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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Places Storm SNAFU Blame On "Coordination"




 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 



GDO Report

ATLANTA - A day after less than three inches of snow paralyzed the country's ninth-largest city, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed blamed the resulting catastrophes that ensued on:

  a) Decisions by schools
  b) Business and government to send people home at the same time
  c) Anything and everything within the range of blame-ability.


Sorry Mr. Mayor - The correct answer here was "Lack of Leadership - by the elected leader in the mayoral position was solely to blame."

Additional whining by Atlanta's Mayor, "People were making a lot of independent decisions," he told reporters Wednesday. "What we will do in the future is try to coordinate that, and make a strong recommendation about how that should flow."

Asked who was at fault, Mayor Reed's response was - "I'm not to get into that blame game, but the crisis that we're going through is across the region. So, if you look at anybody's street in any community across the entire region, there's no one who's doing any better job than we're doing in the city of Atlanta."

In an interview with CNN's Carol Costello, Reed said he has been working non-stop and had accomplished a lot. "We got 1 million people in the City of Atlanta out of the city; we haven't had any fatalities in the City of Atlanta; we got all of the children who were on school buses in the APS system off of those buses, and I've been communicating with the people of the city on a constant basis."

But, he said, the timing of the closures was not his call. In the case of when students were sent home, it was up to the Atlanta Public Schools, and the responsibility for clearing the freeways was the state's, he said.

"The bottom line is that I said, if I had my druthers, we would have staggered the closings."

Reed further noted that the city responded better than it did after a 2011 ice storm, which stopped the city dead in its tracks for four days.

The city now has 30 spreaders, 40 snowplows and 70,000 tons of sand and gravel versus just four pieces of equipment three years ago, he said.

"Nothing was done because no one had any equipment," he said about the 2011 incident.

Asked whether he feels Atlantans are angry with him, he said, "I don't feel people are angry at me. I feel they have a great deal of frustration."

By late morning Wednesday, nearly a day after leaving school in a bus, that frustration was continuing to mount for some Atlanta-area students who had still not reached home. Atlanta Public Schools spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green said Wednesday that "several hundred students at nine schools" had sheltered in place.

Nine-mile trip becomes nightmare
Rebekah Cole left work Tuesday afternoon and was still sitting in traffic 10 hours later -- at 1 a.m. Wednesday. She said she hoped her car wouldn't run out of fuel as she prepared to spend the night in it.

She described what she had seen as a "zombie movie" -- droves of people got out of their cars and were having conversations.

In the dead of night, they talked and walked between cars covered in white powder.

Early Wednesday, 10 hours after leaving her office, Cole's nine-mile trip home was barely halfway over.

"If I get gasoline, I will turn the heater on, keep the windows cracked a little bit," she said.

As she approached the gas station, she saw long lines of other motorists seeking to fill up. Then the fuel light in her car went on.

A Big Problem
Similar stories unfolded elsewhere in the Deep South, from Louisiana to North Carolina, as snow, freezing rain and sleet laid down a sheet of thin ice in a region unfamiliar with such weather.

Motorists set out for home at the first sight of snow, clotting the streets.

Georgia and Alabama were hit especially hard. Governors in both states declared states of emergency.

A 60-year-old woman died Tuesday afternoon in Senoia, Georgia, when her van drove into a ditch and overturned, the Georgia State Patrol said.

"I'm eight months' pregnant and have my 3-year-old with me," Atlanta-area resident Katie Norman Horne said on SnowedOutAtlanta, a Facebook page set up to help stranded motorists.

"We've been in the car for over 12 hours. We are fine on gas but is anyone near on the road and might happen to have any food or some water?"

In Atlanta, 940 accidents were confirmed, with more than 100 of them involving injuries, the Georgia public safety commissioner said.

In Alabama, at least five people died Tuesday in weather-related traffic accidents. The governor deployed 350 National Guard troops to help motorists.

Stranded travelers sought refuge at strangers' homes and in schools and businesses. Home Depot opened 26 stores to travelers overnight in Alabama and Georgia.

Unheeded Warnings
Forecasters had warned that Atlanta was expecting 1 to 2 inches. But in the morning, when the snow had not arrived, people went to work and school, like nothing was coming.

Then it did.

At about the same time early Tuesday afternoon, schools, businesses and government offices sent home students and workers as the streets began to ice.

Motorists thought they could deal with it. They couldn't. The spin-outs began.

Unexpected Eeriness
Mariano Castillo, a news editor at CNN.com, got a firsthand view of the chaos from behind the steering wheel when he joined the exodus from downtown trying to get home.

"The weather was a great equalizer," he said after sitting in traffic for nine hours. "(It) didn't matter if you had a late model Mustang or a beater van or a Brink's armored car, your wheels were spinning fruitlessly on the ice."

Abandoned cars and stranded big rigs stood in what looked like vehicle graveyards made more eerie by the sound of would-be commuters talking and walking on the interstate, he said.

