Now that the political Oscars are over, CNN decided to spend much of their coverage today on the situation in Atlanta (Fox News noticeably less). It mostly focused on individual stories of hardship: 12 hours or more spent in cars stuck on highways, sleeping in gas stations and convenience stores, children kept at school overnight, etc.
Significant airtime was also given to the Atlanta metro region’s lack of snow removal and salting equipment and inexperienced drivers. There also seems to be a developing political story, as the mayor is under fire while some point to the decentralized nature of governance in the greater Atlanta region. For example, the mayor has no say as to whether the schools are closed due to inclement weather.
I was heartened to see that a little attention was given to the fact that the entire region’s commuters were dumped on the roads at the same time. It is likely this fact, more than the road conditions or experience driving in winter weather, that contributed to the horrific traffic conditions. It happened in Washington, DC a couple of years ago (the decisions made or not made analyzed by Phil here) and in Boston a few years earlier.
In each case snow and ice make driving difficult, but the larger impact is the entire commuting population being told to essentially evacuate the urban core all at the same time. This in cities that have traffic issues during rush hour even on the best of days, with a normal staggered exit. This was (eventually) learned in the case of hurricanes. It seems to have penetrated into the city leadership in Atlanta, where they are talking about a wave approach to closings in the future: first the schools, then private business, then government offices (though I wonder if all the working parents will sit on their hands while their children are headed toward empty homes). Hopefully other metro regions will take note.
I suspect the professionals understand the issues involved: closing before the day begins, shelter-in-place, or closing late (essentially evacuation). Is it too much to ask for the media to pay more attention?