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Atlanta Gambled With Winter Storm and Lost

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the snowball's-chance dept.

Government 723

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kim Severson reports at the NYT that by keeping schools and government offices open, and by not requiring tractor-trailers to use chains or stay out of the city's core, metropolitan Atlanta gambled and lost. "We don't want to be accused of crying wolf," said Gov. Nathan Deal, who pointed out that the storm had been forecast to just brush the south side of the city. If the city had been closed and the storm had been as light as some forecasters had told him it was going to be, he said, money would have been lost, and people would have complained. Tuesday's snowfall, that brought only 2-3 inches of snow to most of the Atlanta metro area, and the hundreds of thousands of motorists who flooded the metropolitan area's roadways as the storm moved in — created travel nightmares for commuters, truckers, students and their families. Some commuters were stuck in their vehicles up to 18 hours after they first hit the roads. Others abandoned their cars in or beside the road. Hundreds of students spent the night at school. Some surrounding cities, including Hiram, Woodstock, Sandy Springs and Acworth, opened emergency shelters for stranded motorists. "It's an easy joke made by Northerners," wrote Joe Sterling and Sarah Aarthun. "A dusting of snow shuts down an entire city and hapless drivers white-knuckle their way through a handful of flurries." Further North streets are salted well in advance of a coming storm but Atlanta doesn't have the capacity for that kind of treatment. "We simply have never purchased the amount of equipment necessary," said meteorologist Chad Myers adding Atlanta had plenty of warning. "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?""

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Pffft (2)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 9 months ago | (#46109111)

You should try over here in the UK where the mere suggestion of snow seems to shut everything down

Re:Pffft (5, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | about 9 months ago | (#46109169)

That's what they SHOULD have done. You may not be prepared for your one snow event every three years, but if you're not, you fucking shut your city down when the forecast calls for 2 inches! If that costs more than keeping that fleet of 500 vehicles and stockpile of magnesium chloride on hand, then maybe you should be better prepared the next time it happens!

Re:Pffft (5, Informative)

Megane (129182) | about 9 months ago | (#46109415)

you fucking shut your city down when the forecast calls for 2 inches

"We don't want to be accused of crying wolf," said Gov. Nathan Deal, who pointed out that the storm had been forecast to just brush the south side of the city.

That was part of the problem. The forecast didn't call for 2 inches, it predicted that the ice/snow would miss Atlanta, though not by much.

Re:Pffft (4, Insightful)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about 9 months ago | (#46109475)

Why? 2-3 inches here and the only things we do different are leave earlier and drive slower. No chains. No pre-salting the roads. Just slow the fuck down until the roads get plowed or melt.

Re: Pffft (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 9 months ago | (#46109525)

You must be in a quite cold area, we definitely pre salt our roads here, not because the 2-3 inches is so bad (we usually wouldn't plow that), but because meltband refreeze would happen.

Re:Pffft (3, Funny)

VVelox (819695) | about 9 months ago | (#46109493)

Shutdown for 2 or 3 inches of snow? From a Chicago perspective the idea of even rolling plows for that is considered a bit laughable.

Re:Pffft (2, Interesting)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about 9 months ago | (#46109291)

I was in England a decade or two back for reasons.

We were in London, and there was a day of freezing rain. Nobody cared. The next day, there was snow. Not even a millimeter. A dusting. The city literally shut down.

Re:Pffft (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 9 months ago | (#46109469)

You should try over here in the UK where the mere suggestion of snow seems to shut everything down

Not everywhere. Up in the Pennines things keep moving, but people and councils are prepared.

Re:Pffft (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about 9 months ago | (#46109535)

True but in Russia (Prepares for BS Barrage) they get six feet of snow and things keep going.

Full retard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109115)

Gee, no one has snow tires and it is icy out, Duh!
Only idiots, even in the northeast wouldn't go out in this condition.
'Course we have more experience in being idiots as well ; )

Re:Full retard (1)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#46109143)

You are aware that most tires on new vehicles have "M&S" emblazoned on them, which means Mud and Snow, right?

Re:Full retard (4, Informative)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 9 months ago | (#46109189)

It means nothing. Recommended reading here:

http://www.1010tires.com/store/content/winter-tires-guide.aspx

Re:Full retard (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 9 months ago | (#46109503)

It means nothing.

I believe it refers to tread design. Tread compound, not so much...

Re:Full retard (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 9 months ago | (#46109527)

It means nothing. Recommended reading here: http://www.1010tires.com/store... [1010tires.com]

Personally I think the graph underestimates the difference between all-season and summer tyres. I have driven with summer, all-season and winter tyres, and all-season tyres really are much better than summer tyres. Admittedly they are not a patch on winter tyres - but summer tyres are just useless in snow and ice.

Re:Full retard (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46109299)

Sure, sure. Southtown got its snow, but on the plus side, Santa gets a day of Spring at the North Pole. That's the deal.

I LOLed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109557)

Fantastic comment. Sorry I have no mod points.

I grew up in Atlanta... (2)

mbone (558574) | about 9 months ago | (#46109123)

Let's just say that the city has a long history of not dealing with snow well, and leave it at that.

workers/management fault this time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109431)

I saw a salt truck driving at 1 mph, I know what parade speed is 3mph and it wasn't going that fast. It was salting one lane of a 3 lane road. But the assholes had the other 2 lanes blocked so no passing the truck. Things would have been to let traffic through and drive on the snow and not done anything.

They took the worst possible course of action.

