After the nation watched in horror and disbelief as two inches of snow brought Atlanta to its knees and left thousands of motorists stranded in their cars all night long, the mayor and Georgia governor are trying to deflect blame from an enraged citizenry wondering why the region wasn’t better prepared.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s storm, those who were stranded overnight are sharing their head-shaking survivor tales—many of which are testaments to the kindness of strangers, who invited into their homes people who had nowhere else to go. There was even a Facebook page, SnowedOutAtlanta, started as a resource for people still needing assistance. In total, officials estimated there were more than 1,200 accidents in the storm.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal first tried to claim on Tuesday night that the state had been caught off-guard by the snowfall, but weatherman Al Roker uncharacteristically blasted him yesterday on the “Today Show,” saying that they had been warned days in advance.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on the “Today Show” tried to insinuate that the city had done a good job.
“Within 24 hours, the roads in the city of Atlanta were more than 80 percent passable,” Reed said. “So I just reviewed your report and it focused almost exclusively on our city’s highways, which the city does not have jurisdiction for, and most of those simply were not in the city of Atlanta.”
But he did concede that perhaps they should not have released everyone onto the roadways at the same time.
“We made an error in the way that we released our citizens,” Reed said.
With a paltry public transportation system, Atlanta is almost totally dependent on automobiles to get area residents out and around the city. When those roadways are impassable, Atlanta doesn’t work.
“Well, I’m willing to take whatever blame comes my way, and if I’m responsible for it, I’ll accept that,” said Deal, who called in the National Guard to try to help. “We have much more equipment available, but the problem though is that the equipment could not function with so many people on the roadway and unable to move.”
Within hours of the storm, more than 25,000 people had joined the SnowedOutAtlanta Facebook group to connect the stranded with those who might be able to provide shelter or supplies.
Ashley McCants, who took five hours to pick up her son from school and then spent another seven hours in the car with him—trying to get to their Atlanta home several miles away—said, “I actually had a very nice, sweet family that took my son and I in.”
But she said she had to carry her 5-year-old son about 2 miles across the snow and ice to get to that home.
“My big takeaway is don’t give up. I sat in this traffic for 12 hours. It was all about faith and believing,” McCants said. “There are good people all over the city no matter what. There were so many people willing to help me and my son, and I feel so blessed to be taken in by this family, even though it was a brutal day.”
The National Guard was used today to help drivers find their stranded cars.
Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner said Atlanta doesn’t have the capacity to treat streets with salt before a storm.
“We simply have never purchased the amount of equipment necessary,” said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. “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?”