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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The reality of the events in Atlanta Georgia on January 28, 2014 (Snow Storm)

There has been so much speculation and finger pointing pertaining to the events that occurred in the Atlanta Metro Area related to the snow storm that occurred on January 28, 2014. It is necessary to explain now things transpired as they did from someone who dealt with it first hand.

I left my office at 4:00 PM that afternoon and what would normally be a 45 minute drive, turned into a 7 hour ordeal. I saw firsthand why the situation got out of control as quickly as it did. Below are my observations and experiences. You are welcome to come to your own conclusions.

1) The National Weather Service may claim that they knew the storm had a very high potential of impacting the Atlanta Metro area early on, and they likely did, but they didn’t disseminate this information to local affiliates until after 11:00 AM on January 28th. Even then the potential was still lower than evacuation triggers (around 50% potential). By the time the information reach city officials and the likelihood was raised, people were already at work and kids were already at school and the snow was falling. It’s clear to me that were can not rely on weather predictions and the NWS to get information to necessary decision makers quickly.

2) The release of staff was not staggered, so everyone left at the same time, which put over a million cars on the roads at the same time. (Note that the Mayor of Atlanta and the Governor of Georgia took complete responsibility for this). The Atlanta Public School District DID, however stagger release of students in their schools.

3) Georgia residents were not prepared for the impact this could have on them, so very few personal precautions were taken in advance. They are also not used to driving in such conditions so there were several accidents (over 1000 in just a few hours). Drivers were going too fast for conditions. Frustrations ran very high and that caused many more accidents.

4) Hundreds of car and big truck drivers abandoned their vehicles in the middle of the roads, highways and exit ramps blocking the traffic behind them. There were occasions where entire highways and interstates were 100% blocked by abandoned cars and trucks and nothing could pass. Buses full of students were stuck because of blocked roads, highways and interstates. Several hundred students were stuck in schools overnight. Buses could not get to their locations because roads were blocked. School bus drivers with buses full of students were stuck for many hours and did what they had to do to accommodate them. Bus drivers and school administrators did what they could to help the kids. I my opinion, they are the heroes of this ordeal.

5) This was a rare snow and ice event in Atlanta. Cities and counties in Metro Atlanta can’t afford to keep sand and salt trucks on standby for something that occurs 2 or more years apart. Up north they can maintain fleet because it’s a regular occurrence. The few treatment trucks they do have in Atlanta were stuck in traffic like everyone else.

6) Businesses in the area kept their doors open long past closing time to accommodate people who were stranded, so the business community stepped up in the metro areas time of need. They are heroes as well. Home Depot, CVS and many other businesses made this event a little easier.

This is a case where everybody could have prepared better.  Simple as that.  No one is to blame and everyone is to blame.

Mike Minzes is the Founder and CEO of INEVOLVE SB, a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning and Implementation company located in Kennesaw, Georgia. Mike has over 20 year of experience on the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Industry. For more information on INEVOLVE SB, please visit them at GOBCP.NET .