What Happened Atlanta?

by Jana Ritter - Published: 1/30/2014

As Atlanta finally clears its streets, drivers pick up abandoned cars, and a warm wave is expected to melt it all away on Friday and Saturday: the state has become the laughing stock of the nation for the chaos that ensued after a few inches of snow. So the question remains…what the hell happened? How did those responsible for handling emergencies let things go so wrong?


Well for starters, it wasn’t just snow that paralyzed the Southern states; it was snow that within an hour became packed into a quarter inch of sheer ice and road condition that even the most expert drivers in the North would have found difficult.

However, many believe the incompetency started with Charley English, chief of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, who declared on Tuesday that the roads were basically fine at 3 p.m., three hours after the massive jam began and was later contradicted by Governor Deal himself. Experts say the comment suggested a bureaucratic disconnect, that also likely led to their failure to keep schools closed and to pre-treat surface roads with salt and sand ahead of the storm.

State Climatologist David Stooksbury said, “If you were monitoring what was happening along the Alabama line … you saw that conditions were deteriorating very quickly, but the response in Atlanta was kind of, ‘Well, we’ll wait until we see it. The fact is, an inch of snow in Atlanta is chaos. To me, this is a prime example of the fact that forecasts are always going to have some uncertainty, but how you manage that uncertainty is what’s important,” he added.

“What I would like to suggest here is that there’s a chain of bad decisions” including what many saw as the political dismissal of Stooksbury, says University of Georgia geography professor John Knox. “Stuff doesn’t happen in isolation; you make one bad decision and the dominoes fall later on.”

Today, Georgia Department of Transportation officials are urging drivers - especially tractor trailers - to avoid interstates in the metro Atlanta region. GDOT is asking that tractor trailer drivers avoid traveling through the metro Atlanta region if possible, or put chains on their tires. Barron says a mass of tractor trailers continued creating problems along portions of Interstate-285, which circles Atlanta.

Footage from local television stations showed the trucks crawling along in both directions Wednesday afternoon.