Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse. Snow Jam. Whatever you call it, five years ago this week, Georgia was a mess. Five years later, what are the odds it could happen again?
A mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow left much of middle Georgia in a winter wonderland in late January of 2014.
The freezing rain left behind beautiful sights, but the quarter to half inch of ice from Columbus to Macon to Vidalia also left trees and power lines down and left many people in the dark.
But for Atlanta, it was an event many people would love to forget.
All it took was a few inches of snow to leave thousands of motorists stranded on roads and interstates, some for over 20 hours.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, there were over 1,500 winter storm related accidents and over 180 injuries.
“I remember having to go up to University of Tennessee the following day, and as I was driving to Tennessee, with cars everywhere, I thought it was the apocalypse,” said Dr. Marshall Shepherd with the University of Georgia. “I thought it was an episode of The Walking Dead.”
The National Weather Service issued winter storm watches and warnings ahead of the storm, but when the winter storm watch was upgraded to a winter weather advisory, it was the term that was misunderstood by many, sending parents to work and kids to school. By definition, a winter weather advisory means winter weather is happening while a winter storm watch means winter weather is possible.
The rest is history.
When everyone made it home, and the snow and ice had melted, then Governor Nathan Deal established a task force to come up with processes to make sure snow jam didn’t happen again. That task force was made up of government officials, meteorologists and private sector representatives. They made recommendations that remain in place today.
Dr. Shepherd applauds them.
“I think the governor’s task force revolutionized our preparedness for a winter weather events and all types of weather events.”
Glenn Burns is the Chief Meteorologist for WSB-TV in Atlanta. He served on the task force. I asked him if progress has been made. He says yes!
“It made a huge difference in the way the state handled winter storms. This level of preparedness was unheard of prior to the task force.”
Dr. Shepherd stresses preparedness is key. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
“It really is OK to be prepared, and hopefully the best case outcome is what happened, but if the worst case scenario is what plays out, we can say we were prepared, and that’s all we really can ask.”
We asked now Governor Brian Kemp’s staff if the task force recommendations would remain in place or if he would handle future storms differently. We have not heard back from his office.