Wednesday, January 29 left Atlanta paralyzed by a snowstorm. This arctic blast has crippled most of the south. According to USA Today, the storm has caused 12 deaths, prompted six southern states to declare states of emergency, and has caused havoc for millions of southern citizens. The snow began to fall on Tuesday leaving Atlanta’s metropolitan area with 2.6 inches of snow, ice-covered streets, and a community of panic. The nation’s ninth largest city, home of CNN, the Weather Channel, the Braves, and Georgia Tech has been brought to an abrupt halt as a result of what some northern climates would consider drizzling snow. According to CNN, as night approached the city’s streets began to resemble parking lots with abandoned cars stretching for miles. This storm has left students sheltered by schools overnight and citizens seeking their homes stranded in their cars.
USA Today reported that Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal placed blame on the National Weather Service for predicting that the storm would hit farther south than anticipated. The Governor called in the National Guard on Wednesday to assist the city of Atlanta in rescuing stranded motorist from ice-covered and blocked freeways. This may not seem like much to some states, but for this southern city it was a record. Likewise, it was enough to send the whole area of commuters, truckers, students, and families into worry. As a result, Deal declared a state of emergency for Georgia. Such statements were also declared for Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana.
Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, told CBS that a significant amount of people were still stranded in their cars after a 24 hour period. Abandoned cars littered the streets as commuters left their cars to seek refuge in grocery stores and churches, students camped out in their schools and buses, fatal crashes happened throughout the area, and at least 1,000 fender benders troubled the city. Since the ice storm of 2011 occurred just a few years ago, the public was surprised and displeased that the city had not been better equipped to deal with such conditions. Mayor Reed took on some of the blame in telling press associates that he should have had businesses, schools, and the government officials staggering the times of releasing people out on the roads.
The question that everyone seems to be asking is how this managed to happen to one of the largest cities in the nation? Quite a bit of it appears to be due to poor planning and panicked citizens who are inexperienced in dealing with icy roads and stormy conditions.
Another reason as to why Atlanta was paralyzed by a snowstorm and is still suffering from this state of emergency is that weather predictions misled citizens into thinking the conditions would leave them stranded on the road side. Instead, as citizens made a mad rush to leave their jobs, get their kids, and go home traffic piled up on Atlanta’s major freeways. Some citizens reported making panicked cell phone calls requesting help, while others simply gave up and ended up walking miles in the cold to reach their homes.
Not only has the local leadership been mocked by the general public, but according to CNN, social media outlets have seen an onslaught of messages that seem to be blaming the poor planning of leaders and bad drivers. CNN reported one tweet where a citizen defended the people of Atlanta stating that what the nation does not realize is that this metropolitan area is not used to getting large amounts of snow and most people who do not drive in snow regularly do not know how to operate under its conditions.
According to USA Today, Marshall Shepherd, the President of the American Meteorologist Society and a meteorologist with the University of Georgia said that neither the predicted forecast nor the meteorologists were to blame for this crisis. There was a weather warning issued at three a.m. Tuesday that advised citizens of the icy conditions. According to CNN’s Vice President of Engineering, Matthew Holcomb, he was surprised that schools were not dismissed a day in advance knowing that such conditions were headed their way. He reported that a few weeks prior to the incident Atlanta called off schools anticipating cold temperatures. Likewise, he reported not understanding why there wasn’t a better plan in place for clearing the roads.
As the city begins to repair damages and rescue stranded citizens, many are still wondering why such hardships happened under these weather conditions, which in comparison to other states are not a reason for a state of emergency. For Atlanta, paralyzed by this snowstorm, the scrutiny is likely to fall into the laps of Governor Deal and Mayor Reed in the coming days as attempts are made to handle the wreckage of this storm.
By Sarah Widger