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4 Reasons Why 2 Inches of Snow Paralyzed Metro Atlanta

How did a couple of inches of snow play so much havoc and paralyze the 6 million residents of metro Atlanta?

Atlanta's Downtown Connector was slammed-packed with cars at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Courtesy ga511.org
Atlanta's Downtown Connector was slammed-packed with cars at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Courtesy ga511.org
A defiant Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed appeared on national television morning shows Thursday to defend against critics, who over the previous day-and-a-half have battered the city he leads for not being properly prepared for Winter Storm Leon.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal also hit the Thursday airwaves to respond to those who suggested that the state failed to properly respond to ominous forecasts early Tuesday morning that later brought 2 inches of snow and shut down the metro area’s roads, schools and businesses.

Reed told the NBC's 'Today' show host Matt Lauer that his city’s jurisdiction had no control over school closings and interstates.

A much-less defensive Deal told Fox News that the “appropriate thing to do is apologize for the inconvenience” caused to so many, including thousands who were left stranded on Atlanta’s frozen streets, as well as the 2,000 school kids who were separated from their parents and spent Tuesday evening in schools and other emergency shelters.

Metro Atlanta wasn't helped any by the timing of Tuesday's storm, which didn't hit some areas until the afternoon. Commuters left work early once the snow started flying, but found many others had done the same thing at the same time. That created the epic traffic jams that were seen nationally. Many roads and bridges iced over as cars sat on the road.

The timing affected schools in the same way. Many schools closed early, but buses were delayed longer and longer as the snow fell, until many roads became impassable.

With temperatures climbing above freezing and possibly into the 40s Thursday, Deal said that “the interstates are relatively open and traffic is moving rather freely." Many motorists who had abandoned their vehicles were making their way back to retrieve them on Thursday afternoon.

But how did it happen? How did a couple of inches of snow play so much havoc and paralyze the 6 million residents of metro Atlanta?

In a Politico Magazine article this week written by Rebecca Burns, and titled "The Day We Lost Atlanta," Burns points to four factors:

1. Atlanta, the city, should not be confused with Atlanta, the region.

2). Since the 1950s, the car—and the highway—has dominated Atlanta’s transportation system.

3). The transit that eventually was built does not serve the whole region.

4). Metro voters rejected transit relief in a 2012 referendum.

Burns writes, “More than any event I’ve witnessed in two decades of living in and writing about this city, this snowstorm underscores the horrible history of suburban sprawl in the United States and the bad political decisions that drive it. It tells us something not just about what’s wrong with one city in America today but what can happen when disaster strikes many places across the country."

See here to read the article, which details the "four factors."


Oommma January 31, 2014 at 09:22 AM
Well said Charles Allen...except maybe the last part of your last sentence. However, that was my exact thought as I left downtown Atlanta Tuesday afternoon and drove past a long, long line of cars trying to get onto I-85/75. I couldn't imagine WHY anyone would sit in line to get on a highway that obviously wasn't moving. I chose to leave my home Monday for two reasons. First and most importantly I know my commute options (multiple surface streets) and was positive that even under the worst conditions I would be able to make it home. Second my employer would have required me to give up my personal time for not coming into downtown and I wasn't willing to do that until I saw snow. Amazing that in all the blame throwing none of it sticks to the schools that didn't close and the employers that didn't shut down. Both of which hold equal blame for people being stuck on the roads and children being stuck in schools. It's Atlanta for Christ's sake. The average commute is a nightmare when it rains!
ray jay January 31, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Agree with Charles allen. When things like this happen and disrupt people's lives they feel like they have to hang someone. It snowed during the day and people happen to be at school and work ingredients for a traffic jam.
Maryann Malena January 31, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Yes, these were the perfect ingredients for a traffic jam. Those who have lived here long enough knew exactly what was going to happen, so why weren't the schools closed for the whole day? When schools close you don't just remove children from the traffic equation, but you also remove all the school employees and all the parents who have to stay home with the kids. We all know what happens in the Atlanta area during this type of weather, so let's be proactive next time and stay off the roads BEFORE the weather hits.
Joel Alpert February 03, 2014 at 01:45 PM
Pssssst! The articles says it will give 4 reasons why the snow paralyzed the city. It doesn't. It explains that we're a city with sprawling traffic. The "reasons why" : (1) snow followed by freezing = ice...and every forecaster predicted some snow + freezing temperatures (2) we have lots of hills (3) we don't use snow tires (4) we have limited snow/ice equipment (5) lots of us hit the roads at the same time (6) BIG BONUS: the noodleheads in the school system, government and corporations chose to ignore the above...probably because they thought they were better prepared than last time,.. and when it's a false alarm, they incur the wrath of the city, so they chickened out. (That was the big one...please review point #1! And we complain no matter what happens. Any questions? ;)

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