Heard a story on NPR this morning... (3, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 9 months ago | (#46109129)

...about this topic. They do cite that the National Weather Service had only issued a winter weather advisory for the area, not a watch or a warning, until 3:30am the day that all hell broke loose. Apparently local meteorologists disagreed with the NWS, but without their formal statements I'm not exactly surprised that public officials and employees didn't feel comfortable making statements.

Unfortunate situation all of the way around. What I don't get is why it took so incredibly long to resolve. It's almost like the city's traffic engineers were asleep and couldn't figure out where to start clearing first in order to unclog the logjam...

Re:Heard a story on NPR this morning... (1)

Matt Reichmann (2935627) | about 9 months ago | (#46109181)

The traffic engineers were probably stuck in the logjam trying to get out of the city

Re:Heard a story on NPR this morning... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109203)

We had an unfortunate but not quite as bad situation here in Indiana a few weeks ago. After several large snow storms (including a 12 inch) we had a forecast for a light dusting of snow. Due to salt reserves being low, plow crews being exhausted, and an even bigger storm on the horizon the decision was made to not re-salt and have the plows out. The dusting ended up being heavier (something like 2-3 inches) and was at just the right temperature to be as slick as possible. Semi's were unable to make it up even slight grades, passenger vehicles were spinning out of control and piling up, and once the highway was gridlocked the salt trucks couldn't even get out on the road.

It was cleared up in about 4-6 hours but was educational on how much a little bit of snow can stop things up when it's not expected.

Re:Heard a story on NPR this morning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109209)

Meanwhile over here in Houston, TX it was going to be the winter apocalypse with sleet and snow and hail and hell starting at 3AM and continuing through the day so schools were closed and the government closed its nonessential offices and so on.

Then it was supposed to start at 8AM

Then maybe it was supposed to start sometime during the day.

All we got on my side of town was a little drizzle at 10AM that froze on the overpasses for a few hours before the day warmed up above freezing.

Damned if you do,. damned if you don't.

couldn't figure out where to start clearing first in order to unclog the logjam.

Yeah, they should have just rammed the cars off the road, that'd teach the idiots who abandoned them in the middle of the road without even bothering to pull over.

Re: Heard a story on NPR this morning... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109385)

Houstonians can't even drive in the rain, let alone icy conditions. We stayed home to avoid the other drivers. Otherwise, it would be 'carmageddon'.

Re:Heard a story on NPR this morning... (5, Informative)

lophophore (4087) | about 9 months ago | (#46109227)

The NWS nailed it. They described exactly what was going to happen.

The travesty was that **everybody** ignored the Winter Storm Warning that was issued in plenty of time to cancel school, make other arrangements for work. That was compounded with a situation where the roads went from dry to impassible in one hour, and then 5 million people all tried to drive home at once.

Disaster.

Re:Heard a story on NPR this morning... (4, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#46109295)

Note that we got pretty much the same warning in the NOLA area. Out local governments decided to cancel schools for the whole day, since, while the weather was supposed to be fine in the morning, by the time the kids had to go home, it was going to be a nightmare.

Sure enough, it was a fine morning, but by mid-afternoon (when the kids would normally be coming home by bus) the freezing rain had started and the roads were getting increasingly unsafe (there are a LOT of elevated roadways here, what with the bayous and all, so freezing rain is a more serious problem here than it might be in other places).

And things stayed shutdown through Wednesday.

Of course, it's Thursday now, and temps are expected to be in the 50's today (and 70's by Saturday)....

Snow happens! (2, Interesting)

beltsbear (2489652) | about 9 months ago | (#46109139)

Stuff like this is just going to happen. It is pointless to buy all of the equipment needed to fight snow for Atlanta as it won't pay off. The city had to make a call and they used their best available data. They were wrong. If they err on the other side and are constantly making the more conservative call money will also be lost.

Schools, churches and even the Home Depot acted as overnight shelters for people who were stuck. The only thing they could really have done is had a traffic team (cops and tow trucks) that understands traffic better and unsnarled key positions and TRIED to keep vehicles moving. Not easy.

Re:Snow happens! (2)

OffTheLip (636691) | about 9 months ago | (#46109165)

If you live in a region where snow and ice are an infrequent occurrence eventually a day like this will come. It's happened in other communities and while folks should be angry it will happen again. Perhaps not in Atlanta again but somewhere.

Re:Snow happens! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109285)

"The city had to make a call and they used their best available data."

LOL. This is just another example of how useless goverment is. Why not just let the free market handle the snow, why does EVERYTHING have to be a choice between bringing in big bloated useless goverment or nothing?

Oh right because the REAL agenda of the politicians is to steal my tax dollars and give me nothing in return.

Re:Snow happens! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109441)

That is not a government issue, that a city issue.

Re:Snow happens! (5, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | about 9 months ago | (#46109491)

Yeah here in Galt's Gulch we've actually just put snow out of business. People said it was "inevitable" but it turns out that without government subsidies, snow just couldn't even keep frozen anymore. Things finally working right.

Re:Snow happens! (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 9 months ago | (#46109339)

They should err on the side of caution and point out that the money being ``lost'' is only x percent of the money saved by not buying and maintaining snow removal equipment.

Canadian driving (2)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 9 months ago | (#46109149)

Well it would take some 10 inch of snow or some serious freezing rain / ice to deter canucks from driving. This being said, it also has to be mentioned that winter tires are mandatory in some provinces. And since the white season can take up to 6 months, not only are people experienced with driving in such conditions, but they are also choosing their vehicles according to their winter driving experience and skills.

