Atlanta commuter home after 15-hour ordeal
Michelle Acosta’s Tuesday began like all others, as she woke up at 4:30 a.m. in order to drive to her job on Roswell Road in Atlanta. But her 15-hour adventure began the moment she left work at 1:15 p.m.
“My job is literally less than two minutes from I-285, and it took me about 20 minutes just to get onto the interstate,” said Acosta.
Acosta, who resides in Newnan, says her normal drive is an hour. Her route is 25 miles on I-285 southbound, then she hops onto I-85 South for another 20-30 miles until she reaches exit 47— Newnan/Shenandoah. On Tuesday, though, when the snowstorm hit, Acosta says there was barely any movement, “maybe 30-40 feet every 20 minutes.”
“You never moved more than five miles per hour. It took me over two hours to move five miles. I had no water, no food, not even a piece of gum on me,” she said.
Throughout her journey, Acosta would roll her window down and pull off the accumulated snow to let it melt in her mouth to stay hydrated. She says she reached the I-20 exit around 7 p.m.
Acosta finally passed exit 2, Camp Creek, where she says she began to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” She knew from that location it would be two miles before hitting 85 South.
But “light” was just false hope, as Acosta motored between exit 2 and exit 1, Washington Road, around 10:30 p.m. and that’s where she stayed for four hours.
“I had the radio on, listening to the traffic reports. I knew everywhere was crazy, but as to when things would be cleared was a mystery,” said Acosta. “I was exhausted but I knew I couldn’t go to sleep. I had to stay vigilant in case there was movement, or any other scenarios occurred.”
At midnight, Acosta decided she wasn’t going anywhere.
“I didn’t see myself getting home until the afternoon,” she said.
Acosta had half a tank of gas, and since she didn’t know how much longer she would be stuck, she began conserving. She says her friend told her to shut off her car and only leave it on for 10 minutes of every hour. She also told Acosta to go outside to check her exhaust to make sure it was clear.
“Thankfully, I had a car charger for my phone so that was never an issue,” said Acosta. “Social media kept me entertained for some time. I went on whatever app I could to keep me awake.”
Acosta said she dozed off for 10 minutes shortly after 2 a.m. During that small time of rest, she heard the honk of a car horn, which startled her awake.
“I looked and saw a gentleman in a bright yellow jacket that was standing outside talking to the person two cars ahead of me. He then walked to the car in front of me, so I knew I was next. I was anxious, and hopeful,” she recalled.
As he began walking to Acosta, she saw the two cars ahead begin driving between two tractor-trailers. She says when she rolled down her window, the man asked if she was okay and if she could move her car. He told her to follow the car ahead of her and pass any cars she saw. At 2:40 a.m., according to Acosta, it was finally coming to an end.
“It looked like an automobile graveyard,” she said. “There were tractor-trailers and cars with no one inside everywhere I looked.
“I used to love mazes, as a kid,” she added. “But this was not one I ever imagined having to go through.”
The drive on 85 South was quiet, with not too many cars, she says.
“The few cars that I did see would pass me. I never went faster than 20 miles per hour,” Acosta said. The 15-hour nightmare ended when she pulled into her driveway at 4 a.m.
“The first words that came out of my mouth were, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’”