Don’t Shovel Blame On Georgia DOT… Don’t YOU Have A Role In Snowstorm 2014?

I feel badly for people who got stuck. But let's think this through....
I feel badly for people who got stuck. But let's think this through....

(Atlanta — January 29, 2014 — 3:30pm)  It’s about 28 or 29 hours since the snow started falling in Atlanta, and my fellow citizens have started to shovel the blame for being stuck on the highways on the DOT and “The Government.”  


Things are better right in this moment, for a few short hours…. and we’ll freeze over shortly again.


My friends, you’ve seen all kinds of defensive behavior displayed by Georgia DOT and the APD and The Mayor’s Office. They are fielding attacks from left and right. And that defensive behavior is at least half wrong!




Some questions answer yours.


I’ve watched many news reports in detail, on multiple news stations…. and have a different “take” on what really happened. Kinda along the thinking of Edward R. Murrow who said “The obscure we see eventually, but the completely apparent takes longer.”


First, were the folks we elected and appointed doing a good job at preparing, with a kick-butt program of pre- and post-snow action?  It seems to me like they’ve done a pretty good job. They positioned equipment and salted roads. That’s what they could do in advance.


So did they do a “good enough” job dealing with “the crisis” when it hit?  “I think so…yes.” Within hours they were adjusting to what was going on, and taking action. (Thankfully, for a few hours on Wednesday, they weather cooperated, and that’s the biggest help we could have gotten, considering the circumstances.)  


So why were tends of thousands of my friends and fellow citizens stuck on the road?  Because we had a fast snowfall that froze over, and millions of us hit the road at the same time. We had accident blocking roads, we were sliding down the highways, and everything got completed gummed up.


Do I emphasize this folks who got stuck? Hell yeah.  While I was safe, I really felt really badly for so many thousands of people who were stuck in their cars — frustrated, in the freezing cold, having to pee, exhausted, feeling stuck. Kids stuck at schools, scared and upset. My city worrying.


But didn’t we know this was coming? Not all forecasters agreed on  every nuance, and we act as if they should get it right…and then ignore their advice.


If you listened to Chris Holcomb on WXIA, he said we’d get 1-3 inches in Atlanta no matter what, but they said that there would be a greater time on Wednesday (today) which would allow the snow/ice/mush to melt for a few hours. And I don’t know what Markina Brown on WCBS said about the snowfall, but she predicted that temperatures would not rise above the freezing mark on Wednesday.  Nobody had it all exactly “right.”


And were we  expecting weather forecasters and city planners to get it all “exactly right”?  Sorry, the answer is answer is “yes”….and that’s wrong.  We have responsibilities, too.


Do we as a citizens know that when we get snow, that’s followed by freezing, that that screws up your roads?  The answer is “we know.”


Do we know that when it snows we need to drive in low gear, and use our defrosters?   I saw a lot of evidence on the roads on Tuesday showing that we don’t know. But we should.


Do we know that when it snows that snow tires are needed?  Yes “we know”….but do YOU have the on your car, when you’re headed out into a snow/ice forecast?


Do we know that Atlanta doesn't have the equipment needed to clear big snow and ice  “events”? Yes, everybody knows this. So let’s not play “make believe”…let’s get real.


Didn’t we agree to buy lots more equipment to deal with this kind of thing?  Not really…we say “this kind of thing only happens every few years, we can’t throw big money into equipment, when this so rarely happens.


So lemme see now — you knew we had unpredictable weather, as is it’s nature, but a sure series of “icing” predictions…you could planned all sorts of ways, but you did what you did… you know this city can’t do a good job, as hard as it tries, with ice… you’re driving around unsafely, without snow tires…and you want to be “right” that “The Government” is wrong?


Gimme a break. Take responsibility yourself. This is one of those example of “this is just one of those things.”


Let’s make sure our snow/ice plans are as coordinated as possible. Let’s learn lessons and do better. Let’s be smart and stay off the roads. And go home earlier when this happens. And for God's sake, let’s buy some more plows and salt spreaders to hook onto the front of our garbage trucks. And certainly yell at the noodleheads who didn't close schools and government facilities, and businesses that did the same...when they had ample notice of snow/icing. 

Let’s also take responsibility as citizens next time, too…and not shovel all the blame on “The Government” for how WE drove into the snowfall. The Government is us.



Joel Alpert is a marketer, branding specialist, strategic thinker and creative guru in Atlanta. He also teaches workshops and does coaching and personal branding on LinkedIn and Branding.                         
Ann Hudren February 01, 2014 at 12:06 PM
Our roads are designed to withstand extreme heat as apposed to opposite extreme. Our asphalt is composed of aggregates, petroleum products, etc. that are different from roads in extreme winter weather states. Winter weather states have seen the same conditions for many decades, year after year in many cases of a third or more of a calendar year. We can never expect to see the same results no matter how much we try to mirror their success. Eco friendly solutions may prove to work differently under different circumstances.
Ann Hudren February 01, 2014 at 12:18 PM
The metro Atlanta area has too many layers and forms of government entities that have rarely been forced to work together in emergency situations like we saw in 2011 and this week. Look at Gwinnett County for example, they were virtually the only school system that did not send students home early on Tuesday and were the only one to return Friday for a full day. While one could argue that their conditions were not as extreme as the rest of the region, it is not as if that less than a half inch made a large difference. Why did the largest population county with largest school district not have the traffic debacle and school issues that the entire rest of the metro did?
Amy Parker February 01, 2014 at 06:48 PM
People here don't seem to understand how the brine/salt/sand stuff works or when to apply it. The brine was sprayed, the trucks were staged, and then instead of waiting for the trucks to roll and THEN hit the roads, everyone got in their car and left in about one hour. Many of my friends have pointed out that even if asked to WAIT, at least half those folks are the ME FIRSTers and would have left anyway. When I was in NC in the winter, I was worried about my car with no snow tires and me with no practice for years (I did SnowJam '82, which was ClusterFlake Lite). My friends said they just hunker down (actually they told me to go the bar to wait) and when the plows go by they follow them home. They start the plows & sanders as soon as they have accumulation, and they run until it's all gone. People let them go first. DUH! I bought myself some snow cable chains after the incompetency of 2011. Fifty bucks. How many other people put some on their cars? Anyone? Crickets out there?
Road Scholar February 02, 2014 at 09:14 AM
While pavement designs are different, esp since not all have as much granite as we do, the geometrics and features are almost the same. All states use AASHTO design guidelines in doing their design. So, the geometrics are the same. But one difference is our network and topography. The network is not a square grid for our surface streets. Our roads had been "designed" by being trails at the top of hills and to ford rivers and streams at the best place. not exactly the best layout. The topography of Atlanta is quite hilly, not like many coastal areas. The hills.....and valleys are what makes it a challenge in ice and snow.
Boyd Leake February 05, 2014 at 02:44 PM
We paid attention to the weather reports the day before. We sent our children to school on Tuesday making sure they had hats, scarves, gloves, heavy coats and hiking boots. My wife did the same thing. We both listened to the radio reports at work and as they said the weather was getting worse, around 1:00, she headed home from Decatur and I head to get the children from school. took us both about an hour to meet at home. The point of all this is that we listened to the weather reports, planned for the worse and took action before things got too bad.


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