Re:Canadian driving (0)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | about 9 months ago | (#46109341)

Well here in PA, snow tires are not required (And I don't have them on my car, I cannot afford $1k on tires every winter). And with the whole -15F this week meant icy roads all around (with light snow falls most nights and clear days). 'Salt' trucks were out, but have limited success in the rather extreme cold for this area. Even so on icy roads I got around in my front wheel drive car with it's all season tires just fine. I just had to pay attention to the road I'm driving on.

I lived in Columbus Ohio a dozen or so years ago and they got a dusting of snow that made my then 1 mile commute take 6 hours... And people simply refused to pay attention to the road and went off it left and right. It's amazing how people that rarely drive in wintery weather seem to blame everything except themselves for such things...

Re:Canadian driving (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 9 months ago | (#46109521)

-15F in PA? Are you sure about that? I live a good bit north of you, and the coldest we saw this week was about +5F.

Re:Canadian driving (3, Informative)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 9 months ago | (#46109565)

You don't need new tires every winter. They easy last 5 or more. Nd you should get 4 for far below $400.

Re:Canadian driving (2)

minogully (1855264) | about 9 months ago | (#46109349)

Being a Canadian, I feel I should weigh in on this topic.

When you say that Canadians will drive in much worse conditions, that's only partially true. In the winter, we have salt trucks and snow plows going (seemingly) constantly. So, the 2-3 inches of snow dumped on Atlanta would have been cleared simply because we're prepared for that kind of snow. Also, Canadians are well experienced in dealing with snowy roads so we would have faired better for that reason too.

Don't be so hard on Atlanta, this is quite a lot like what happens to us every year on the first snow fall, BEFORE the salt trucks and plows have gotten out and before people have remembered what it's like to drive in the winter.

What sucks for them is that they can't recover as quickly as we can due to lack of experience and infrastructure.

Re:Canadian driving (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 9 months ago | (#46109537)

Of course, you really can't compare driving on snow to driving on a sheet of ice. Folks far north rarely get the kind of ice that occasionally causes snarls in the southeastern US. I grew up driving in the mountains, snow driving no problem, icy patches no problem. But nobody can drive in these ice conditions in a typical 2wd car that has no winter tires.. If you think you can, you haven't never experienced it.

Re:Canadian driving (1)

Sqweegee (968985) | about 9 months ago | (#46109399)

Also, who the heck salts streets ahead of time? Maybe if you're expecting some freezing rain, but not snow. Might work on the first inch of snow but after that it gets washed away and you end up with a great ice/slush base under the new snow. You put it on top, either to melt thin sheets of ice or the fallen snow that gets compacted into ice by traffic.

Where I live, most of the time during the winter temperatures are too cold for salt (and other compounds) to be effective anyway. I don't even bother cleaning the driveway until there's 4-6 inches of snow on it.

Re:Canadian driving (1)

beltsbear (2489652) | about 9 months ago | (#46109523)

It is now the norm in Maryland to pre-treat roads before almost any snow/sleet event. I am not sure what they use but three even lines per lane of white stuff about an inch wide. It appears before almost every snow/sleet event on roads like I95 and 695 and many of the larger thoroughfares.

Re:Canadian driving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109451)

I grew up in one of the coldest parts of Canada (Winnipeg), and I have never heard of such a "mandatory winter tire" rule. People who live out of town and need to drive the highways a lot during the winter tend to buy SUVs or small trucks, but those of us who lived in the cities typically drive the exact same vehicles that your typical Atlantan might drive. I grew up driving a Nissan Sentra with all-season tires year round.

As for the remark from the article about northern cities salting the roads *before* snowfall, I'm not too sure about that. Of course, in Manitoba it gets too cold for salt to be effective and they therefore do not use any salt at all. They typically let cars pack the snow down for a few days, then eventually get around to clearing it over night. Near intersections, they sprinkle sand on the streets to cause some friction when you're trying to stop, but this can only be done *after* the snow falls. Major roads are often cleared within a day or two of snowfall, whereas residential streets can go weeks (or even all of winter) without ever seeing a plow. People just deal with it. I currently live in a warmer province where they do indeed use salt, but they still have to wait until *after* the snow has fallen before they spread it. Otherwise, it's going to be very effective at destroying the streets but essentially useless for melting the snow.

Interesting thing to note: Between Kindergarten and grade 12, I had exactly *one* snow day, because we get about 50cm of snow in JUNE when nobody was prepared for it.

Re:Canadian driving (5, Insightful)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about 9 months ago | (#46109463)

I'm currently down in Georgia on work-related travel. I'm in Columbus, but (hopefully) will by flying out of Atlanta later today. I've been here all week. I live in New Jersey.

Yesterday morning, I experienced perhaps the most dangerous driving conditions I've ever seen, and I've lived in Maine. What most people don't understand is that places that handle this type of weather regularly are prepared for it. I've been told that there are eight salt-spreading trucks in Georgia. Eight, for the entire state. How the fuck were they supposed to prepare? Purchase more snow management equipment on short notice? Maintain a large fleet of trucks for the rare occasions that stuff like this happens?

When I was driving in to work yesterday, the roads were nearly deserted. The few cars that were on the road were flying all over the place. While it's possible to drive [relatively] safely in such conditions, it's a skill that I don't expect Georgians to have. This just doesn't happen that often down here.

The roads were entirely covered in a solid sheet of ice. Ice, with no road salt, no gravel, no sand. If you live in an area that regularly receives some snowfall, you've never driven on anything quite like this, because you've got snow crews prepping roads before the snowfall, plowing for the duration of the snowfall, and then conditioning the road surfaces after the snowfall. Georgia has none of that. After having experienced this shit for myself, as a "yankee", all I can say is that I will never again make light of how the south "shuts down" for what I would consider to be mild flurries. Without any of the snow management gear, mild flurries (followed by a deep freeze) make for some truly horrendous driving conditions.

