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Georgia’s Snow Debacle 2014!

What happened? Why It Happened? Can it happen Again?

By Holly Yan and Joe Sterling CNN | 1/31/2014, 9:25 a.m.
The finger-pointing began almost immediately -- and two days after Winter Storm Leon left the region, it’s still going on.
Aerial view of I-75 North near Moores Mill RD. Many motorists abandoned their vehicles along the interstates and roads in metro Atlanta during the snow storm and either walked home or to the nearest place for shelter. (Photo by David Tulis/AP).

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By Tuesday at dusk, the Downtown Connector headed south near Turner Field was trying into a parking lot. Traffic didn’t start moving again until around 6 a.m. Wednesday. (Photo by Stan Washington/The AV).

Since that time Cobb and Gwinnett have both created their own public transit bus system after rapid growth in those counties which choked their arteries.

A transportation tax proposal recently failed, with some saying it would have spent too much money on roads instead of light rail.

CLAIM: Atlanta needs a city government more like New York’s

Former Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who coordinated relief efforts along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, said things would have gone more smoothly this week if Atlanta’s city government was more like New York’s.

“They need to have in Atlanta the same type of government you have in New York City, where the mayor controls the city and everything around that city, and the mayor can make decisions on road closures; he has emergency powers as when schools close,” he said.

The schools and the government should have been closed Tuesday, he said.

REALITY: The metro area has many leaders

Metro Atlanta comprises 140 cities and towns -- most of which have their own leaders making their own decisions. And even within the city of Atlanta, Reed doesn’t call all the shots, like New York’s mayor.

Reed said he doesn’t have the ultimate say on some issues. For example, Atlanta Public Schools was responsible for deciding when to send students home. And the state is responsible for clearing interstate freeways.

But the mayor also said he would have done some things differently.

“We made a mistake by not staggering when people should leave, so I will take responsibility for that -- in lessons learned,” Reed said Wednesday.

“If we had to do it again, we would have said, ‘Schools, you go first, private sector, you go second, and government goes last.’ And so I think that would have helped.”

Clayton County Public Schools didn’t have to worry about stranded children on buses or at schools because they made the decision to close their schools Tuesday and Wednesday. Gwinnett County was able to get all of their students home safely.

CLAIM: This was an “unexpected storm,” and Atlanta didn’t play it safe like New Orleans did

As thousands of Atlanta commuters sat motionless on interstates Tuesday night into Wednesday, Georgia’s governor said the path of the storm caught officials off guard.

“We have been confronted with an unexpected storm that has hit the metropolitan Atlanta area,” Deal told reporters late Tuesday night.

He said as of 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, “it was still, in most of the forecasts, anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation, if any, and that the majority of the effects of the storm would be south of here. Preparations were made for those predictions.”

REALITY: No it wasn’t, and Atlanta should have

The National Weather Service put the entire Atlanta metro area under a winter storm warning at 3:38 a.m. Tuesday. The agency warned of 1 to 2 inches of snow accumulation and said it would begin “as early as mid-morning and last into tonight.”