Below-freezing temperatures kept metro-Atlanta drivers crawling on the city’s major roads after a historic snowstorm hit the Southeast Sunday night into Monday.
Many people are understandably frustrated with the Georgia Department of Transportation and its response to clearing major roads and highways quickly. Wednesday, GDOT officials, who have come under blistering criticism, said 99 percent of all state roads were passable, with at least one lane open on every interstate route, but the outrage by many is still being heard.
On Day 4 of what many are calling a "Snowmageddon," many metro-Atlanta residents are shaking their heads in disbelief and asking if GDOT was prepared for this mess. On the flip side, cities like Johns Creek that had a plan and got their major roads cleared must be commended.
Doug Nurse, Johns Creek city communications manager, said officials from the fire, police, public works, administration and communications departments huddled together last week to chart a course of action to deal with the bad weather and assess how it could affect bridges and areas, such as Sargent and Barnwell roads, prone icy conditions.
Even before the snow starting falling Sunday, the city’s staff and contractor, Blount Construction, began working in 12-hour shifts spreading salt-and-sand mixture on the roads. According to the city’s website, up to five inches of snow and ice covered the roads. Crews spread 450 tons of de-icing and traction mixture between Sunday evening and Wednesday afternoon, Nurse said. Police and fire vehicles, which are equipped with snow-chains, carried their own supply of salt and sand to alleviate any problems that would inhibit their mobility.
Johns Creek also rented several rooms for some workers at the Hyatt on Medlock Bridge Road. The idea behind that move was that they didn’t want to disburse everyone and run the risk of them not being able return due to the inclement weather. There was also a deep sense of gratitude and respect evident for these workers, who were being asked to work 12-hour shifts away from their families. So the least the city could do was to house these workers at an area hotel, Nurse said.
To tackle the really tough spots, the city brought in a grader on Monday and another on Tuesday. That went a long way in removing snow and ice from trouble areas.
There were only 15 accidents reported from Sunday night to Wednesday night in Johns Creek. Nurse said that was due to the city keeping the major roads open and residents staying off the roads. It was interesting to learn that Johns Creek pitched in and cleaned state roads such as Medlock Bridge and McGinnis Ferry since GDOT wasn’t able to carry out its responsibilities in a timely manner.
The heavy snow fall was an extraordinary event in Georgia. Considering that this is virtually unheard of in the South and resources were limited, the city made the decision to focus on the major thoroughfares and not the neighborhood streets. The decision was to focus on those areas that would make the most good, Nurse said.
We must commend the city of Johns Creek for being proactive and planning ahead on how to best deal with the inclement weather. Georgia’s DOT Commissioner Vance Smith told 11 Alive News that DOT crews had already spread 5,300 tons of salt and 7,000 tons of gravel on icy roads, with more salt and gravel ordered. That’s great, but what has exasperated many is that interstate highways in metro Atlanta and many off-and-on ramps were still impassable or barely passable three days later. Some sections remain dangerous because the densely packed snow and ice have yet to be cleared.
Further, Atlanta mayor Kaseem Reed and his team were slow to react to the severity of the weather. Only Tuesday afternoon the city hired three private contractors to add to the city crews already clearing the streets. Had the equipment been ordered Monday, since the forecasts called for cold temperatures and freezing conditions, it is highly likely that things would have been far better for residents. It is also very telling that cities like Johns Creek could be so proactive and preplanned for the worst-case scenario.
Many people who have lived in northern states have been shaking their heads at the response of GDOT in the aftermath of the snow storm. For example, the same system that dumped three to seven inches of snow on Georgia also dumped nine inches on New York (which came under criticism for the clean-up of December's blizzard), 36 inches in Wilmington, VT, and 38.2 inches on Savoy, VT. Maybe GDOT needs to get a crash course from one of these states on how to deal with inclement weather and disburse resources to return to a state of normalcy more quickly.
To the leaders of Johns Creek and the tireless workers who played a role in getting the major thoroughfares cleared quickly, I and Johns Creek residents commend you.