Lots of false threats this year... (5, Informative)

ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) | about 9 months ago | (#46109157)

I live here in Atlanta. I work from home and I convinced my wife to stay at home (she's 7 months pregnant). So we didn't have to deal with the mess. One thing I would note though, there were probably 3 times in the last month where we were told we would have snow and it never happened. I think that might have made people feel like this was another false threat.

Re:Lots of false threats this year... (5, Interesting)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 9 months ago | (#46109231)

It's a vicious cycle. I saw a political cartoon once that showed the cycle of snow threats in Georgia: It might not snow, but it might, so close everything. Oh no, it didn't snow, we'll know better next time. Next time: It might snow, but it might not, so let's keep everything open. Oh no, it snowed and wrecked the city for a few days. We'll know better next time. (Rinse, repeat.)

Re:Lots of false threats this year... (1)

ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) | about 9 months ago | (#46109333)

Yeah. This is very much true. Normally if there is the threat of snow, people rush the grocery stores to buy milk, bread etc. Even if the weather reports says it will be half an inch and gone the next day, it is still the same thing. The interesting thing is that even if you have lived in a snowy region and you know that you probably shouldn't panic for such a minor amount, you can still get caught up in this cycle. My parents are from Michigan originally (lived there for 30 years) and they have been living in North Georgia for around 30 years now -- they usually head to the store as well. The problem is, if you don't also rush to the store with everyone else, then there's a good chance you might not be able to get anything that you need from a grocery store for several days even after the snow is gone. So in the end, even people that aren't really worried, or people not in an area that is supposed to get snow, end up going out on the roads because they are worried that they might not be able to get any food supplies...

Re:Lots of false threats this year... (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 9 months ago | (#46109365)

When I was in high school 10 years ago here in Atlanta, it seemed like school was cancelled if even flurries were predicted. Yet when a winter storm is expected, not a single metro area school system was closed. This is the biggest failure and the major cause of what happened in my opinion.

Risk management (3, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 months ago | (#46109159)

I'm amazed that a politician of all people took the gamble in that direction. Maybe it'll come up at the next election that you blew through a cool couple of million for a snow day that never happened, but everyone will remember the time they wasted a tank of gas trying to travel two miles and their kids were trapped at school overnight.

Re:Risk management (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#46109329)

and their kids were trapped at school overnight.

That wasn't the worst of it. The worst was that some kids were trapped on school buses overnight. The National Guard had to go out Wednesday to rescue multiple busloads of kid who had spent the night stuck on the highways...

Re:Risk management (2)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 9 months ago | (#46109549)

Didn't Nassem Taleb already debunk "risk management" in his book "The Black Swan"? It basically says that the whole "risk management" thing is based on the wrong understanding of statistics. The fact that an event has a very low statistical probability does not preclude it from happening at any time. The probability of drawing an ace from a deck of cards is low yet it does not preclude the possibility that the first card you draw is an ace. The economists did not understand this (maybe intentionally - some people get paid to not understand / misunderstand) and decided that if an event has a low probability then it would never happen.

Salted in advance? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109161)

Come on, I have lived in North Dakota and Minnesota my whole life, and I have never seen pre-emptive salting. Heck, most places up here don't even use salt because it doesn't do anything beneficial when temperatures are 0F and lower for weeks at a time.

The only answer is to get comfortable driving in wet conditions, and then be more careful. I drove through two winters with summer tires because I was too lazy to change them, and I still had little issue starting, stopping, and turning on icy roads. People who only drive on dry pavement become complacent about paying attention to the way their vehicle is balanced.

Re:Salted in advance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109307)

Pre-salting is common in the Twin Cities area, especially in the last few years. There are a handful of trucks that are equipped with drips/sprayers that deposit a layer of saltwater on the roadways. The water evaporates, leaving the salt adhered to the roadway, which helps a lot when the snow first starts to fall and the temperatures are >= 4F. You're right about salt being useless at 0F or below. Having said that, for the first time in my life I saw the salt trucks loaded up with *sand* a few days ago when the highs were -10F dropping sand on the on- and off-ramps - the salt wouldn't work (too cold) and those were the places people really needed some traction after the snow.

I will also say this, though: we have had 3" of snow without pre-salting and we still drive through it. It makes commutes jump up to a max of 2-3 hours, though, not 10-18 like they were in Atlanta. I guess repeated experience with snowy driving results in a realization that snow = ice = slippery, so more caution, fewer accidents to hold up traffic, maybe?

Re:Salted in advance? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 9 months ago | (#46109331)

Come on, I have lived in North Dakota and Minnesota my whole life, and I have never seen pre-emptive salting. Heck, most places up here don't even use salt because it doesn't do anything beneficial when temperatures are 0F and lower for weeks at a time.

First of all, it never got into single digits here, so salt and chemicals would have still worked. Also, up in Minnesota and North Dakota, the government has plenty of snow plows and salt trucks. Atlanta barely has any. When your entire fleet consists of a handful of trucks for an entire metro area of a major city, you have to preemptively salt roads. This whole mess was a result of poor planning, slow reactions, and a lack of infrastructure. The first 2 are easy to fix. The third one would be too expensive to fix, considering the rarity of an event like this.

Re:Salted in advance? (1)

halexists (2587109) | about 9 months ago | (#46109369)

You must have missed what clogged all the roads in Atlanta: semi trucks that couldn't make slight grades. Personal vehicles were certainly having trouble too, but this doesn't all fall on "inexperienced in the snow" Atlantans. I lived in the upper midwest for several years, and I DID see pre-emptive salting.