The experience was mystifying to Stephen Gianopulos, 40, who moved to Georgia this month from Chicago. Shortly before 6 p.m., he left his office in Atlanta's Buckhead section. But, after sitting in his car for 20 minutes without getting anywhere, he went back to his office. "I couldn't understand why nobody was moving; the streets weren't icy yet," he said.

At 7:30 p.m., he tried it again, completing the 6-mile commute in one and a half hours.

In Chicago, the dusting "would be a non-issue," Gianopulos said. "It wouldn't even make news."

Good Samaritans

The catastrophe brought out the goodness in many people.

"I got some tea from some kids, from them and their mom," Cole said. But that soon resulted in another problem -- there was no place to stop for a bathroom break. She quit drinking fluids.

But it was a mere inconvenience compared with the situation of a woman in labor in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs.

Traffic jams blocked her way to the hospital and kept paramedics from reaching her, so -- with the aid of a police officer -- she delivered her daughter Tuesday evening.

Mira Lowe, a CNN editor, watched as people left their cars to help each other get unstuck.

"A trio of guys in hoodies walking asked a young woman sitting in a car on the side of the road if she needed a push," she said. "There was a sense that we are all in this together."

Caretakers
In Alabama, teachers stayed in their classrooms to care for stranded students.

The weather forced 4,500 students to spend the night in school buildings in Hoover, Alabama. And 800 students were stuck overnight in schools in Birmingham, officials said.

"Staff is staying with them, feeding them," Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon said. "High schools are showing movies."

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley urged parents unable to reach their children to remain calm.

"I know the anxiety there," Bentley said. "I want to reassure all the parents that if you trust your teacher to take care of your child during the day, they will be taken care of tonight."

At the Alabama Waldorf School, about 20 students spent the night at a nearby home after state officials urged parents not to drive in the snow.

"They're doing really well," Administrator Lisa Grupe said. "They're just having an extended play date. We all looked like ducks walking in the snow together."

On Twitter, a second-grade teacher said about 150 students and 50 staff members were stranded at Greystone Elementary School in Hoover.

Not that they were all complaining.

"Very exciting day," teacher Carol McLaughlin tweeted late Tuesday afternoon. "... The kids are being real troopers. : ) I think they think it's an adventure."

Stay Home
Reed, Atlanta's mayor, urged residents to stop driving for at least a day to give crews a chance to clean up.

"The next 24 hours, I really need folks to stay home," he said. "Go home, give us some time."

Early Wednesday, Reed said 30 salt trucks had been deployed.

Until they clear the roads, motorists may be stuck on ice for a while.

The way the forecast looks, ice will stick around for a day, maybe two.


A City Asleep - For No Good Reason...

ATLANTA  - Empty streets, shuttered storefronts and abandoned vehicles littering the side of the road.

That was the scene across much of metropolitan Atlanta on Wednesday as people hunkered down to wait out the aftermath of a snow and ice storm that brought the nation's ninth largest metropolitan area to a screeching halt.

A day after up to 3 inches of snow in parts of Georgia caused horrific gridlock on ice-covered streets, particularly in Atlanta where thousands were trapped on the roads overnight, several major thoroughfares remained a mess due to lingering accidents and other problems.

In neighboring Alabama, there was a similar scene playing out.

"There are still four or five areas on our Interstates that are still treacherous. The traffic is still proceeding very slowly, but we are making progress," Gov. Robert Bentley said.

"We still have a number of students around the state that could potentially have to remain in school tonight but they will be taken care of. They will be protected. They will be fed. They will stay warm."

And as bad as things remained in parts of Georgia and Alabama early Wednesday evening, state officials feared it would only get worse as the night wore on and the temperatures dropped.

They pleaded for people to stay at home. A number of people were still trapped on roads and highways -- many of which are littered with abandoned vehicles -- that remained impassable.

"We're working on clearing the abandoned vehicles. We're just pushing them to the shoulders," said Karlene Barron of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The interstates and ramps were being "re-treated," she said, as forecasters predicted a deep freeze overnight that will likely freeze any moisture on the roadways.

"For interstates, 100% have been cleared," Barron said. "But we haven't gotten to all the state routes, but we've pretty much touched all of the interstates. It's a very good percentage cleared."

In Georgia, the governor and the mayor acknowledged they could have planned better for the storm.

And this time, they really mean it, they said, referring to their handling of a storm three years ago.

"I'm willing to take whatever blame comes my way and, if I'm responsible for it, I will accept that," Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters.

"We all have some lessons we need to learn here from this," he said. "And I think we all will."

Thousands of schoolchildren who had been trapped on buses and in schools overnight were reunited by early Wednesday evening with their families, Deal said, adding that state troopers, police or members of the National Guard escorted many of the buses.

"Last night, we had at least 95 immobile buses. We had cleared them all by this morning, and that was a big task," he said. "Our next task was getting students home from school, and now we have achieved that."

In Alabama, the weather forced 4,500 students to spend Tuesday night in school buildings in Hoover. And 800 students were stuck overnight in schools in Birmingham, officials said.

