Ordinarily I don't play a contrarian, but I refuse to dump all the blame on Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta's mayor, Kasim Reed for the massive gridlock that choked greater Atlanta Tuesday. CNN jumped ugly on the blame game early, as did others in the MSM who live and work parts of the country that deal with snow on a regular basis.
There is blame enough to go around. It covers school officials not under the governor's control who made decisions to keep Atlanta area schools open. It extends to meteorologists downplaying the possible nature of the storm, and it extends to Georgians who drove during the storm. In particular, it extends to people who got into vehicles without enough gas and without knowing how to drive in treacherous and icy conditions.
Yes, snow was predicted, but where and how it would fall changed countless times. Governor Deal is spot on about that point. Not a single TV station gave any indication that people should stay home and off the roads. I checked the local stations one more time before venturing out at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Nothing alarming seemed to be on the horizon.
It is easy to chortle about Southerners not being able to handle a mere two inches of snow by those in northern states. Those in the snow belt cannot conceive of fighting a snowstorm without an army of snow plows, sanding trucks and the like. The only reporter to give a fair assessment of the true situation was Fox News' Shepard Smith.
I have lived and worked in New England. It goes without saying that I have experience dealing with snowstorms. The fact is, by comparison, most Southern states simply do not have all the necessary equipment needed to fight a snowstorm.
Here's another fact, one that gets glossed over and is never addressed. Southerners do not know how to drive in snowy or icy conditions. Many, many drivers who ventured out on Tuesday had no business getting on the roads to begin with. They were a danger to themselves and to others.
That having been said, here are recommendations that Georgians should consider before for the next storm.
Fill your gas tank up as part of your preparations. Countless drivers ran out of gas causing many to abandon their vehicles causing even more problems for those trying to clear the roads. As experienced as I am in snowstorms I foolishly had little more than a quarter tank of gas on Tuesday morning when I left for a short trip less than 10 miles. The drive back from that short trip took almost six hours. I was a whiskers breathe away from running out of gas. One station I stopped at was sold out of fuel, and it was just mid-afternoon. I should have known better. Now you do!
Stagger release times for schools, businesses and government workers. Atlanta area school officials, government officials and parents must devise a coordinated method of releasing schoolchildren from the counties surrounding greater Atlanta.
It was shocking to see the number of cars on the highways and side streets by 1 p.m. Tuesday. It is estimated that as many as 1 million people flooded Atlanta area roads in less an hour and a half. Doubtless few have ever seen the Atlanta’s roads and highways fill almost instantaneously with the resultant chaos and gridlock.
It's time to address the lack of driving skills in icy weather. Local TV stations should produce segments on driving in icy conditions every time weather like this approaches. Segments on how to brake in icy conditions, traveling up icy hills, and other driver skills are badly needed and appropriate.
Weather forecasters are not off the hook for predicting this snowstorm. Yes, we knew a storm was heading our way, but there was no particular sense of urgency on the part of any meteorologist reporting the upcoming storm. The sense was that this storm would pass through leaving a dusting of snow. All would be right with the world. Well, that didn’t happen.
In retrospect, maybe meteorologists should focus more attention on the impact and effects of frigid temperatures that accompany snow. In southern states where officials have a limited arsenal of tools with which to work, this is important information.