Gridlock Guy: Extra gratitude for essential workers this frigid Christmas

The bitter polar plunge over the Christmas weekend sent that tingle, for better or worse, through Metro Atlanta residents. Just the threat of snow or any ice patch sends out this wintry mix of excitement, anticipation - and anxiety.

As Old Man Winter exhaled into the jet stream, Atlantans prepared for Christmas with this frigid prospect hanging in the air. But as these festive plans commenced, local governments readied their road crews for Christmas-weekend deployments.

As children nestled in their warm beds with dreams of sugar plum fairies (or iPads) dancing through their heads, workers were brining the roads to thwart the freeze. GDOT said they deployed some from South Georgia to Metro Atlanta to help with the effort, just in case this winter brush got out of hand.

So there they sat in cold seats or outside in the elements and kept our major streets from north of a Columbus-Augusta line and on a line along I-75 from Macon to Tennessee clear. They kept our roads open so we could attend candlelight services and cozy dinners. Their gifts still sat wrapped under the tree, until they could finish the Lord’s work.

In some of the most extreme cold that Atlanta has seen in years, during the year’s biggest holiday, and at a time when the average person would want nothing more than to be in their warm abode - dozens, if not hundreds, pounded the pavement and staffed up to prepare for the worst case.

Indoors, various counties and cities and the Peach State itself staffed their emergency management centers. This was a state of emergency, after all. Those extra administrators and dispatchers and warming center-operators were also away from home on Christmas.

Outside of this state of emergency, first responders and hospitals always remain staffed for the holidays - for everyday emergencies. Their jobs get harder when slick roads lead to wrecks and injuries or when cars get stuck and need lifts. They miss their holiday to help us and heal us.

We also must not forget the 911 dispatchers nationwide. E911 centers, of course, are also open 24/7 and they get some of the worst calls during holidays, when alcohol and family gatherings lead to more drunk driving crashes and domestic disputes. Their centers flood with calls during winter weather events. Dispatchers hug the phones while we hug our pillows.

Every piece of live media we consume over these holidays has at least one person on duty behind it. A board operator is on duty at all times at many radio and TV operations, not the least of which being my Cox Media Group home. Our WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center was staffed all through the weekend, thanks to reporters Veronica Harrell, Josie Rock, Mike Boozer, David Hubbard, George Clark, and Reko Rice. It always is. And our WSB news team is on duty, holidays or not, as is the one in this here newspaper. The duty to disseminate vital information does not go dormant on a Silent Night.

We also must toast the other retail and entertainment operators that were throttled with commerce on Christmas Eve. And some open on Christmas Day, too, deploying workers who serve big groups who want to get out of the house and celebrate.

Most Americans’ worlds stop on Christmas Eve and Day - and often on the day after, too. But numerous industries, many unmentioned above, keep the gears slowly turning so we all can celebrate conveniently and safely. This weekend, the gratitude goes even deeper for the extra crews and staff sent into the frigid weather to clean up the mess and protect the fort. Thank you and Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all of our essential workers.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.





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