Georgia taking this winter storm seriously

EDITORIAL: As much as seven inches of snow is expected to accumulate in Northeast Georgia

With a second winter storm barreling toward north and central Georgia today, state officials got an opportunity Monday to show how quickly they had learned from their mistakes.

According to information from the National Weather Service on Tuesday, the winter storm that was to start gripping the northern regions of the state Tuesday night and today was shaping up to be of historic magnitude. As much as seven inches of snow was being projected for the northeast corner of the state, with anywhere from an inch to three inches in the Atlanta area. Crippling ice was projected to reach as much as eight-tenths of an inch from Atlanta eastward Thursday night, particularly along Interstate Highway 20. Power outages appeared inevitable.

This is the type of weather people live in the Deep South to avoid.

When the so-called “Snowmaggedon” hit two weeks ago, it paralyzed the Atlanta region. Earlier models had predicted our area in Southwest Georgia would be hit with the snow, but as the event got closer it tracked northward. State officials, thinking the Atlanta area would get a light dusting, found traffic arteries clogged as children became stranded at schools and stranded motorists were forced to abandon their vehicles and find shelter wherever they could.

That led to a great deal of criticism of two people in particular — Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. Deal accepted responsibility for the state not being quick enough to act and outlined steps he was taking, including the formation of a winter storm task force, to ensure there would be no repeat.

On Monday, state officials showed they were taking the lessons they learned to heart. Equipment and personnel were being mobilized, work was being assigned and information pipelines were established. When it became apparent that the state was facing a winter storm of even greater magnitude than the paralyzing snow and ice of late January, Deal systemically added counties to his emergency declaration, ending up with more than half of the state’s 159 counties on that list Tuesday.

While officials could have been open to criticism of “over” preparing if the system didn’t live up to predictions, indications Tuesday were that the actions being undertaken were prudent. Around noon Tuesday, the National Weather Service was urging Georgia residents in the affected to immediately make plans for enduring “this significant weather event” that was shaping up to be “an event of historical proportions.”

While our area, thankfully, should only see some heavy rain form this storm system, for much of the state this is likely to be as deadly a weather event as we have ever seen. We can only hope that residents of the impacted area are as prepared as possible, that public service agencies are up to the task and that the kindness shown by individuals and businesses in the last snow storm are duplicated.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board