Being that i was raised in Georgia, spent a few years living in and/or near Atlanta, and also just so happened to live in Louisiana through three hurricanes – including the now-infamous Katrina – I feel as if I have a unique perspective with which to share.
In 2005, Louisiana (and national) conservative “Friday Morning Quarterbacks” couldn’t resist putting their post-Katrina blame assessment on Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco – the lone southern governor who also happened to be a Democrat. Never mind that her having to work with a buffoon for a New Orleans mayor, and a buffoon of a U.S. President who’d appointed a buffoon to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who she also had to deal with; no, all of the failings of the government response to Louisiana’s deadliest storm in decades fell on Democrat governor Kathleen Blanco.
Now, while I’d be glad to re-visit how Blanco was wrongly blamed for a multitude of shortcomings that she had little-to-nothing to do with, let’s instead focus on the recent gridlock on the streets and highways of the greater metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia area.
Local and national meteorologists, including those from the National Weather Service (by whom Governor Nathan Deal is informed of pressing weather matters that affect his state) were eyeing “Winter Storm Leon” and it’s potential impacts on many southern states unaccustomed to winter storms. However, in the aftermath of a colossal traffic jam yesterday, Governor Deal said the storm was “unexpected.”
From the Weather Channel:
“We have been confronted with an unexpected winter storm that has hit the metropolitan Atlanta area,” the governor said.
But a timeline of winter storm watches, warnings, and advisories paints a different picture, one that shows that the governor and other government officials had nearly a day to prepare for significant impacts from Winter Storm Leon.
“The entire metro Atlanta area was under a winter storm watch early Monday morning, giving plenty of time to prepare for a worst-case scenario,” said weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. “By late Monday afternoon and evening, confidence increased that significant snow would impact Atlanta and winter storm warnings (south metro) and winter weather advisories (north metro) were issued.”
Despite Monday’s warnings and advisories, the governor said that as of Tuesday at 10 a.m. “it was still in most of the forecasts anticipated that the city of Atlanta would only have a mild dusting or a very small accumulation, if any. And that the majority of the effects of the storm would be south of here. Preparations were made for those predictions.”
Yet, at 3:38 a.m. Tuesday, more than 6 hours before governor Deal’s timeline, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, indicating an even higher level of potential impact from Winter Storm Leon .
“Confidence increased more by early Tuesday morning that significant snow would affect Atlanta and winter storm warnings were posted for the entire metro area at 3:38 a.m,” Dolce said.
Still, in the face of numerous watches, warnings, and advisories over a three day span, Gov. Deal felt unprepared.
“There are certain things we don’t have control over and one of those is the weather. This came rather unexpectedly. The time frame in which it hit was a very short time frame.”
Except, as the Weather Channel’s time frame (here) points out, there was ample warning and time for the state to step into action.
Earlier today, I found myself engaging in a back-and-forth with a Charleston, SC-area conservative radio host – Bryan Crabtree. Crabtree believes local school boards and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed are as much to blame as the governor. Here’s the problem with that defense/deflection: only the governor actually governs over the entire metropolitan Atlanta area. Atlanta (population 450,000) is the central city of the metro area (population 5.5 million). Reed is literally mayor of less than 10% of the area’s residents. The school systems? Well, there’s the city of Atlanta, Fulton, Dekalb, and you have to throw in Cobb county, as well, since the southern-most portion of that county is served by the Interstate 285 loop.
And all of them would’ve been under orders to cancel school or to send students home – even in a staggered schedule – from only one desk; that of Governor Nathan Deal.
Now, New Orleanians probably know what “contra-flow” is, but for the rest of you who don’t – imagine an interstate highway where both sides go in the same direction. That’s what contra-flow is, and it’s VERY effective at helping to evacuate large numbers of people/vehicles. Because of the Atlanta area’s expansive interstate highway grid, such an endeavor could only have been ordered from one desk; that of Governor Nathan Deal.
Put those two orders in motion and yesterday’s calamity in the streets of metro Atlanta would have never been as severe as they wound up being.
So the question is, where are all those right-wing “Friday Morning Quarterbacks,” when a governor shows no leadership in the eye of a storm?
P.S. Do I NEED to mention that Atlanta has more interstate highway miles, per square inch, than any other metropolitan area in the country? And that it’s mass rail transit system – MARTA – is given little chance to expand when expansion is constantly and persistently voted down and demonized by suburban politicians?