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Rain creates the worst Atlanta traffic of all time, so far


Even a 50 percent chance of light rain means a 100 percent chance of bad traffic in Atlanta. A 100 percent chance of rain, as we had today, means a 500-year traffic catastrophe.

We’d had 40 days and 40 nights of drought – it was actually 42, but that doesn’t sound very biblical. What would we do when the rains returned?

You know. You were in it with me. You may even be the guy who flipped me off in South Fulton. I may’ve deserved it.

I set out from Peachtree City at 7 a.m. with more than the usual sense of impending doom. I headed bravely into the teeth of the gale. Well. The teeth of the sprinkle, which is all it was doing by 7. Fifty-five miles to Perimeter Center. Had to be there by 9. Surely two hours would do it.

Moron. It took me an hour just to travel 12 miles to I-85 in Fairburn.

I gave up even trying to get onto I-85 and instead decided I’d outfox other Southside commuters by taking U.S. 29 north through Union City, College Park, etc.

Brilliant. Every Southside commuter who wasn’t already trapped on I-85 tried the 29 Gambit. Damn.

WSB Radio comforted me by reporting that everyone in a car was equally doomed, regardless of location. Everywhere on the north side – Ga. 400 south, I-75 south in Cobb County, I-85 in Gwinnett, they were now measuring speeds in miles per decade.

Determined to profit by the experience, I took the opportunity to exercise some of my most special traffic words.

To the person ahead of me: Why in the [traffic word] are you leaving 50 [traffic word] feet between you and the next [very powerful traffic word] car when we’re going 4 miles an hour, you [traffic word ending in -head]? What if someone in the other lane slips in front of you? There. It happened. Happy now, [compound traffic word]?

Since I wasn’t moving anyway, I emailed Doug Turnbull, our good friend on the WSB Radio traffic team. Why, Doug, did traffic go so comprehensively to hell? Even as he was wrapping up the worst rush hour of all time (well, close), he replied:

“Atlanta traffic went to hell, because a) there was rain, b) it was significant and everyone got some, c) we haven’t had any in a record amount of time, and d) the 42-plus days of built up ‘gunk’ and leaves made the roads even more slippery,” said Doug. “Add in that a second surge of people waited until after daylight to leave home, that is extending the rush hour.”

WSB’s traffic guys know all, see all. I had waited till dawn to set out. Somehow Doug knew this. The implicit criticism was gentle but stung nonetheless.

So I finally made it up 29 into Atlanta, past the old Fire Station No. 7 and onto Peters Street. Two hours in. Traffic is horrible heading toward Spring Street. So horrible people are actually turning around in the middle of Peters. I mean three-point turns. In the middle of the street. When I finally get to Spring, I see why. They’ve closed Spring Street — Spring Street, in rush hour — to film a movie.

Seriously?

A freaking movie in the rain at rush hour? I pray that it goes direct to DVD and turn onto a side street. I finally make a left on Forsyth and go straight into another jam. I figure, I’m a reporter. I’ve never interviewed someone in the next car.

I motion for the woman next to me to roll down her window. Inexplicably she does. I hold up my AJC card and tell her I’m writing about the traffic.

“It looks like they’re shooting a movie over on Spring,” I say.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. They’re always doing that,” she shouts back.

“But now? In the middle of rush hour?” I say.

“They do it all the time,” she says. “It’s ridiculous.”

We establish that her name is Consuela, but the light changes before I get her last name. Some reporter. No wonder I’m an editor.

It’s now 9:30 a.m. I’ve totally blown my meeting at Perimeter and decide that, even if I try, it’ll take another hour to get there. Then I’ll have to leave immediately and go to my next meeting in Emory Village at 11:30.

I give up. So what time did I get to Dunwoody? Twenty minutes after never! Instead, I pulled off at a coffeehouse and wrote this.

Fortunately, we won’t have to go through that again.

Until Wednesday, Doug Turnbull reminded me:

“The only thing that we had going in our favor this AM is that the heaviest rain came in overnight. That may not be the case Wednesday, when there is a high chance of rain all day.”


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