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Georgia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:
The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on the winter storm:
When it comes to nailing down weather forecasts, the big loser this month isn’t the National Weather Service, the TV weather experts or the Farmers’ Almanac. It’s Gen. Beauregard Lee, the state’s official furry Groundhog Dog prognosticator, who saw no shadow and foresaw an early spring two Sundays ago.
Boy, was he ever wrong.
The region’s second winter storm of the year was bigger, more widespread and brought more frozen stuff, in the form of snow, sleet and freezing rain, than the first one that hit the last week of January. But this time, the impact was lessened in most areas, thanks to better preparation all around.
As with the January storm, we saw this one coming, and the forecasters mostly got it right. But because the predictions of a major storm were more dire this time, more people paid closer attention.
The contrast is pretty stark. The first storm hit at midday, and though it only dumped a couple inches of snow, it melted and froze quickly into an icy sheet just as hundreds of thousands of metro Atlantans tried to make it home when schools and businesses closed.
The result was a traffic jam of historic proportions. Snow-clearing trucks couldn’t get through the snarl as the crush of vehicles packed the snow down even tighter. And temperatures dropped into the teens, delaying the melting of the mess.
Through the finger-pointing and recriminations afterward, most came to realize the fiasco was less of a weather event than a traffic disaster. Having all those people on major highways at the same time created the mess that resulted. Yet in Gainesville, Hall County and other areas outside of the metro gridlock, such problems did not materialize.
State officials admitted they could have done better, however, and vowed to make amends before the next storm hit. That effort was evident last week. Alerts went out earlier and were more urgent. Schools and businesses shuttered ahead of the first batch of snow that hit overnight Monday into Tuesday. Plows and spreader trucks were loaded and ready, and with cars off the highways, they were able to treat roads more quickly and effectively.
As a result, there were no major traffic issues this time. As the second and worse wave of the storm hit Tuesday into Wednesday, icy roads sat deserted as people hunkered down at home. That made it easier for crews to get their work done and speeded up the melting when the sun emerged the next day.
State and local officials likely will get credit for communicating and acting more decisively this time, and they should. But credit also should go to Georgians who paid more attention to warnings this time and stayed off roads during critical times.
Yes, government has a responsibility to warn us when bad weather is looming, but we all have the same access to traffic and weather reports. When we make better decisions on our own, it helps to avoid the kind of catastrophe seen in January.
Yet many residents in east Georgia, particularly the Augusta area, suffered massive power outages from ice on trees and power lines. Again, utility and state officials responded as best they could, but thousands were left in the dark for days. That’s going to happen when a storm of that magnitude hits.
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