Snow in Douglas County is like a Super Bowl game because unlike Brook Benton’s back-in-the day hit song, “Rainey Night in Georgia,” it rarely snows in the County of Douglas Georgia. And the problem in Georgia is not so much the snow, but the moisture that produces sheets of frozen ice that makes driving impassable and hazardous. In 2011 Georgia residents witnessed a crippling impact as a winter storm blanketed Metro Atlanta. Roads were treacherous, to the extent that it threatened Georgia’s inauguration of the newly elected governor. However, Nathan Deal, Georgia’s 82nd governor was sworn in, but the event was held indoors opposed to the steps of the Gold Dome.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, the governor faced another episode of the impact of a winter snow storm and declared a state of emergency for 159 counties in Georgia due to weather conditions.
January 2014 forecasts indicated a winter storm watch; meteorologist, local and national weather advisors alerted Georgians to be prepared for 0.5 to 2 inches of snow. The National Weather Service upgraded the prediction to a Winter Storm Warning a little after 3:38 a.m., Tuesday, January 28th, stating the storm was headed to the Atlanta metro area. Governor Deal stuck to his agenda that included photo opps and an executive order for state departments to close early, a banquet at the Ritz Carlton honoring influential Georgians that included the governor's introduction of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
Warnings were issued well in advance, but there were some wrong calls. An additional wrong call was posted on the Douglas County School System website, “We are monitoring the situation.” It also stated that school was scheduled for a regular day. Wrong call. Governor Nathan Deal stated, in the aftermath, “…We have been confronted with an unexpected storm that has hit the metropolitan Atlanta area.” Wrong call.
In all due respect Governor Deal, this was not unexpected. Local and National Weather Advisors appropriately updated weather status. After responses from Local and National Weather Services, Governor Deal said he was not satisfied with the state’s response to the winter storm. He adamantly said, “ The buck stops with me."
The Superintendent of Douglas County School System, Gordon Pritz, also made a wrong call by not releasing students from school earlier or taking heed to the advised weather warnings and canceling school. Superintendent Pritz, offered his, “Sincere apology for the mistake made in not dismissing school earlier in the day, or altogether, on the 28th.
Hopefully, this experience will foster more inclusive and appropriate collaborative resolves that will lead to strategic and significant changes and approaches if and when we face another Winter Storm Warning.