2014 Atlanta Snowpocalypse: Harmless Folly…Or Omen?

 

On Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, many Metro Atlanta residents awoke from their Monday night slumber to drop their kids off at schools, go to work, or to simply run errands on a chilly winter morning. There had been some stirrings and ominous weather forecasts predicting, what was assumed to be, an evening/overnight snow storm during which everyone would be safely tucked away in their warm beds.

atl_traffic_jamBy 10:45 a.m., however, it became apparent that forecaster’s predictions were indeed hopelessly vague and ultimately wrong as to when another “once-in-a-decade” snowstorm would hit the Deep South. But by 1:00 p.m. many municipal and state authorities realized that they had also miscalculated as to when and just how severe this storm would be and issued “States of Emergencies” in their respective jurisdictions across North and Central Georgia.

An outsider might deem this seemingly minor misstep as simply a bad oversight; after all, there’s no surefire way to really know when or where a storm can hit or just how severe of an impact it can inflict on major metropolitan region. However, from around 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., after emergency alerts and advisories had been activated, Atlanta drivers found themselves trapped either on freeways, parking decks, or in the very workplaces and other establishments where they had been just carrying out their day to day activities.

As a result, thousands of people and their cars would remain stranded on Georgia interstates and roads for the next 48-72 hours as one of the largest metropolitan regions in the nation completely shut down. One of those nameless thousands was my own mother, who after being released by her employer, the Atlanta Public School system, found herself for the remainder of the day packed behind what would become a nearly 12 hour traffic jam, along the I-20 corridor. Yes, my mom had to inch her car ever so gently along her daily commute path, a path that normally takes less than 45 minutes to travel from our neighborhood in East DeKalb, for fear that she would become one of the many victims of, not only this winter whiteout, but of the mind-boggling ineptitude of municipal and state leaders.

What planners in the “Gold Dome” (Georgia State Capitol Building) or Atlanta City Hall, apparently didn’t foresee is that many people, upon hearing the declared states of emergency by local and state officials, were released by their respective employers within a one hour time frame which caused virtually every driver in the city to enter the icy and frigid roads, city streets, highways and byways, and rail lines.

It is also apparent now that Mayor Reed and Governor Deal didn’t deem the storm forecasts for the 28th and 29th to be of significant concern for “GEMA” (Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Georgia Homeland Security Branch) to declare a state of emergency until the storm was well underway. It has also come to the public’s attention that both Deal and Reed were indeed attending a fundraiser/benefit honoring Mayor Reed as “Georgian of the Year” by Georgia Trend magazine while the storm was well underway (as the accompanying Twitter photo would suggest.)

Deal, in particular, would later justify the decision by stating, “If we closed the city of Atlanta and our interstate system based on maybes, then we would not be a very productive government or a city; we can’t do it based on the maybes.”

Both Deal and Reed have dropped their earlier defensive positions and have come to realize the gravity of the situation—that by seeking to avoid closing government agencies and private businesses as well as deploying emergency personnel and equipment over cost concerns, the economic loss from having to play catchup to events as they unfold is going to make short-term budgetary concerns look puny in comparison.

The 2014 winter snow storm that plagued Atlanta, much like the snow storm of 2011, highlights a number of factors that went awry as the snow piled up across the state. During the month of February, I will cover various issues at fault for this year’s “Snowpocalypse” including mass transit, poor urban planning, and, more importantly, how this event will affect the upcoming gubernatorial election in November, where Governor Deal is not only facing a tough challenge from State Representative Jason Carter—grandson of former U.S. President James “Jimmy” Carter—but also another ethics investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.

atl_picWith that in mind, one can only speculate as to how Deal will appear in new gubernatorial polling as the 2014 campaign season finally kicks off and if this seemingly avoidable folly will persuade Georgia voters to choose alternatives come November. Not to mention how this will affect Mayor Reed’s implied desire to become governor in 2018 as he and Governor Deal, since their elections (2009 and 2010, respectively), have seemingly embraced one another on a number of Georgia’s economic issues, including the deepening of the Savannah harbor.

 

So, let it snow, indeed.

Jonathan G. Banes

Jonathan G. Banes

Contributing Writer
Jonathan Banes bio, in his own words: "I am an aspiring business attorney who is currently seeking my Juris Doctor at Georgia State University and have had a decade-long devotion to covering politics and business around Atlanta, the Gold Dome, and across the United States. Having lived in the Metro Atlanta area all of my life I believe I’ve seen just about everything that makes a big city in the New South tick and I hope to continue following local/state/regional/ national business and policy trends well into the future. I look forward to assisting perspective readers who feel let down by other local or regional business news outlets by bringing issues important to them to light through BAMSouth.com.
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