ERICKSON: Snow blame

January 31, 2014 

Snowpocalypse 2014 is passing us. The snow is melting. The roads in Middle Georgia are clearing. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the blame game has begun and roads are slowly recovering.

On Tuesday afternoon, I started my radio show at 4 p.m. I finally signed off the air on WSB in Atlanta at 4 a.m. For 12 hours, with only a couple hours break to handle other obligations with the State of the Union, I talked to people who had been in their cars for seven hours or longer.

At three in the morning, having sent my call screener to bed, I just talked to provide company for people stuck in their cars. People just needed a voice to listen to that they could talk back to as their gas gauge moved closer to empty.

For 11 hours, I just chatted with people who were trapped in their cars, parents calling in to plead with people to find their children who had decided to walk home from school and had never arrived and folks who had advice on getting unstuck from the highways. At 11 p.m. Mayor Kasim Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal held a news conference. Gov. Deal called the snow “unexpected.”

Calls to the radio show that had been frustrated, but accepting, turned to outright anger and rage. Then the blame game started. Two weeks ago, it was so cold that local schools decided they would cancel school. This week, the metro Atlanta area kept schools open, only canceling after-school activities. The further south one traveled in Georgia, the more likely the school systems were set to close.

When the winter storm arrived, with the first snow falling at noon, a million people began fleeing businesses and schools at the same time. By 2 p.m., the ice had set in on roads and cars traveling uphill found themselves sliding back down. By 5 p.m., the average time to get down the on-ramp from Paces Ferry Road to Interstate-285 was 50 minutes.

Surely there is blame to go around. The officials in charge now are the same officials who were in charge in 2011 when Atlanta, again, botched a winter storm.

In assigning blame, some perspective would help. The National Weather Service had started issuing watches and warnings on Sunday. By Monday morning the NWS had issued a winter storm watch for the metro Atlanta area. By the afternoon, Middle Georgia was under a winter storm warning as were parts of the metro area. The meteorological projections showed the bulk of the snow and ice would hit Middle Georgia.

The state of Georgia has a total of 568 equipment vehicles to handle this type of situation. Middle Georgia is not prone to get more than two inches of snow at a time and the projections were for three to five inches of snow. The state Department of Transportation, consequently, assigned the bulk of its fleet to spread out to critical points over a huge area. As the forecast changed, they redeployed further north, but because of drivers sliding off roads, they could not get where they needed to be.

Everyone is eligible for some blame. But the state did its best and metro Atlanta was out trying to get roads in shape before the first snowflake fell. Why schools even bothered opening is a big question that must be answered. Many businesses opened because the schools had opened. When assigning blame, however, people also need to remember individual responsibility matters, too.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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