Re:Salted in advance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109487)

TIL getting a CDL doesn't even require a basic understanding of a vehicle's capabilities.

Not usually salt in ATL, mixture of sand, gravel (1)

mpercy (1085347) | about 9 months ago | (#46109543)

stone dust. Usually pre-spread over bridges, overpasses, where freezing is most likely.

Atlanta is a very hilly region with many small bridges over creeks. Lots of interstate overpasses create artificial hills. In this case the several days of low temps meant that the road surfaces were already very low, so almost immediately all the bridges and overpassed iced over. Any low-lying area in shade iced over. Pretty much any hill or sloped road section quickly because impossible to drive up, trapping cars at the bottom and closing that artery. Pretty soon every possible way around town became clogged due to jams at the bottom of some hill that was too iced over for minivans and Hyundais to get up. People with 4-wheel drive trucks did OK *if* they could squeeze by the packs of cars (many empty and abandoned in the middle of the road).

deja vu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109185)

see http://raleighskyline.com/content/2006/11/21/the-half-inch-of-snow-that-paralyzed-raleigh/

It happened here, and now, even the remote possibility of snow/ice shuts everything down.

Learn to freaken drive. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 9 months ago | (#46109187)

Ok granted Atlanta dropped the ball. But the drivers are being complete idiots. Probably due to poor basic science education.
Yes the road are unsalted. and most of the cars have summer tires... However to be dead stopped for days is just retarded.
Boadcast these instructions over the radio.

1. Keep Calm, don't panic.
2. Accelerate Slowly
3. Decelerate Slowly
4. Drive Slowly
5. Double or Triple your distance that you normally are between you and the car in font of you, to allow more time to stop.

I am seeing on the news complete idiots just hitting the gas spinning their wheels and driving out of control. The it is a Gas Pedal not a Gas Button, you can use it to drive at various speeds.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (1)

space_jake (687452) | about 9 months ago | (#46109319)

I dunno I live in the north and these simple facts are apparently not understood here either.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | about 9 months ago | (#46109417)

I get these idiots in the suburbs who think that 4 wheel drive makes them God or something. I usually see them in the ditch later. I drive a Jeep, but I grew up in the country and I know better than to be an idiot - 4 wheel drive dowes *not** equal 4 wheel STOP.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (1)

cpotoso (606303) | about 9 months ago | (#46109513)

4 wheel drive dowes *not** equal 4 wheel STOP.

And I thought all cars had breaks on all wheels... (4 wheel stop). Was I wrong? Maybe I should check my car again.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (5, Funny)

pspahn (1175617) | about 9 months ago | (#46109353)

5. Double or Triple your distance that you normally are between you and the car in font of you, to allow more time to stop.

I don't think 8 or 12 feet is going to be enough.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (1)

halexists (2587109) | about 9 months ago | (#46109375)

Semi trucks are what blocked the roadways. A cluster of semis that can't make a grade brings all the cars behind them to a... wait for it... dead stop.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109467)

They they should learn to "freaken drive" and stay the fuck out of the leftmost lane. Especially on a grade.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (4, Insightful)

DamnRogue (731140) | about 9 months ago | (#46109435)

I live in Atlanta but grew up in Boston. I fully agree that southerners can't drive in the snow. Your advice is good. However, it is also totally useless for what happened here.

People were stuck in their cars because a million vehicles tried to exit a ten square mile area simultaneously. It was instant gridlock. Proper acceleration technique means nothing if there is nowhere to go. Once the inevitable handful of accidents occurred, even the lucky folks that were on the front of the traffic wave couldn't get anywhere.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109437)

Because this advice works SO well when the entire road surface is a massive sheet of black ice for miles. Yeah, okay.

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46109497)

But it's required to drive 6 inches from the guy in front of you. If you can see their tail lights, then someone else might get in that spot!

Re:Learn to freaken drive. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109515)

What you see on the news is like looking through a keyhole into a vast field. Take it from someone who lives there and dealt with this: No matter how good a driver you are, hard packed snow over solid ice is impossible to drive on no matter the skill level. I have a truck with mud grip tires and an ultra-low towing gear, and I still had trouble making it up hills and around curves. And I know how to drive on snow and ice, as I haven't lived in the South all my life. Before you open your mouth and make a fool of yourself, you may want to step back and think about it.

"Learn to drive" in a situation we Southerners may face once every three to five years, if that? You may as well try telling a fish to learn to fly or a bird to learn to swim. Yes, there are a few species who can, but the vast majority would simply be out of their element. Think outside of your safe little bubble for once, dude.

Why? Umm, let's do some math (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109193)

Why would you buy 500 snowplows and salt trucks and have them sit around for 1,000 days, waiting for the next event?

I wish I had the details to do the math on this. What is the cost of 500 snowplows that just need to be warehoused for 999 days then rolled out once every three years? What is the cost in salt, labor, maintenance? Now compare that to the cost of hundreds of thousands of people stuck in gridlock for up to 18 hours? Answer that and maybe we'll know why they should buy and store all those trucks to roll out on those once in a blue moon snow-storm type scenarios.

My gut tells me the actual cost of the last few days of hell in the Atlanta area is greater than the cost of 500 trucks and some warehouse space.

But I am willing to admit I'm wrong if someone can show me the math.

