The city of Atlanta expanded its fleet of snow response equipment from 10 pieces to 58 Tuesday amid mounting criticism over what many considered the city's failure to adequately prepare and respond to the biggest snow event in at least a decade.
So far, city crews have focused on clearing high priority routes, such as bridges and roads leading to hospitals, and providing emergency and essential services to residents, Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday. Of those 200 miles of high priority roadways, 150 have been cleared, and crews worked on clearing neighborhood and side streets Tuesday night after obtaining more equipment from private contractors.
Many of those streets are maintained by the Georgia Department of Transportation, which is partnering with the city to clean the streets tonight.
“The City of Atlanta is working tirelessly to ensure that the roads are clear of ice and snow and I want to thank our residents for staying off the roads to help facilitate this process,” Mayor Reed said. “In one of the worst snow storms in a decade, we have expanded our fleet from 10 to 58 pieces of equipment and have been coordinating seamlessly across city departments and partnering with other jurisdictions to keep our streets safe.”
Reed said the city had attempted to prepare for the snowstorm, which left most major roads, interstates and sides streets covered in ice, paralyzing the city with widespread closures of schools and businesses. Residents are still being encouraged not to drive tomorrow to allow cleanup crews to effectively clear the roads.
He acknowledged, however, that preparations before the storm that grew the fleet from 10 to 22 pieces of equipment was not enough, as officials had hoped it would be based on previous snow events.
"I think what surprised us was the quickness of the accumulation when the snow started falling," he said. "It turns out that double wasn't enough. We did not anticipate that this was going to be one of four biggest snow event in ten years."
Since then, Reed said the city has been working swiftly to acquire more equipment to clear the streets of ice and slush that has accumulated. But the city has had to compete with other municipalities short on resources for this kind of event for the equipment, Reed said.
"Governments from across the region are all in competition for equipment," he said. "We are doing this so the city doesn't have to purchase mass amounts of equipment that we may never use again."
Parts of the city saw up to 5 inches of snow Sunday night, which may not seem like a lot in absolute terms, but is significant in a city that has an average snowfall of 2.5 inches and considers a fleet of 10 salt spreaders and motor blades generally adequate for its purposes.
By comparison, the city of Cleveland, Ohio (where 80 inches of snow fell during the 2008 to 2009 winter season), had a snow removal fleet of 62 trucks and 13 road graders ready for Tuesday's snowfall, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
Reed noted one statistic that he considered the most significant measure of the city's response.
"We are not aware of any death that is snow-related, so as tough as it has been since this snow event began, we have not lost a life that we are aware of as a result of one of the most significant snow events we have ever had."Read more about the winter storms heading up the Eastern seaboard