Monday, February 3, 2014

Week of 02/03/2014

Atlanta’s Snow Hysteria Problem
– by David Matthews 2

Even though I am a New Englander at heart, I can honestly say that I have lived in the greater Atlanta area longer than anyplace else.  So I know from experience that people here do not know how to handle snow.  At all.

And it doesn’t matter if they are a native-born resident or a “transplant”; people here in Atlanta will pretty much respond the same way when it comes to snow.  The local media will turn two snowflakes into “Winter Armageddon”.  People will rush to the stores to hoard bread and milk… which in and of itself defies logic and reason.  And then they’ll rush home as though the snowflakes were radioactive fallout.

The snow hysteria is laughable to a point, especially for a “transplant”.  Having seen what real snowfall is like, it is pure schadenfreude to see some people here panic over what ends up as a light dusting.  As one of my aunts recently told me, “Come up here to Canada and talk to me about snow.”

And yet, the recent snow here in Atlanta has put that hysteria on its ear.

You’ve probably seen some of the footage of the infamous “Ice Storm 2014”, of cars and trucks either abandoned or otherwise stuck on the highways.  Of students sleeping in their schools because they couldn’t get out in time.  Of schools and workplaces shut down for one-to-two days.  Of the whole area just shutting down until people can get home again.

Yes… all of it over “one inch of snow”!

Okay, let’s get something out of the way for those who don’t live in the area.

The reason why people here cannot handle driving in snow and ice is because they don’t have the equipment for it.  Snow tires and tire chains are as foreign to folks here as collared greens and fried okra are for the rest of the world.  It just doesn’t snow frequently enough for them to be prepared for it.  It’s like tornadoes, and earthquakes, and hurricanes.  Sure they can happen here, and they have actually happened here, but not frequently enough for people to plan ahead for them.

Speaking of snow tires and tire chains, you would think that Atlanta’s biggest and heaviest travelers – the truckers – would have taken precautions on their own, right?  How many thousands of big rigs come through Atlanta on a daily basis?  How many of those drivers had the brains or the forethought to maybe put those tire chains on?  There are some people that are saying that a good portion of the pile-ups and road shutdowns during the storm would have been averted if those trucks had tire chains on them.

This, I think, should have been common sense.  They should not have waited for the local government to require it.  If you know the weather is going to be bad, then you have an obligation to either put on those tire chains yourself or else pull that rig off the road and park it until it is clear enough to drive again.

But that was only a part of the mess.  Granted, it was a huge part, but it wasn’t the only reason why Atlanta looked like a scene out of “The Walking Dead”.

Another reason: really bad timing.

I have lived in the Greater Metro Atlanta area for almost twenty years now, from the north-west to the north-eastern parts.  I know from experience that traffic in the northern parts of the area is a mess when school is in session, because you have idiot parents that rush their kids to school in the mornings and then they rush over to work.  I have seen this demonstrated year-in and year-out and quite often it seems like this commentator is the only one that notices it and has actually made the connection.

So now let’s have snow that starts around noontime, and you have businesses that decide to shut down early and let their workers go home, and you have schools that do the same thing at roughly the same time.  These last two things are bad enough without the snow and ice.  And now, just to make things fun, let’s toss in those aforementioned big rigs going through without tire chains.

Is it any wonder why traffic came to a halt?  I guess we should just be lucky that there weren’t even more fatalities because of it.

And here it’s hard to pin the blame on any one group for the mess.  Blame the forecasters?  Depends on where you got your information and whether or not that information was up-to-date.  The storm actually got worse the night before it arrived in Atlanta.  The Weather Service updated their warnings, but I’m told that some in the media didn’t.

Blame the politicians?  Which ones?  Governor Nathan Deal (who is running for re-election, by the way) is claiming “the buck” stops with him (I thought it stops in his campaign coffers), but fingers are being pointed at his underlings for dropping the ball.  Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed took some heat for the mess as well, even though he was also unfairly linked to things going on in the parts of the area he couldn’t control.

Here’s a little tidbit for those outside of Georgia: there are several cities in the Greater Metro Atlanta Area.  It’s not just Atlanta.  So blaming Mayor Reed for what goes out outside of the city limits is like blaming U.S. President Barack Obama for what happens in Canada.

Then we have all of those people that were stupid enough to abandon their vehicles in the middle of the road.  I’m sorry, but I have little sympathy for those that did that.  You helped to make an already difficult situation even worse, and you really have little to complain about if your car ended up being towed because of it.  Just eat the towing fee and be thankful you still have a car after you gave it up.

Still, there was some good that came from the winter adversity that needs to be recognized.  Carroll County leaders were smart enough to cancel school that Tuesday morning, long before the snow came; so they didn’t have to go through the nightmare that other school systems had.  Some schools where children were stranded had teachers volunteer their time to keep the children warm, fed, and safe until they could go home.  There were store owners that let some people stranded in the snow in so they can wait it out.  There were Good Samaritans that came out to those still in their vehicles to give gas and food.  While many in local government came up short, regular people stepped up, and that needs to be pointed out and commended. 

So now comes the aftermath; the finger-pointing and the plans on top of plans headed by committees designed to supposedly “make things right the next time around”. 

And you know what we’ll get out of all of that?

Not a damn thing.

Let’s get brutally honest here… there is no doubt that local officials dropped the ball on so many levels when it came to this winter storm.  But so did a good portion of the general public.  Truck drivers dropped the ball when it came to the tire chains.  School officials dropped the ball when they didn’t cancel school before the storm.  State officials dropped the ball when they didn’t send the trucks out to sand-and-salt the roads before the storm instead of after it.  And we all failed when we all decided to go home at roughly the same time, which helped to clog up the roads, and then we compounded that by abandoning the cars in the middle of those roads.

So guess what that means?  When “everyone” is at fault, then “nobody” really is!  It’s the magic of politics!

Sure you may see some policies change.  You may see some officials be a little more skittish when it comes to the next call for snow, and maybe have them err on the side of caution.  If we’re lucky we may even have a few career politicians decide to step down. 

But, for the most part, you’re really not going to see anything different the next time around.  The media will continue to panic about snowfall and come up with even more asinine End-Of-The-World nicknames for it.  We will once again hoard bread and milk seemingly for no reason whatsoever.  And no matter what steps are taken, they will either be not enough or an overreaction.

Because, after all, this is Atlanta we’re talking about, and we can’t handle snow. 

That’s more of a “Yankee” thing.


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