Re:Why? Umm, let's do some math (1)

halexists (2587109) | about 9 months ago | (#46109455)

for reference, Minneapolis (a much smaller city, but one that gets more severe storms) spends about $9 million a year maintaining:

"39 tandem-axle dump trucks with sander units and plows
15 tandem-axle dump trucks with plows
15 single-axle dump trucks with sander units and plows
3 motor graders
12 front-end loaders with spade-nosed buckets or plows
To round out the fleet, 15 motor graders and four front-end loaders equipped with front and side plows are rented for the winter season and staffed by City operators
Finally, to accomplish the alley plowing in the shortest time frame, 20 front-end loaders with operators are contracted on an as-needed basis"

From http://www.minneapolismn.gov/s... [minneapolismn.gov]

Re:Why? Umm, let's do some math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109481)

As expensive as having someone in a management position in the city that is so incredibly stupid to believe you have to buy special trucks to plow snow. Even more stupid, believing you have to plow 2 inches of snow. even a sports car can easily go through 2 inches of snow if the owner is not a complete moron and has good tires, unlike most of the idiots in the south that ride on baldies.

Re:Why? Umm, let's do some math (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 9 months ago | (#46109507)

Don't forget all the roads you're going to tear up trying to plow them. Which seem ludicrous anyway. 2 or 3 inches? Snowplows? What is there to plow?

You seriously do not need 500 snowplows for a couple inches of snow. Does anyone even realize you don't just "roll out 500 snowplows"? Hell, why not convince people to buy some snowmobiles also ... you know ... just to be safe!

For the record, a Denver Public Works tweet mentions 70 snow plows were out for a recent event (about the same 2 or 3 inches).

Re:Why? Umm, let's do some math (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 9 months ago | (#46109509)

and the thing is a Grunty Truck that CAN BE BUT DOES HAVE TO BE a salt/snow plow is very useful for various reasons.

so all you really would need is the salt spreader and snow plow rig warehoused.

Re:Why? Umm, let's do some math (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 9 months ago | (#46109563)

Really, does the number 500 come out of thin air?

Denver Fleet. [denversnowplan.com] -- Keep in mind this is a city of fairly comparable size to Atlanta.

re snow (1)

freddieb (537771) | about 9 months ago | (#46109197)

There is no way the gov. authorities could have prevented the problem. Business and schools let out early and created a huge traffic problem and temperatures dropped well into the 20's (F). All most all roads despite traffic became iced over. The city and state did not possess enough sand, salt to cover the affected areas besides by this time there were abandoned cars and trucks. It took my daughter 7 hours to go about 10 miles from work to home mostly due to blocked streets and jammed up traffic.

Re:re snow (2)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 9 months ago | (#46109383)

There is no way the gov. authorities could have prevented the problem

Try again:
http://www.wunderground.com/ne... [wunderground.com]

All they had to do was cancel school that day.

If only there were some way to... (1)

WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) | about 9 months ago | (#46109215)

"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?"

I shall become rich and famous by inventing a novel type of financial transaction whereby one makes a payment in exchange for the temporary use of goods or property. I shall name it... "Compensated borrowing". Nobel Prize in Economics, here I come!

Re:If only there were some way to... (4, Insightful)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about 9 months ago | (#46109267)

Borrow from where? All of the other cities in the area that also don't generally suffer snowstorms? More northerly cities that are probably busy using their equipment, thank you very much?

Re:If only there were some way to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109409)

There are plenty of places. We are here in Ohio and didn't use our trucks this week. It is only 8 hours on I-75 to Atlanta. I would bet Kentucky, Indiana, and Virgina have quite a few trucks they could spare too.

I would hope that our cities here would take the money from Atlanta if they needed the help and expertise to get the job done...

2 inches/5cm? (2)

guruevi (827432) | about 9 months ago | (#46109249)

The city here doesn't even plow or salt for 2 inches of snow. We've been having 2 inches of snow almost on a daily basis all winter, some days we have had 18 inches and still the city doesn't come to a standstill, there are no snow days at work even though there was a state of emergency and the city didn't start plowing until 8am.

Re:2 inches/5cm? (1)

irussel (78667) | about 9 months ago | (#46109325)

Not sure what happened in ATL, but in central Texas when precip is falling while below freezing, we usually get sleet/ice, not snow. Driving on ice is a different story altogether.

Repurpose existing equipment (5, Interesting)

dj245 (732906) | about 9 months ago | (#46109261)

Why would you buy 500 snowplows and salt trucks and have them sit around for 1,000 days, waiting for the next event?""

That's why you repurpose existing equipment. Snowplows themselves aren't a huge investment, and they last basically forever with little maintenance. Put a clause in your purchasing specs that all newly purchased garbage trucks and DOT dump trucks must have hookups for a plow. Retrofitting is expensive but if you're buying a truck anyway, the additional cost isn't much. Even dump trucks without special spreading equipment can be used; some dump trucks have small sliding gates on the main gate like this one [blogspot.com] . This is normally used for shoveling out small quantities of asphalt when patching roads, but in a pinch you could open them up and spread salt/sand on the road. Get creative! Making plans is cheap.

It's just dump trucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109265)

Salt trucks up here aren't single purpose trucks. They are just dump trucks/pick ups with sanders on them. The sanders can't be terribly expensive and the city could buy them and contract out with private companies to do the sanding. Sand and dump trucks/pick ups are used in building everywhere. The sanders are the only thing you need sitting around and those can be added on as you need them. This drives down the costs and lets you spend on only the things you need to spend on.

Re:It's just dump trucks (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46109445)

Well that is wierd... because the salt trucks here are simply dump trucks they use year round. they use them for construction on the warmer months. What wierdo city do you live in where they have special salt only trucks?

