clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

HERE'S HOW HOTHLANTA HAPPENED (AGAIN)

New, 633 comments

AN EDSBS SPECIAL POLICY BRIEF

North Avenue this morning in downtown Atlanta
North Avenue this morning in downtown Atlanta
Robert Herrig/@robertherrig

This is how two and a half inches of snow paralyzed Atlanta, roughly speaking.

1. This is a poorly run city that barely sees snow. The last time ATL was hit with a winter storm, there were four--FOUR--salt trucks at the ready. Two of them ran into each other on the way out of the lot, and reduced the road-clearing capacity of the city by fifty percent. This city, administratively speaking, does not do anything well. There are a lot of reasons for this, but ineptitude as a general rule leads to massive ineptitude in specific areas of anti-expertise. Atlanta's bad at a lot of things it has to do every day, so the things it has to do rarely are really, really badly done--particularly when it involves something the city experiences every three or four years

2. This is a sprawling metro area encompassing eight thousand square miles with at least three major interstates (depending how you count them and their subdivisions) and one huge ring road in 285. It's hilly as hell, and on top of those major arteries features a commuter population that takes at least another four or five roads you'd consider highways anywhere else. It works at a snail's pace on a good day. Throw any kind of inclement weather into the equation, and the heart-shaped organ of Atlanta becomes one big traffic cardiac event.

3. So before anything even happened yesterday, you had a complex and tangled transit system spanning no fewer than six major agencies and government entities that would implode with the slightest hiccup in the transit equilibrium.

Then someone coated the roads in ice just in time for rush hour.

4. And then something happened, and nothing happened in response. No one freaked out when winter storm advisories were announced. No cancellations were made, and the city and GDOT had nothing ready, and no capacity to catch up once they were behind. The city and state play a game of chicken with winter weather. The usual tactic is to call everything off, cancel everything early, and risk ridicule for the sake of not having people trapped on the roads for ten hours. This is usually done with the luxury of a night to prepare.

5. This storm not only hit farther north than projected, but also hit in the middle of the day--the exact time when the rush hour cannon is loaded with the full brunt of Atlanta's commuting class. The city and state failed, but so did everyone else. Employers, famously flocking to Georgia because we don't have much of a government to interfere with things, did not fill the void by responsibly suggesting people telecommute. Schools said nothing, and had to shelter children overnight while cafeteria workers stayed to make food for the kids. People slept in CVS and Publix last night. The best man at my wedding slept in a hotel conference room. He is only seven miles from home, and still is as of this morning, because no one did a single smart thing.

6. So if you're glorying in this, and using this disaster of civic ineptitude to gird your own puny loins this morning, great. I encourage this, because I want you to be the worst possible person. Everyone's got a goal, and you're headed down that path whether I want you to or not. You survived that brutal Northern winter all by yourself, writing a check and living in a less deplorably managed city. You did it, you Meteorological Ayn Rands of the world. Be sure to tell the people sleeping in freezing cars on the interstate about it this morning. I think that's what this is for. This is definitely what this moment is for. Your shitbag horizon is calling: go grab it with both hands, and don't bother wearing gloves.

7. If you want to know what happened, it's that a sprawling mess of a city with zero preparation or capacity to handle a logistical challenge got hit right where it could afford it least: straight in the heart of the city, i.e. the ability to drive from one point to another in an automobile. You have solutions. We have an Atlanta. You should know that the two rarely meet.

8. TL; DR: everyone failed except the lunchladies, teachers, postal workers, and the firemen down the block I heard going back and forth all night without sleep.  Oh, and the bartenders. The number of bartenders working last night was nothing short of heroic.