Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 30, 2014

Local trio part of epic Atlanta traffic jam

By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
sherry.vanarsdall@goshennews.com

---- — Three old friends hit the road for a golf trip in Florida when mother nature conspires to leave them stuck in traffic for more than 15 hours.

It’s not the plot to another “Hangover” movie. It’s what happened to Syracuse’s Bill Musser, Rich Dick and North Webster’s Bob Krevinghaus as they got stuck, along with thousands of others, in Atlanta, Ga. this week.

The trio left from Syracuse at 9 a.m. Tuesday for Marco Island in Florida.

The three friends were traveling in a van on I-75, north of Atlanta, around 10 p.m. when they noticed traffic slow down, Musser, a Syracuse town councilman said in a phone interview from Marco Island Thursday afternoon.

“We came to a dead stop 15 to 20 miles north of Atlanta and moved eight-tenths of a mile between 10 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. Wednesday,” Musser said.

The problem — 19 degree temperatures with snow, rain and ice as a winter storm walloped Georgia and Alabama.

Complications started when schools, businesses and government offices let out at the same time. As people waited in gridlock, snow accumulated, the roads froze, cars ran out of gas and tractor-trailers jackknifed, blocking equipment that could have treated the roads.

“Trucks couldn’t get up the hills and they had let schools and government workers out at the same time,” Musser said. “It (I-75) was a major skating rink. We later heard on the news there were more than 1,300 accidents and 1,000 abandoned cars.”

They had a half a tank of gas when traffic came to a halt.

“We stopped the engine and ran it for about 20 minutes off and on. We were afraid we might run out of gas before we started moving again,” Musser said. “It was cold. It was 19 degrees and we weren’t dressed for the cold. We wore tennis shoes with light pants and jackets. By the time we moved again, we had less than a quarter-of-a-tank of gas.”

The friends had their phones to play games and talk to family members to pass the time. They were able to stretch out in their van, but when you sit in a vehicle for 15 hours, it can get a little “scary,” Mussser said.

Musser said he slept about 20 minutes during the 15 hours while they were stranded.

“I don’t sleep while I’m traveling anyway. Rich and Bob slept off and on, more than I did,” he said. “When the sun came out, there were guardian angels bringing food, water and snacks.”

The first people the men saw were two teenage girls “who came up to us and handed out Hostess Ho Hos, bananas and bottled water. The people in Atlanta were amazing,” he said. “Some of them had to walk more than a quarter of a mile to get to those stranded. We saw 30 to 40 people and nobody wanted any money for it. Everybody was pretty helpful. The Atlanta people responded very nicely.”

Musser said he doesn’t blame the mayor of Atlanta for the massive gridlock.

“The blame belongs to Mother Nature,” he said. “We didn’t see any accidents. We were surrounded by semis. It’s kind of surreal and crazy, now that we’re here (in Florida).”

What did people do when they nature called?

“There was no where to go. You do what you have to do. We went around a truck and did our business, it’s easier for men,” Musser said. “We saw a couple cars with women who had put up towels or whatever to cover the windows.”

He joked about their time spent together while being cooped up.

“We got out a couple hours before we go on each other’s nerves,” Musser said laughing. “It’s funny now but not at the time. But — I did win the pool. We had a pool on the time we would get going again. I bet on 3 p.m. All of a sudden, we started moving. We went five miles at 6 mph, but we were moving. It’s an experience we’ll talk about for a long time.”