Georgia’s GOP governor blasted for ‘gamble’ on snowstorm preparations

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 14:10 EDT
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Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is taking heat from meteorologists and critics for claiming that the snowstorm that paralyzed Atlanta and left thousands stranded overnight was “unexpected.” Activists and even NBC’s Al Roker slammed the governor for delaying action on the storm and insisting that no one could have predicted what meteorologists had been predicting for days.

Better Georgia activist Bryan Long blasted the governor for his lackadaisical approach to the storm.

“Governor Deal and Mayor Reed continue to make excuses for their lack of response to the winter storm that created gridlock on Atlanta’s roads and trapped children on school buses,” Long said in a statement to Raw Story. “It is shocking that just moments ago, Gov. Deal told reporters that he believed that they had done a ‘reasonable’ job of managing this crisis. Those who are still stranded and the parents who waited at home for their children would disagree.

Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s “flat-footed response” to the storm, Long said, “put thousands at risk. It’s time for them both to fully accept responsibility.”

Roker appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to set the record straight on predictions about Atlanta’s response to Winter Storm Leon.

“The mayor and the governor got on TV yesterday and said, ‘Oh, this wasn’t expected,’” said Roker. “And that’s not true. We were talking about this Monday, that this was going to happen.”

“They took a gamble,” he continued. “They didn’t want to pre-treat the roads. I don’t think they wanted to spend the money and do what they needed to. And then, they told everybody…everybody started going home right around noon.”

By 1:30 p.m., Roker said, the city’s highways were “a parking lot.”

“This was poor planning on the mayor’s part and on the governor’s part,” he concluded.

Even the normally staid and apolitical Weather Channel network leveled criticism at the Tea Party governor, saying that his excuses don’t square with the record.

“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 meteorologist Chris Dolce of Weather.com. “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.”

As of 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Gov. Deal still insisted that state business should go on as usual and that schools should remain open. He said on Tuesday night that as of that morning, “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.”

Dolce pointed out that at 3:38 a.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the metro Atlanta area, saying that the area should expect significant impact from the storm.

“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,” he said.

Nonetheless, Deal said at his press conference on Tuesday night that no one could have known what was coming.

“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,” he told reporters.

When the order to close schools and the state government at 1:00 p.m., the first flurries were intensifying to snow showers. As bridges and overpasses began to quickly freeze and become treacherous, thousands of people were stranded in their vehicles. Hundreds of Atlanta schoolchildren were still hoping to return home as of Wednesday afternoon, more than 24 hours later.

Watch video about this story, embedded below:

[Image courtesy of the Office of Governor Nathan Deal]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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