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Snow brings out compassion for strangers

Ken Watts | 1/31/2014, 6:04 a.m.
South DeKalb commuters lucky enough to get past the gridlock on the interstates when the snow and ice storm hit ...
Pine Lake police officer Belinda Poarch helps a stranded Joyce Wardlaw navigate an icy path on the way to her house off Evans Mill Road in Lithonia. Poarch gave Wardlaw and her daughter Sharmah a ride after their car skidded off Salem Road. Photo by Ken Watts

South DeKalb commuters lucky enough to get past the gridlock on the interstates when the snow and ice storm hit Jan. 28 had to brave ice slick hills on the final leg of their journey home. Their stories and countless acts of kindness between strangers were typical throughout the metro area this week as metro Atlantans coped with the ice storm that dumped two inches of snow on the area and paralyzed the city for three days.

By nightfall Tuesday, abandoned cars, trucks and SUVs were piled up along Salem Road and Evans Mill Road in Lithonia after drivers found it impossible to make it up steep inclines.

With temperatures in the low teens Wednesday morning, driving remained treacherous and abandoned cars still littered the roadsides.

MARTA supervisor Pete Green tried to coax his GMC pickup truck up a hill on Salem between Panola Road and Evans Mill that was coated with a glass-like sheet of ice. Green nearly made it to the top before losing traction and sliding backward. After several attempts, he backed off and planned to try again later.

“I feel bad because some of my co-workers have been there since Tuesday morning,” he said.

Joyce Wardlaw and her daughter Sharmah Wardlaw came within a mile of their neighborhood off Evans Mill Wednesday morning before their Ford Focus slid nose first into a roadside ditch on Salem. They were not injured but Joyce was having diabetic complications.

“We were stuck on the downtown connector since Tuesday afternoon, couldn’t move,” Sharmah Wardlaw said. “We didn’t have any food or water for hours.”

After skidding off the road, Joyce Wardlaw was beginning to have diabetic complications. An AMR ambulance team, which was called to the scene, quickly responded and treated her symptoms.

But the Wardlaws were still faced with trekking up ice slick hills for the last couple of miles to their home.

Fate and timing were on their side as Pine lake police officer Belinda Poarch, who happened to be passing by, offered the stranded pair a ride.

“I saw them and just couldn’t drive on without helping,” Poarch said.

She drove them rest of the way home.

A resident wedged a tree branch under Poarch’s front tires to keep her car from skidding into the ambulance.

On Evans Mill between Salem and Browns Mill Road, car owners were returning for the vehicles they were forced abandon the night before.

Qu Atkinson and Madison Weiss were able to get back on the road after trying for hours.

“Some people in the neighborhood heard us and stuck scraps of wood and tree branches under our back tires,” Weiss said. “We got enough traction to make it out of the ditch.”