1661150_10152250157412216_282598240_nOkay, “Flurryjam” is a bit snarky.  It was more than a flurry.  In fact, for the South, it was a legit snowstorm: two inches officially.

But here’s the thing: Should a two-inch snowstorm–well forecast, I might add–bring absolute gridlock to the ninth largest metro area in the country?  Drivers abandoning cars, people trapped in parking garages, kids stuck in schools (and on busses).  A nightmare.

I had a weird flashback early yesterday morning as I drove from Fulton County to Gwinnett to drop off my car for servicing.  As I crossed over Peachtree Industrial I noticed traffic was bumper to bumper heading into Atlanta.  The snow hadn’t yet started.

I know what’s gonna happen, I thought.  When the snow hits, everybody’s gonna bolt for home and there’ll be massive traffic jam.  I had no idea, however, it would be as bad as it turned out.

How did I know there would be a big mess?  I’d seen it before.  Boston.  The Blizzard of ’78.  Again, a well-forecast storm. It was gonna be big.  Everybody knew it was coming.

But since it wasn’t snowing early Monday morning on February 6, 1978, everybody headed to work.  I was one of them.  The prevailing thinking was When it gets bad, we’ll beat feet.

Well, it got bad shortly after noon.  Everybody beat feet.  Everybody.  Highway 128 (think Atlanta’s 285) became a parking lot.  But the snow didn’t stop at two inches.  It snowed and it snowed and it snowed.  People got out of their cars and walked home.  Vehicles were buried in place.  Plows couldn’t get through.  The city shut down for the better part of a week.

What I’m suggesting is, whether in Boston or in Atlanta, the issue is perception.  People perceive that it isn’t snowing when they get up, so they think I’m going into work.  I can always bail out when it gets bad.  The problem is, in Atlanta, about two million other people were thinking the same thing yesterday.

I’ll admit, winter storm warnings in the South have a checkered past.  Some have verified about as well as predictions the Falcons were going to the Super Bowl this year.  But yesterday’s forecast was about as much of a slam dunk as we ever get here.  Perhaps forecasters should have emphasized their confidence with more vigor.

Another factor (but not a major one): winter storm warnings were a bit tardy in being issued for the north metro area.  Yes, snow was forecast, but not much.  It wasn’t until Monday night it became clear the north side was going to get more than an inch.

Still, as I said, the forecasts were good.  Timing and all.  Perhaps meteorologists should attach confidence factors to their predictions in the future.  High, medium, hallucinatory.  Something like that.

Or maybe people just have to realize that even in the best of times, traffic moves like a slug in mud in Atlanta.  And that’s when our “rush hour” is four hours long.  When you try to compact it into a real hour . . . well, zombies could have their greatest tailgate party ever.

Next time, commuters need to remember that when they think they can wait until the snow or ice comes a-calling and then boogie, it’s not a unique thought.  A few million other people are on the same wave length.

It doesn’t work well.








  1. Susan Clotfelter Jimison on January 29, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Well said Buzz! After fifteen years in Washington State where they don’t use salt on roads (greeners) I thought I had seen the epitome of lack of road conditioning! Actually looking back (I have been here since ’09) they did a pretty good job of it. Watching the news last night and this morning I am amazed at how people had no plan. Really jump in your car and drive home like everyone else?

    This too shall pass but until then I am staying home.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Terry Segal on January 29, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Well written, Buzz! What an ordeal! I agree that the newscasters need an extreme confidence rating. It always seems that there is the drama of fear planted—“BRACE YOURSELF FOR THE WINTER STORM!”and we get a sugar cookie dusting of powder, maybe! Daughter in IN has 20” of snow on the side of the road and classes are not cancelled. A warning was sent to be careful about breathing while walking to class so their lungs don’t freeze, but classes have gone on as scheduled. ATL could have handled it a lot better. Glad we are through it though. Thanks for your insight.

  3. Mike McMackin on January 29, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    I disagree with your assessment that this was well forecast. As far as mentioning that there would be a winter weather event, it was played up over the weekend, but I was hearing there would be only a dusting in the northern suburbs as late as Tuesday morning. I followed this pretty closely because I knew it would have an effect on my sitters. Even the NWS saying they issued a warning while everyone is asleep doesn’t get it done. By that time it is too late to make adjustments in work and school schedules. The school problem is another issue that I don’t concern myself with. I saw a TV station early Tuesday saying there was a line of snow in TN at that time that would drift down and produce flurries but fizzle out and the storm would come from the south. It was about 9 when the guy on WSB finally said, “I think this may be a little bigger than what we’ve been thinking.” I think everyone underestimated this.

    • Buzz Bernard on January 29, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      From Paul Goodloe’s Facebook Post:
      Tuesday 3:38 a.m.
      All metro Atlanta under a winter storm warning starting 9 a.m. Tuesday
      Impacts: 1 to 2 inches of snow. Snow expected to begin mid-morning and last into Tuesday night. Snow-covered roads will make for hazardous driving conditions through Wednesday morning.

      Mike–thanks for your comment. But I do have to take issue with your suggestion that the warning came “too late to make adjustments in work and school schedules.” If commuters and officials can’t be flexible in their decision making, ATL will continue to look buffoonish every time it snows or ices. But as I said in the blog, the forecast for north metro wasn’t the main issue. The real problem was that things had no chance of going smoothly when 2 million people (or whatever) decide to hit the road at the same time.

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