Being forewarned is not enough


This year has started off with a bang. The polar vortex has been freezing the eastern part of America supposedly used to bad weather. The new mayor of New York has discovered to his cost that the politics of which parts of a city get cleared first can be difficult to get right. But it’s when the winter weather moves further south that the lack of response gets more interesting. Wednesday saw Atlanta turned into an unmoving mess as roads froze. That cold weather suddenly affected about 60 million people who usually spend their time worrying about how many hours of sunshine they are going to get. From Texas through Georgia into the Carolinas, there have been seven deaths and misery for the majority of those escaping injury through traffic crashes, slips and falls.

There’s a joke going around that the world can’t be experiencing global warming when America has these exceptional winter conditions. Somehow this ignores what’s happening in the rest of the world where, for example, play in the Australian Open was suspended because of the heat. So coming back to Atlanta, two inches of snow paralyzed the city.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said it was all the fault of the weathermen. Not that it got cold, you understand. So far, the weathermen are only supposed to predict the weather, not actually make it. According to the Governor, the weathermen swore on a stack of bibles that there would be no snow in Atlanta. That’s why no one bothered to prepare any response. It was all going to happen in the south of the state.

This has outraged the weathermen who said Atlanta had plenty of warning. Mayor Kasim Reed is said to have been asleep at the wheel (before the snow came and the cars all froze to the roads). His strategy has been to blame the people. It seems as soon as it began to snow, everyone jumped in their vehicles and tried to drive home. This produced a massive gridlock. If only people had left work over a period of some hours, there would have been fewer problems. So next time the city does not have any warning of snow, schools will close early and the shutdown of factories and offices will be staggered. This will, of course, make everyone look rather silly if there’s no snow. But, hey, that’s politics and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

So looking back, how did Atlanta do? Well it managed to get one million people out of the city (eventually). No one died and only a few were injured in the thousands of accidents. Thousands slept in their cars on the side of the road so the snow plows could not clear the roads. It was chaos confirming that, when the south gets just an inch of snow, drivers panic and crash into each other. This may be hilariously funny to the people in New York, but the southern states now need contingency plans in case it snows again tomorrow. Waiting for the sun to melt the now is not good enough.

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