Teachers who stayed in their classrooms overnight to care for stranded students were facing a possible redux on Wednesday night, according to Bentley, who did not say how many schoolchildren remain stranded.

Earlier in the day, Deal said the need to release students, government workers and private employees in stages, instead of all at once, was a chief lesson. He blamed the mass exodus Tuesday for the gridlock that paralyzed the Atlanta metro area and left some motorists stranded for more than 12 hours.

"People were making a lot of independent decisions," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. "What we will do in the future is try to coordinate that and make a strong recommendation about how that should flow."

Asked who was at fault for the traffic gridlock, the mayor said, "I'm not going to get into that blame game, but the crisis that we're going through is across the region. So, if you look at anybody's street in any community across the entire region, there's no one who's doing any better job than we're doing in the city of Atlanta."

Later, he acknowledged that "we made a mistake by not staggering when people should leave, so I will take responsibility for that -- in lessons learned," he said.

"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."

In an interview with CNN's Carol Costello, Reed said he has been working nonstop.

"We got 1 million people in the city of Atlanta out of the city; we haven't had any fatalities in the city of Atlanta; we got all of the children who were on school buses in the (Atlanta Public Schools) system off of those buses, and I've been communicating with the people of the city on a constant basis."

But he said the timing of the closures was not his call. In the case of when students were sent home, it was up to the Atlanta Public Schools, and the responsibility for clearing the freeways belongs to the state, he said.

Reed said the city responded better than it did after a 2011 ice storm, which stopped the metro area dead in its tracks for four days.

The city now has 30 spreaders, 40 snowplows and 70,000 tons of sand and gravel versus just four pieces of equipment three years ago, he said.

In 2011, "nothing was done because no one had any equipment," he said.

But Tuesday's gridlock made it impossible for workers to use the equipment on many of the roads, according to Deal. "I don't know the best way to solve that," he said.

He also pointed to the complicating role played by big rigs, which he blamed for "a major portion" of the congestion as a result of jackknifing.

Deal said he based the decisions he made on the best evidence then available to him. "If we closed the city of Atlanta and our interstate system based on maybes, then we would not be a very productive government or a city," he said. "We can't do it based on the maybes."

He added, "I think we have done a reasonable job. Could we have prevented it? That's the question ... I don't think anybody can say."

Asked whether he wanted to apologize to his constituents, Deal said, "I apologize to them for the fact that they are in the situation that has occurred. If it was based on my decisions, yes, I apologize for that. Will we try to make better decisions based on the knowledge we gain from this? Yes, we will. But we can never promise because it would be an unrealistic promise, that we will always be correct when it comes to deciding what Mother Nature is going to do. Because she has a mind of her own."

Students weren't the only ones who had a tough time. Rebekah Cole left work Tuesday afternoon and was still sitting in Atlanta traffic 10 hours later -- at 1 a.m. Wednesday. She said she hoped her car wouldn't run out of fuel as she prepared to spend the night in it.

She described what she had seen as a "zombie movie" -- droves of people got out of their cars and were having conversations.

"I'm eight months' pregnant and have my 3-year-old with me," Atlanta-area resident Katie Norman Horne said on SnowedOutAtlanta, a Facebook page set up to help stranded motorists.

"We've been in the car for over 12 hours. We are fine on gas but is anyone near on the road and might happen to have any food or some water?"

Stranded travelers sought refuge at strangers' homes and in schools and businesses. Home Depot opened 26 stores to travelers overnight in Alabama and Georgia.

Authorities blamed the storm for 10 deaths across the Southeast.

In Alabama, five people died, and 23 people were injured, the state Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday.

The governor deployed 350 National Guard troops to help motorists.

In Georgia, two storm-related deaths were confirmed. A 60-year-old woman died Tuesday afternoon in Senoia when her van drove into a ditch and overturned, the Georgia State Patrol said.

And a 17-year-old boy was killed in Henry County when his pickup struck a tree Tuesday evening, police said.

The Georgia State Patrol said it had tallied 1,254 accidents and 130 injuries.

In Mississippi, the state Emergency Management Agency reported one death in a storm-related traffic accident in Smith County.

In North Carolina, two people died in accidents, the state Department of Public Safety reported.

North Carolina state patrol officers responded to more than 3,000 service calls, including 600 on Wednesday morning, from motorists who had crashed their vehicles or abandoned them a day earlier, the public safety department said.

Still, as many accidents as there were, transportation department spokesman Steve Abbott conceded it could have been worse.

"We didn't get as much ice as we had expected," he said.

The catastrophe brought out the goodness in many people.

"I got some tea from some kids, from them and their mom," Cole, the Georgia commuter, said. But that soon resulted in another problem -- there was no place to stop for a bathroom break. She quit drinking fluids.

But it was a mere inconvenience compared with the situation of a woman in labor in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs.

Traffic jams blocked her way to the hospital and kept paramedics from reaching her, so -- with the aid of a police officer -- she delivered her daughter Tuesday evening.

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