In case you missed it, this past week 3 inches of snow brought the thriving city of Atlanta, GA to a grinding halt.
A “sudden” snowstorm and subsequent freezing left roads in an icy condition with drivers unable to maneuver the highways. Thousands of commuters along I-285 in the Atlanta metro area of Georgia were stranded as a result of the inclement weather. 1,500 cars were towed, 1,000 accidents (according to the news), children were stranded on school buses, and commuters had to take shelter in retail stores. A good friend of mine who lives in the area was posting to Facebook frequently over the 2 days as she was left stranded in her car on the highway.
Now, living in the frozen northeast, my co-workers and I were in awe as we watched the footage on CNN. Atlanta has not experienced the kind of snow we have up here. Heck, we could still see the trees and the lines in the road. This was not an accumulation of 6-18 inches of snow. By all accounts this was a mild snow storm. What we have up here that Atlanta does not is experience, years of practice at handling snow, and yes, an annual budget for clearing snow.
The powers that be in the states in the northeast fully expect to see snow and falling temperatures every year. We get it in droves. In my state, once a snowstorm is in the forecast all schools are on alert for expected closures and the Department of Public Works start to mobilize in case they need to clear the roads and treat the road surfaces so drivers are able to drive home safely. Two weeks ago when we were on alert for such a storm, schools in the affected areas were closed prior to the storm. If we do decide to brave the weather and go out, most of us will leave work early to get home before the brunt of the storm hits.
I feel very sorry for the residents of Georgia and other parts of the south who do not have such a system in place. After all, they don’t really expect to see much snow in those parts. However, the snow was in the forecast and yet it seems that only Atlanta was caught unaware. Was there no one in charge to close schools and tell drivers to stay off the roads? No one to de-ice the roads before disaster struck? The few snow plows in the state were not on standby for the storm, by all accounts. National Guardsmen and State Troopers needed to come to clear traffic and rescue the stranded. People who could not get home took refuge in stores for the night. Kids were left to sleep in the gyms at school if the buses did not brave the icy roads.
Why, Atlanta? You have the busiest airport in the entire world. Millions of passengers and hundreds of thousands of flights are routed through here everyday and you can’t handle 3 inches of snow?
At the end of this ordeal, the governor was blaming the weather forecasters and the National Weather Service retorted that warnings had been released two days in advance. Residents were just pissed off at the whole thing. The last time this happened in 2011 the city was caught off guard and everyone swore it would never happen again. Well, it has.
Do better next time, Atlanta. If you failed this weather event, how would you even begin to handle a real snowstorm?