As weather reports show heavy snow may be likely in metro Atlanta over the weekend, this month we look back to a heavy snow storm that hit Georgia 40 years ago.
It became known as Snow Jam ’82, and much like 2014’s more recent Snowmageddon, it was marked by heavy traffic jams and abandoned cars.
Before we get into the details of this month’s Flashback, let’s take you back to the early 1980s.
The Time: The year was 1982. Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, George Busbee was governor of Georgia and a gallon of gas cost $1.22.
Earlier in January of 1982, AT&T agreed to break up, forming regional phone services that would later become known as the Baby Bells. Television was dominated by night time soap operas like Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest, and by year’s end the top 3 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles were “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, and “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.
Oh, and there were no cell phones. More on that later.
Snow Jam 1982: The snow storm started on Jan. 12 1982 and metro Atlanta got between four and six inches of snow, which native Atlantans know is a significant amount of snowfall for an area accustomed to zero to two inches of snow. The snowfall lasted for a record three days and temperatures were below zero.
Much like 2014’s snow storm, the city of Atlanta was not prepared and businesses began releasing workers onto the roads at about the same time. The combination of traffic congestion and ice on the roadways led to long commutes, immovable traffic, and commuters eventually just giving up and abandoning their cars on the Interstate.
News stories in the days following would report that the cars on the roadways provided a field day for thieves who saw the cars — and the items inside them as easy targets.
In Atlanta’s Northern suburbs, local media outlets reported homes were without heat for up to 15 hours, with hundreds of homes and businesses also being without water. Local fire and police departments were busy with calls from stranded motorists and fire stations served as refuges for people trying to get home or call loved ones. Remember, this was a time before cell phones, so if you were stranded, contacting family members required finding a phone at a business or government building.
Those who were already home, would have much fonder memories of snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels, and snow day romance. There were some reports of snow day mischief, such as children figuring out how to turn on fire hydrants so that water would freeze as it hit the air, but no serious damage or issues for fire safety were reported.
There were also reports of the usual issues in local media at the time including burst pipes and trash service delays. Apartment complexes in metro Atlanta were hit particularly hard by the storm, reporting burst pipes, loss of electricity, and loss of water for several days.
For those under age 50 her were children at the time or those under 40 who weren’t alive at the time, YouTube has preserved some of the television news reports from Snow Jam ’82 for posterity. You can re-live or experience for the first time the excitement and chaos of that snow storm below.
The Memories: Georgia residents will occasionally share their memories of Snow Jam ’82 on social media, particularly when snow is in the forecast, and we’ve included some of those below as well.
Another great resource for information and memories of Snow Jam ’82, is the SnowJam82.com website, created by a metro Atlanta resident who lived through it and has stories to tell.