'Perfect Storm of Factors' Crippled Atlanta

A rundown of ignored warnings, bad decisions
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2014 6:58 AM CST

How is it that just a couple inches of snow managed to cripple Atlanta? CNN calls it "a perfect storm—pun intended—of factors."

  • Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal called Tuesday's storm, which left commuters stranded on gridlocked highways and forced students to spend the night at schools, "unexpected," saying forecasts had predicted the worst conditions would be south of the city. But a CNN meteorologist disputes that idea and says Atlanta was warned; he himself predicted up to 2 inches of snow, and 2.3 inches fell. Numerous reports indicate the city had been warned of the coming weather by Monday, and other Southern states took more precautions. Even Al Roker has taken Atlanta to task over the "gamble" it took. And Deal admitted he didn't want to be "accused of crying wolf" and wasting millions of dollars, the AP reports.
  • Once the snow started falling, according to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, part of the problem was that businesses and schools released workers and students at the same time, leading to the gridlocked roads. "If I had my druthers, we would have staggered the closures," he says.
  • Former Lt. Gen. Russel Honore has a better idea: Schools and government offices should never have been open at all on Tuesday. (Both the governor and the mayor were at an award luncheon when the snow started to fall, and a state of emergency was not declared until after 5pm Tuesday.)

  • And, funny as it may seem to Northerners, a few inches of snow really is a big deal in the South. Atlanta doesn't have the capability to salt all its streets before a storm, like Northern cities do, explains the CNN meteorologist: "Why would you buy 500 snowplows and salt trucks and have them sit around for 1,000 days, waiting for the next event?" It also didn't help that once the gridlock began, salt trucks couldn't even get around.
  • And some Atlantans are complaining that a larger mass transit system and more roads are necessary.
Meanwhile, how are things looking now? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that temperatures are still extremely low but will rise above freezing this afternoon, and there are still problems with black ice in some areas—so, though some parts of the interstates are safe, others aren't, and neighborhood streets are still in bad shape. As for the hundreds of abandoned vehicles, state agencies are bringing owners to retrieve them starting today. How many car accidents? The Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 1,460 between Tuesday morning and last night, two of them fatal. (More Atlanta stories.)

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