Stop the Hate Child!!! (3, Informative)

Major Blud (789630) | about 9 months ago | (#46109269)

The comments sections on quite a few sites were filled with degrading comments for us "sutherns" freakin' out about 2 inches of snow. There are a few things I'd like to point out before this thread fills with the same stuff:

1) I'm in Louisiana. I can count the times it's snowed like this on one hand in my 36 years here. We don't get much of a chance to practice winter driving.

2) We're simply not equipped to deal with the snow. We don't have snow plows or salting/sanding machines. Yes, I still feel that purchasing this type of equipment is a waste of taxpayer money to prepare for an event that happens maybe for one day every 5 years at the most. Do you see Rhode Island spending money on earthquake proof buildings for example?

3) It was more of a problem with ice than snow. The roads had started to form a pretty thick layer of ice on Monday morning (I know because I had to drive through it).

That said, here in Louisiana roads and schools were closed starting on Monday afternoon. I'm not sure what Atlanta was thinking to wait until Tuesday to do this, but like the article says, there could have been uproar if they cried wolf.

Us damn yankees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109377)

There's quite a few of us Northern transplants down here in metro Atlanta. Tuesday morning at about 11am, it was snowing hard and from growing up in this crap, I knew it was going to bad. I called my wife to get home ( she ignored my warning and spent 13 hours in traffic - and I was worried sick.) . At 10:30 am, I was in the super market and it was packed with folks. A bunch of us knew it was gonna hit hard and there must have been in state government who knew.

Re:Us damn yankees (1)

Major Blud (789630) | about 9 months ago | (#46109401)

I sure hope things turned OK for your' family in the end.

Here in Baton Rouge, LA schools were closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and the interstate on-ramps for I-12 and I-55 were closed starting Monday morning. We didn't play the same gamble here. Seems like ATL could have looked a few states over and decided to close everything on Tuesday.

Re:Stop the Hate Child!!! (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46109427)

" We're simply not equipped to deal with the snow. We don't have snow plows or salting/sanding machines. "

I have 6 feet of snow in my front yard right now, the roads have been CAKED in 6 inches of hard packed ice and snow for weeks and Salt doesn't work at 3 degrees F. and I can easily drive the 45 miles to work and back every day in a minivan that has crap all season tires, new ones but crappy cheap bottom of the barrel tires.

One thing I know about the south is that you guys are happy to drive around on worn out bald tires, I work regularly in the south Huntsville, NOLA, etc and you guys think that buying tires is a sin. Get real tires and you too can drive on ice and snow easily that is 4X of the worst you got this year.

It is the drivers and their lack of driving ability. I've been to Atlanta many times, they barely know how to stay in their own lane let alone understand what those speed limit signs mean. I am thinking in the south a speed limit sign means that is as slow as you can go, and you should try to drive at 100mph 5 inches from the guy in front of you. And that is why when it get's slippery they all crash.

Re:Stop the Hate Child!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109485)

We don't get much of a chance to practice winter driving.

Don't worry. I've seen people practice winter driving for three months every year and still fail at it.

I'm living in the motherfucking Alps, and most drivers are still incapable of driving in snow...

My experience (4, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 9 months ago | (#46109289)

I live 20 minutes north of the city, and work at the airport south of the city. It started snowing at my apartment at 9:30 am Tuesday. I was stuck at work tuesday night, worked all day wed, got put up in a hotel by my company wed night, and am working all day today before I go home tonight at my regular work time. No one here with any sense is really mad that we didn't have enough equipment: we can't justify spending millions of dollars in equipment for something that happens so rarely. The biggest issue was they did not close the schools on Tuesday. Businesses started letting people leave early afternoon because the weather was starting to get bad. Then schools closed early and everyone with kids had to leave as well. We literally had probably 85-90% of the commuting workforce on the road at the same time, and 2 of our major highways-I-75 and I-85-are actually the same road through downtown Atlanta. If schools had been closed on Tuesday, a lot of people would have stayed home, and traffic would have been very manageable. Also, considering the fact that these events are so rare, the government should have started treating roads as early as Monday night. They predicted that it would hit the south side. If they had treated the south side monday night, they could have recovered and treated the north side tuesday morning when they realized it would hit the north side hardest.

As a side note, snow in Atlanta usually falls as large wet clumps that are already melting. This week was the first time in decades where Atlanta has gotten true, powder snow. So a lot of people here have no idea how to drive in this weather, and it only takes a handful of cars not being able to make it up a hill or hitting an ice patch to shut down an entire interstate.

damn liars--workers were the real problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109337)

They are so lying about the problem. The management was the direct cause of the problem.

I saw a salt truck driving at 1 mph, I know what parade speed is 3mph and it wasn't going that fast. It was salting one lane of a 3 lane road. But the assholes had the other 2 lanes blocked so no passing the truck. Things would have been to let traffic through and drive on the snow and not done anything.

 

Logical fallacy used to mislead his public (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109347)

Come on, this mayor is either stupid or has stupid advisors. Either way he's misleading the public. Atlanta COULD have been prepared.

You don't buy 500 snowplows. That's ludicrous unless you're in the Arctic. You put enormous plows on dump trucks and (relatively inexpensive) sanders on the back. You buy a warehouse and fill it with sand (tip: it won't go bad). You pay private contractors (who may come down from the North) with snowplows. It may be expensive but your people will thank you for it at the end of the day when they are home instead of squatting at a Home Depot, and you haven't done something stupid like owning 500 snow plows.

