Georgians look for answers in botched snowstorm response

ATLANTA -- Roads in Atlanta are open again, but most schools and businesses remain closed. Two days after two inches of snow and ice paralyzed the city, Georgia's governor admitted he blew it.

Some of the 2,000 drivers who abandoned their cars during Atlanta's storm reclaimed them Thursday. Other Georgians went looking for answers.

 Callers on Atlanta talk radio faulted city and state leaders for not being prepared.

"The buck stops with me, I accept responsibility for it," said Gov. Nathan Deal, who had defended the state's response for two days. But he admitted Thursday that he had not closely followed the changing forecast.

"I did not know it had been upgraded and a more serious warning had been issued," he said.

At 3:22 Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service put out a winter storm warning: one to two inches of snow in north-central Georgia. But overnight, at 3:38 Tuesday morning, the update included all of metro Atlanta and its 5 million residents.

 At 7:20 that morning, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed tweeted, "Atlanta, we are ready for the snow."

Snow began falling at around 11:00 a.m. Soon after, the governor tweeted a photo of himself presenting Atlanta's mayor with a portrait as "Georgian of the Year."

By 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, schools, businesses and government offices began to empty at once. The gridlock and accidents made it impossible to treat the roads with salt. Children spent the night in schools; stranded commuters slept in store aisles and their cars.

 

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Bogan Mitchell
CBS News
 "Yes, we did not have adequate preparation to encounter the storm as it came in the time frame in which it came," Deal said Thursday. "Yes, I accept responsibility for that."

Bogan Mitchell had to abandon his car and walk home on the ice.

"I don't think they took it seriously," he said of Georgia officials. "I don’t think they really considered how bad it could happen to the city, and they were just lax in their response time."

The head of Georgia's emergency management admitted Thursday his agency's lack of planning had been a terrible mistake. He and the governor both promised next time would be different.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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