The snow is melting, the ice is retreating and stranded cars are finally leaving Georgia’s motorways. But the blame game is just getting started, and the stakes are high enough to rival Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Two inches of snow brought metro Atlanta to a standstill Tuesday and much of Wednesday. And now people want to know why – the thousands of Georgians who abandoned their cars and whose children had to sleep overnight at their schools. You know, people who vote.
Striking a largely apologetic tone, Gov. Nathan Deal pledged Thursday to make changes in how the state anticipates and responds to weather emergencies.
Speaking at a press conference at the state Capitol, Deal said he’s ordered an internal review of the state agencies involved in failing to adequately prepare for Tuesday’s snow storm.
“I want to start out by apologizing to those individuals who were stranded on our roadways, to those parents whose children were unable to return home in a timely fashion,” he said. “I accept responsibility for the fact we did not make preparation early enough to avoid these consequences.”
‘I’m Not Looking For A Scapegoat’
He also, at least publicly, avoided pointing the blame at his subordinates, including Charley English, head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, whom Deal said had given 16 years of “adequate” service.
“I’m not going to look for a scapegoat. I’m the Governor,” he said. “The buck stops with me. I accept the responsibility for it.”
English, for his part, said he wished he had recommended the Governor declare a state of emergency sooner.
“I made a terrible error in judgment late on Monday afternoon and early Tuesday,” he said. “I should have declared the state’s operations center open sooner -- six hours sooner.”
Cable television news shows and the world of social media have pounced on Gov. Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for what happened. And much of Thursday’s press conference dwelled in the minutiae of what time each state official learned of the winter storm warning.
Georgia Democrats have seen an opening in the state’s subpar reaction to Tuesday’s snow storm as they scout about for issues in the 2014 gubernatorial race.
DuBose Porter, chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, believes people who were stuck in traffic on Tuesday or Wednesday will remember it when they go to the polls in November.
And in an interview Wednesday, Porter said a lack of transportation planning is one way the state’s Republican leadership has failed Georgians over the past decade. He went so far as to imagine what it would have been like if a Democrat was in the state’s top office.
“We would have more mass transit,” he said. “Georgia is way behind on this.”