Remembering Snow Jam ’82 During 2014 Atlanta Quagmire

Back in 1982 when I owned and operated The Roger Wilson Guitar Studio in Atlanta, I was at work in the afternoon when the storm set in. Folks were leaving early to get home, and since I didn’t live too far away, my plan was to leave after rush hour and slowly head home. Around 4PM, I heard an unusual popping noise from the rear of the store. I didn’t think much about it, but then I heard it again much louder. All of a sudden a high pressure stream of water similar to a fire hydrant burst forth from the rear of the store out of the large main sprinkler system pipe. It was surreal! The water was pushing forward from the pipe in the back through the length of the store and smashing into the front plate glass window, just short of shattering it. There was a a small crack in the window that grew into a larger one with the water hitting it, but it still didn’t break. As the high pressure water stream was hitting the window with thousands of gallons of water, the glass was wobbling back and forth in the frame. I had a lot of guitars and inventory in the path, but manged to move the stuff to the dry side of the room.  It was a nightmare! The neighboring photographer helped me haul guitars and whatever we could grab and move as much as we could to her studio. She was a lifesaver in that situation. As the water kept coming with no way to turn it off, it was flooding out on to Piedmont Road, a major North Atlanta street. My business was at the top of a hill, and as the water flowed out of the store, it ran downhill about a quarter mile and accumulated under a railroad overpass. It was getting cold and dark about this time around 5PM and he peak of rush hour. The water started freezing and causing vehicles to slip and slide all over the road. This brought out emergency vehicles that were also unable to maintain control on the road. Pretty soon, the whole road was blocked with the lower part of the road under the bridge looking like a lake. The whole scenario was unbelievable… more than surreal! After I got most of the inventory out of the store, it was time to try to figure out how to get the water off. It was still a raging stream of water blasting through the business from the rear to the front and was nowhere close to subsiding. There were no valves in the store itself, and since I had never ventured into the bowels of the building, I knew nothing of where any sprinkler system control might be. Truth be told, this was an old building, and I really didn’t know if the system was operable or not. I did have a couple of students that were showing up for lessons, and they chipped in to help keep moving items out. They were amazing! I finally managed to go into the lower level of the building from the back with a flashlight and find a large steering wheel size faucet control that I don’t think had ever been touched. It wouldn’t budge at first, but it then required every bit of strength I had to turn it.  Still being cold and soaking wet, I finally struggled to get it to turn and heard the water finally subsiding. Fortunately, there was not much inventory loss, but everything else was soaked. There was nothing else to do that night except try to get home. I was absolutely exhausted!  This could definitely be one of the worst days of my life. www.rogerwilsonguitarstudio.com