‘Twas but only a couple years back that Georgia got hit with a bit of ice and snow, which then refused to quickly disappear of it’s own accord, and in the absence of salt and snowplows managed to melt and refreeze and shut down most of Georgia for the better part of a week. So no surprise, last tuesday a well forecast storm bore down on greater and lesser Atlanta, dropping another whopping inch or two of snow and ice. By tuesday afternoon the place was paralyzed, a paralysis that continued through wensday and into thursday. Florida did no better, closing I-10 for two days straight because of a dab of freezing rain. Heck, before hitting the road to head home on Friday morn, I checked the road conditions over at the highly recommended http://www.safetravelusa.com, finding I-10 still closed. By the time I crossed I-10 it had reopened, more due to an act of god than any effort of Florida’s MIA DOT. Checked the road conditions 62 miles into Georgia at around 2 pm, and they were still closing Atlanta area freeways in spots due to icing… I was getting bored with I-75 anyways and made a beeline for Birmingham up the smaller roads.
It don’t have to be that way… saturday and sunday I continued through western Missouri, which was being hit with ice and snow just as savage as what had shutdown much of the southeast. But MO DOT was on the job, and they had the pavement so well brined up that I cruised into Springfield for the night at the speed limit in freezing drizzle and 31 degrees. The only place it was icy was the motel parking lot and sidewalks! Heading north on sunday, the temps had fallen and the accumulations were heavier, but 99% of the way the driving lane was wet at worst.
Now not everybody in the southeast dropped the ball… Old friend of mine works for Delta, and was transferred to ATL after the merger with Northwest. Northwest was justly famous for their meteorology operation, to the point that during World War II, the military put Northwest in charge of supply flights over the northern pacific, so competent were they at winter flying. Apparently some of that legendary corporate meteorology operation survived the mergers, and they well advised Delta of the seriousness of the storm… Delta pretty much diverted or cancelled all flights through ATL on tuesday and wensday, which is why my old friend at Delta wasn’t doing damage control explaining why passengers spent hours and maybe days held hostage in ATL.
Even the National Weather Service didn’t completely blow it, upgrading to a warning at 3:30 am tuesday. Around here, we decide whether to shut down schools and such at around 6 am, so that was plenty of warning. But not enough for much of greater Atlanta’s business and government leaders, who waited for the roads to get iced over by mid afternoon before sending everyone home… At once! No wonder it took over a day for some citizens and children especially to make it home.
The moral of this stupidity… Ever willing to play taxpayer hero and not tarnish the local Chamber of Commerce’s carefully constructed facade of the southeast as the land of perpetual summer, most of the politicians blew it. With rare exceptions like Delta, the business leaders who moved their corporations south to take advantage of that supposed perpetual summer (and cheap labor) blew it too- even UPS didn’t shut down ’til tuesday afternoon, by which time there trucks pretty much weren’t movin’ anyhow.
Ya, I know, we had a blizzard up here that shut down Interstates in Minnesota and the Dakotas bit over a week ago… Overnight. That’s a lot better than having your employees unable to make it in to work on wensday, because they still hadn’t made it home from work on tuesday. And judging by the unusually heavy volume of UPS and FDX tractor-trailer rigs I saw on I-75 friday, looks like they were still trying to catch up after tuesday’s minor storm.
Memo to gov’t officials in the southeast: The temps drop below freezing down there in the winter, and sometimes that happens when there’s H2O in one form or another on the roads. You need salt and something to spread it, and maybe some rudimentary plows too. And trying to do road maintenance on the cheap doesn’t impress corporations to move there when there facilities are shut down for days on end for a frozen sprinkle that would be a minor inconvenience up north!