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Atlanta Gambled With Winter Storm and Lost 723

Posted by timothy
from the snowball's-chance dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kim Severson reports at the NYT that by keeping schools and government offices open, and by not requiring tractor-trailers to use chains or stay out of the city's core, metropolitan Atlanta gambled and lost. "We don't want to be accused of crying wolf," said Gov. Nathan Deal, who pointed out that the storm had been forecast to just brush the south side of the city. If the city had been closed and the storm had been as light as some forecasters had told him it was going to be, he said, money would have been lost, and people would have complained. Tuesday's snowfall, that brought only 2-3 inches of snow to most of the Atlanta metro area, and the hundreds of thousands of motorists who flooded the metropolitan area's roadways as the storm moved in — created travel nightmares for commuters, truckers, students and their families. Some commuters were stuck in their vehicles up to 18 hours after they first hit the roads. Others abandoned their cars in or beside the road. Hundreds of students spent the night at school. Some surrounding cities, including Hiram, Woodstock, Sandy Springs and Acworth, opened emergency shelters for stranded motorists. "It's an easy joke made by Northerners," wrote Joe Sterling and Sarah Aarthun. "A dusting of snow shuts down an entire city and hapless drivers white-knuckle their way through a handful of flurries." Further North streets are salted well in advance of a coming storm but Atlanta doesn't have the capacity for that kind of treatment. "We simply have never purchased the amount of equipment necessary," said meteorologist Chad Myers adding Atlanta had plenty of warning. "Why would you in a city that gets one snow event every three years? Why would you buy 500 snowplows and salt trucks and have them sit around for 1,000 days, waiting for the next event?""
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Atlanta Gambled With Winter Storm and Lost

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  • by TWX (665546) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @08:52AM (#46109129)
    ...about this topic. They do cite that the National Weather Service had only issued a winter weather advisory for the area, not a watch or a warning, until 3:30am the day that all hell broke loose. Apparently local meteorologists disagreed with the NWS, but without their formal statements I'm not exactly surprised that public officials and employees didn't feel comfortable making statements.

    Unfortunate situation all of the way around. What I don't get is why it took so incredibly long to resolve. It's almost like the city's traffic engineers were asleep and couldn't figure out where to start clearing first in order to unclog the logjam...
  • Snow happens! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beltsbear (2489652) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @08:54AM (#46109139)

    Stuff like this is just going to happen. It is pointless to buy all of the equipment needed to fight snow for Atlanta as it won't pay off. The city had to make a call and they used their best available data. They were wrong. If they err on the other side and are constantly making the more conservative call money will also be lost.

    Schools, churches and even the Home Depot acted as overnight shelters for people who were stuck. The only thing they could really have done is had a traffic team (cops and tow trucks) that understands traffic better and unsnarled key positions and TRIED to keep vehicles moving. Not easy.

  • Risk management (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @08:57AM (#46109159)

    I'm amazed that a politician of all people took the gamble in that direction. Maybe it'll come up at the next election that you blew through a cool couple of million for a snow day that never happened, but everyone will remember the time they wasted a tank of gas trying to travel two miles and their kids were trapped at school overnight.

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:04AM (#46109231) Journal
    It's a vicious cycle. I saw a political cartoon once that showed the cycle of snow threats in Georgia: It might not snow, but it might, so close everything. Oh no, it didn't snow, we'll know better next time. Next time: It might snow, but it might not, so let's keep everything open. Oh no, it snowed and wrecked the city for a few days. We'll know better next time. (Rinse, repeat.)
  • by dj245 (732906) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:06AM (#46109261) Homepage
    Why would you buy 500 snowplows and salt trucks and have them sit around for 1,000 days, waiting for the next event?""

    That's why you repurpose existing equipment. Snowplows themselves aren't a huge investment, and they last basically forever with little maintenance. Put a clause in your purchasing specs that all newly purchased garbage trucks and DOT dump trucks must have hookups for a plow. Retrofitting is expensive but if you're buying a truck anyway, the additional cost isn't much. Even dump trucks without special spreading equipment can be used; some dump trucks have small sliding gates on the main gate like this one [blogspot.com]. This is normally used for shoveling out small quantities of asphalt when patching roads, but in a pinch you could open them up and spread salt/sand on the road. Get creative! Making plans is cheap.
  • Re:Pffft (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuiteSisterMary (123932) <slebrun&gmail,com> on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:09AM (#46109291) Journal

    I was in England a decade or two back for reasons.

    We were in London, and there was a day of freezing rain. Nobody cared. The next day, there was snow. Not even a millimeter. A dusting. The city literally shut down.

  • Re:Risk management (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:13AM (#46109329)

    and their kids were trapped at school overnight.

    That wasn't the worst of it. The worst was that some kids were trapped on school buses overnight. The National Guard had to go out Wednesday to rescue multiple busloads of kid who had spent the night stuck on the highways...

  • Re:Pffft (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:50AM (#46109857) Homepage Journal
    Shutting the city down isn't free. Parents have to leave work to get home to children. What do you do when that parent is an ER nurse? Businesses have to close, city workers will cause traffic jams on the way home... and if nothing happens, everyone starts talking about how much money and time was wasted for nothing. You can't win.
  • by hendrips (2722525) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:11AM (#46110125)

    get's

    Apparently, however, "you guys" think grammar is a sin...

    As someone who's lived in the Deep South myself, I'll accept your criticism - as soon as everyone up north learns to handle tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquake proofing just as well as we're supposed to handle driving in snow. I currently live in an area where tornadoes can occur, and a distressing number of New England transplants don't understand why they're not safe in their cars, or why hiding in a windowless basement is a sound idea. For a while I lived in a hurricane prone area, and the northerners that I knew didn't understand basic concepts like storm shutters, or evacuation preparedness.

    I never blamed the northerners I knew for their ignorance. These were situations they had never encountered before. Likewise I'm not sure why you're blaming the people from Atlanta for reacting poorly to a situation that they basically never have to deal with, and that they can't practice dealing with.

    Besides, the main problem that the storm caused in Atlanta was gridlock. Which is the opposite of driving too fast.

  • by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:44AM (#46111297) Homepage Journal

    THANK YOU!!!

    You have no idea how frustrating it is as a Southerner to be constantly condescended upon because of our supposedly lousy driving skills. I don't care HOW skilled you are at driving on snow or ice, when you crest an ice-covered hill with a curve at the bottom, even if you're driving 1 MPH, you're going to go off the road or crash into the curb (or the car) at the bottom.

    Every time I see one of these "lrn2drv" smug posts, I want to invite that person to come on down and drive on a road that is completely untreated in a car that is completely unequipped for snow/ice driving. In this case, I'd love to get them to try it in the middle of an Atlanta rush hour that was as popped out on steroids as it has ever been in the history of the city. Yes, we're not used to driving on ice. Yes, there are some fools who do it wrong. But I've seen people who are the most careful of drivers creeping along at a snail's pace still have wrecks because, believe it or not, when your roads have no snow or ice for 999 out of 1000 days in a row and no one has prepared for the eventuality that they might, and your government is run by "don't spend money for any reason"/"let's err against the side of safety" idiots, shit happens.

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