12 people are dead, and thousands have been camping out at stores and on freeways after only 3 inches of snow blanketed the area around Atlanta, Georgia. The “arctic blast” is said to have crippled much of the deep south, and has prompted 6 states to declare emergencies. However, finger-pointing is rampant, with citizens angry at officials for not salting the roads or preparing the cities for the storm, and elected officials in Georgia criticizing the National Weather Service for “not providing better forecasts”.
The governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, mobilized the National Guard today to rescue motorists from Atlanta-area freeways. He is one of the main officials blaming the Weather service, since they predicted that the storm would hit farther south.
The snowfall yesterday was only 2.6 inches ; However, it still was a one-day record for the area and apparently enough to paralyze the region. Hundreds of flights were grounded at Hartsfield International, which is the nation’s busiest airport.
Along with Deal’s declaration of a state of emergency in Georgia, similar declarations have been declared in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. At least 8 people died in car accidents, and 4 people were killed in a mobile home fire caused by a faulty space heater in Mississippi.
Now, here’s where the story gets a little weird: Schoolchildren in Atlanta got to have a “sleepover” at school, with parents losing their minds with worry about not being able to get to their children. Some commuters pleaded for help on their smartphones while burrowed in their cars, while others gave up and trudged several miles through the snow to get to their homes. Even though the governor said “significant progress” had been made in rescuing the children from the schools, over 2,000 remained trapped at schools in Atlanta, Fulton, Cobb and Douglas Counties.
It’s interesting how the meteorologists did warn the officials about the storm, but that the warnings were essentially ignored, with almost nothing being done to properly prepare the roads.
Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist with the University of Georgia and president of the American Meteorological Society, said neither meteorologists nor the forecast for the Atlanta area was to blame.
“The buses had a tough time getting kids home, but meteorologists should not be thrown under the bus,” he said.
At 3:39 a.m. Tuesday, Marshall said the weather service issued a winter storm warning for the entire Atlanta metro area, expecting 1-2 inches of snow. “Overall, the Atlanta event was a well-forecasted and well-warned event,” he said.
The weather service did say in an online briefing Tuesday morning, “Leave work early if you can to avoid the rush and wintry precipitation combination.” Drivers did so, which is what led to the traffic chaos.
Deal said the weather service “had continually had modeling showing Atlanta would not be the primary area (of the storm). It would be south of Atlanta.”
Politicians of weather-stricken cities and states often face harsh criticism for slow response to disasters. Deal, a Republican, faces re-election this year. He said his goal was to reach every stranded driver “and make sure we have enough shelter to get them off the roads and get them someplace warm.”
Along with Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is likely to face scrutiny in the coming days over the handling of the storm.
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