Why would you buy snowplows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109351)

The same reason you would buy and maintain external offsite backups for your computers. Techies know things go wrong, it's a matter of when. When, precisely, will normal people learn this too? Hopefully before killing ourselves.

dunno what to say (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | about 9 months ago | (#46109357)

Yeah Atlanta could have prepared better for the occasional storm... there should be some kind of equipment lending program among several southern states for the occasional event like this... that said, I'm from Buffalo. It takes a several feet to shut us down, and in the summers it can reach 99 def F. And yet, we seem to do just fine, I took my driving test 30 yrs ago in worse stuff than this.

This says a lot about atlanta's priorities... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#46109361)

"money would have been lost, and people would have complained."

Money is a LOT more important than public safety and life. Honestly I really hop that people start suing the crap out of the city of atlanta for their lack of care about the public safety.

only two inches?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46109381)

The traffic jams were caused by every woman fleeing the city at once, in a desperate search for some real men.

It never ceases to amaze.. (1)

Virtucon (127420) | about 9 months ago | (#46109395)

I live in the South and every time there's a tornado or severe thunderstorm around here people from other parts of the nation gasp "How can you live there, it's terrible." While we in the South chuckle when folks up North go sliding into each other on iced over roads. It comes down to dealing with what you're used to. If you have snow rarely in an area, there's no justification for heavy snow removal equipment rather just some common sense. Sure, there's always a social impact to these kinds of events, schools closing, people unable to get to their jobs etc. but it's much better than getting stuck out on a road with thousands of others in the same predicament. Oh, I can also recall back in 2010, getting stuck in DC in a Hotel for three days during a blizzard and its aftermath. It was called Snowmageddon. [wikipedia.org] Stores, restaurants and public transit was shutdown. Also, you couldn't get a cab to get yourself out. Sure the snowplows came through but they left 6 foot drifts along the sidewalks that you had to climb over. That wasn't a great business trip to say the least but it pointed out to me that even in DC, where Snow does fall in the Winter, once in awhile you can get a bad storm and it can shut things down. Thousands of people were stuck trying to get home as well, so Deja Vu?

I live in metro-ATL and noticed several points (5, Informative)

mpercy (1085347) | about 9 months ago | (#46109439)

Several things seemed to make this event different from similar snowfall events that I've seen here in the last 20 years or so.

When snowfall occurs here it is usually a passing cold front event in an otherwise seasonable temperature period with daytime temps in the 40's or high 30's. So when snow falls, it pretty much melts in the streets until after 5PM or so when the temps start to drop. This time, we had several days of very cold weather preceding the snowfall and it was as if the streets' thermal mass had already been depleted. Snow hitting the streets initially melted but started to freeze into ice sheets quickly, more quickly than usual. By about 1PM many streets, especially surface streets with plenty of shade, were already covered with a thick ice sheet.

Atlanta has lots of creeks and small rivers with bridges. Atlanta is also quite a hilly place. Bridges ice before the main road, and bridges here are often at the bottom of a hill in both directions. So all the bridges and all the low-lying areas at the bottom of hills froze first. Many cars could not make it up the icy slope. Even minor slopes on surface streets especially became impassible due to the ice. Again, all this happened much earlier in the day than people have come to expect.

I live 4.5 miles from work, normally an 8-12 minute commute. I left my office at 12:45PM and it took me 2.5 hours and I had to use multiple alternative routes as I encountered several places where bridges and low-lying areas were impossible to get through. Luckily I know multiple routes home and was able to mentally plot the flattest route home and wind my way through interconnected neighborhoods. Even still, I used the GPS to avoid the dead ends that are common in neighborhoods. A co-worker left 15 minutes after I did, and 4.5 hours later made it as far as my house--he stopped for a bathroom break and made it home a full 12 hours after he left. My brother-in law left downtown at 2:30PM, two hours later managed to pick up his wife who works 1 mile away from where he works. At 8:30PM we used the computer traffic reports and google maps to get them off the interstate through neighborhoods, and by 1:30AM they had made it to our house. We figure it was another 8 hours to their house. Good thing he had taken his 4-wheel drive "hunting pickup" to work that morning.

Everyone started leaving offices after about 12PM-3PM, which normally would have been plenty soon but by then it was already too late on too many surface streets, so even the main roads which had been pre-treated and the interstates which have enough traffic to provide hot exhaust and tire friction heat to keep lanes open backed up--people exiting onto surface streets had no where to go.

Businesses and schools took a chance, given that the forecast had called for the snowfall to be south of the city. With much of the population in metro-ATL actually being north of the city, to forecast made many people in north metro-ATL figure there would be no real problem.

Schools in particular did everyone a disservice by staying open, then announcing early dismissals at 12:30PM or so. So tens of thousands of overwrought mommies and daddies jumped on the roads at the same time to make sure their precious offspring didn't have to risk a bus ride.

Also, the cell phone system was overloaded. So many people stuck in their cars for so long panicking chewed up all the bandwidth.

Why Why Why? (1)

westlake (615356) | about 9 months ago | (#46109529)

"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?"

You don't.

You buy them as a state or regional co-operative as an emergency reserve to be drawn upon as needed.

Lease them out to others when they are not needed at home.

If it is only a one-in-three year event, you accept the inevitability of snow days and shut-downs, plan and budget for them --- and take the heat for closings under conditions that a northern pre-school would regard as perfectly safe for kids and staff.

Don't mind me... (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about 9 months ago | (#46109533)

... I just came here for the global warming trolls.

"..Money would have been lost.." (1)

essbase_nerd (2677851) | about 9 months ago | (#46109541)

Didn't close the city because, "..money would have been lost, people would have complained."

Aren't people of power in power because they can make decisions that might not be popular the the greater good? Look at the complaints and money lost now.. You're a worldwide laughing stock, and the economic impact is massive. Nice going.

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