Tough sledding: Ice storms of ’63 and ’88 walloped region

jkovac@macon.comFebruary 11, 2014 

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The hillside was a sheet of glass, and Cyndie Vance, sledding for the first time in her life, was sailing downhill. Flying.

She never saw the drainage ditch.

Her husband, at the bottom of a slope in north Macon’s Springdale Woods, would’ve told her to bail. But she was coming in straight and fast. Too fast.

“She hit the drain like a brick wall,” he said.

Her face was bloody, both of her legs broken.

Vance, then 31, was a casualty of the Ice Storm of ’88.

The stinging mix of snow, freezing rain and sleet in early January that year socked in two-thirds of Georgia, all the way down to Albany.

More than 2 inches of the frozen slop coated Macon. There were car wrecks galore. Telephone switchboards were overwhelmed.

The empty Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. on Broadway collapsed when ice and snow piled up on its roof. On Cherry Street, an awning at the Shoe Tree snapped and smashed two plate glass windows.

It was reminiscent of the icy blast of New Year’s 1963, which all but crippled much of the state. The highway patrol halted northbound motorists at Perry, forcing travelers to hunker down in motels and at a National Guard armory.

As roads iced over, Macon police set a speed limit of 15 mph. Power was out for more than 12 hours in parts of the city, though some locals went without electricity for a week.

Now, with another rare atmospheric iceberg apparently bearing down on the region, it is anyone’s guess what hazards may arise.

One thing is certain, though. Cyndie Vance won’t go sledding.

Twenty-six years and six leg surgeries later, the retired preschool teacher won’t dare set foot on any ice.

“I’ll look at it from my window in the house,” Vance, now 57, said Tuesday. “I get Facebook messages telling me, ‘Cyndie, do not go outside.’”

Her daughter Beth, who lives in Tennessee, recently sent Vance a picture of her and her daughter sledding in the snow.

“I looked at my husband,” Vance said, “and said, ‘It’s a good thing I’m not there.”

When it snowed here last month, Vance walked toward her mailbox. She never made it. “I said, ‘Unh-uh,’ and went back in.” It was too slippery.

“It makes me want to emphasize to people how dangerous the ice is,” Vance said. “You think it’s fun, but it can cause horrible accidents. I want to tell people, ‘Play in the snow, stay in when it’s ice.’”

From time to time, folks who don’t know about her sledding spill in ’88 will notice her gait and ask if she’s limping.

“Yeah,” she’ll say, “it’s an old war wound.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this story. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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