Atlanta's disastrous snowstorm response is quickly becoming a scandal

The governor and mayor, who boasted about the city's preparedness, were at a luncheon when the storm hit


Lindsay Abrams
January 30, 2014 1:11AM (UTC)

As Atlanta reels under what was, let's face it, little more than a flurry, everyone's still trying to figure out how this could have happened, and, of course, whom we can blame.

One to 4 inches of snow and one-fourth to one-half inch of ice is a lot for a city with only 40 snowplows and 30 sand trucks, but Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) are taking flak for the disastrous gridlock that left children stuck at school, commuters stranded on the interstate overnight and caused over a thousand accidents.

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Reed's mistake was tweeting Tuesday morning that Atlanta was ready for the snow. It's this tweet, from Deal, however, that's really going to come back to haunt him:

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That's right -- the two politicians were at a luncheon right before the gridlock began. Even worse, they were celebrating Reed's being named "Georgian of the Year."

Al Roker was particularly harsh about Deal and Reed's delayed response, calling it "poor planning on the mayor’s part and the governor’s part, pure and simple" on the "Today" show and accusing them of being cheap.

Reed, for his part, blamed local businesses for letting all of their employees drive home at the same time. And Deal insisted Tuesday night that the storm had been "unexpected."

J. Marshall Shepherd, the current head of the American Meteorological Society, jumped to weather forecasters' defense on his blog. "Meteorologists from the National Weather Service (NWS) in Atlanta issued Watches and Warnings BEFORE the event and provided ample time for decisions to be made," Shepherd wrote. "Yet, as soon as I saw what was unfolding with kids being stranded in schools, 6+ hour commutes, and other horror stories, I knew it was coming, I knew it."

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The problem, according to Shepherd, isn't that no one knew it was coming, but that no one knew what to make of the information they were given. He offers six major lessons we can all learn from this, the final one which might redeem Deal and Reed: "We still have challenges in how weather information is consumed, interpreted, or viewed by policymakers and decision-makers. This is ultimately the root of the Atlanta mess from Tuesday, in my view. I don't believe 'anyone' is necessarily to blame."

But judging from the barrage of criticism they're facing, it may be too late:

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Lindsay Abrams

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Atlanta Kasim Reed Nathan Deal Snowstorm Traffic

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