The twenty minute trip took an hour and a half.
    The end result was absolute chaos that made the national news; looking a lot like Atlanta the other day. Everyone on the road at the same time, salt trucks and plows not able to treat the roads. People stranded and kids spending the night at school.

  • Emilia Lanier

    Some alternate names for the chaos in Atlanta: Winter Blunderland or the locally popular ClusterFlake 2014. And a 9 hour stay in the car would’ve been a short one. 18-24 hour stays were more common.

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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