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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).

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Atlanta had plenty of warning. Myers himself had predicted that up to 2 inches of snow would fall.

In reality, just over 2 inches of snow landed in Atlanta. While that’s nothing for most Northern cities, it can be a huge burden for Southern cities not accustomed to it.

Contrast Atlanta’s response to New Orleans’. It, too, was hit with snow and ice this week, but it decided to play it safe by closing certain roads.

To be sure, New Orleans responded slowly to the disastrous Hurricane Katrina. But it’s learned to heed warnings.

Georgia’s governor said he’s also learned from this week.

“We all have some lessons we need to learn here from this,” Deal said. “And I think we all will.”

CLAIM: Atlanta didn’t pre-treat roads the way Buffalo (and many other Northern cities) do

It was a common refrain from drivers who sat more than 10 hours on Atlanta roads: Where are the salting trucks?

Ashley McCants spent half a day in her car before she gave up, got out and carried her son 2 miles to a stranger’s house, where they spent the night.

During those 12 hours, she didn’t see a single salting truck or snowplow.

“It was disheartening,” McCants said. “I felt like everyone knew this was coming.”

She said the amount of snow “was not that horrible.” But “Atlanta was not prepared for it.”

REALITY: Atlanta isn’t entirely responsible, and the city doesn’t have the capacity

While many pointed their fingers at the mayor, Atlanta’s only responsible for surface streets in the city. It’s actually the state that’s responsible for maintaining interstates, where much of the gridlock occurred.

The Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner said crews had been deployed farther south, but then scrambled closer to Atlanta as the storm got under way. But the traffic already choking the roads also blocked salt and sand trucks and snowplows.

Myers, who is originally from Buffalo, New York, said streets there are salted well in advance of a coming storm. But Atlanta doesn’t have the capacity for that kind of treatment.

“We simply have never purchased the amount of equipment necessary,” he said. “Why would you in a city that gets one snow event every three years? Why would you buy 500 snowplows and salt trucks and have them sit around for 1,000 days, waiting for the next event?”

UNFAIR FOCUS: Did the storm only shut down Atlanta?

The Atlanta TV news reports gave the impression that that the storm only hit metro Atlanta and not the rest of Georgia. In fact the storm shut down most of southeast region.

Said Birmingham, Al. TV meteorologist Gene Norman, “The same thing happened here, but Atlanta is getting all of the bad national attention.”

CNN’s Sean Morris, Carol Costello, Chelsea J. Carter, Dana Ford and Atlanta Voice’s Stan Washington contributed to this report.