Amid growing criticism, Atlanta increases snow response fleet from 10 to 58 pieces
January 11th, 2011
11:15 PM ET

Amid growing criticism, Atlanta increases snow response fleet from 10 to 58 pieces

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
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Filed under: Weather • Winter weather
soundoff (444 Responses)
  1. Rachael M

    "We did not anticipate that this was going to be one of four biggest snow event in ten years."

    So the mayor knew that a "snow event" this big happens once every 2 or 3 years? How could you not have equipment available to handle such an event?

    January 13, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • dcoaster

      Rachael, I believe it is supposed to say “We did not anticipate that this was going to be one of OUR biggest snow event in ten years.”

      January 13, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Rachael M

      This is another quote of the mayor from the channel 11 (Atlanta) website:

      "We went from ten to double. It turns out that double wasn't enough, we did not anticipate that this was going to be one of the four biggest snows (in Atlanta) in ten years...."

      Looks like CNN got the quote right.

      January 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rich

    It is not just the lack of equipment, it is also the lack of expertise in managing the removal of snow and ice. As one commentator noted, the clearing only began after the storm had passed. In northern climates, plows are rolling and de-icing chemicals are being dispersed from the very beginning of the storm. It is almost impossible to remove packed snow and ice. It is a penny wise and pound foolish approach to wait until the storm has passed. Better to expend your resources at a time when it will do the most good.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Peach

      I could not agree more Rich!!!

      Someone here posted that the salt and blade trucks did not get rolling till Monday evening.

      I do know in colder states they are on standby when the flakes start falling, and they are out there salting as the snow comes down so that intersections do not get packed snow that turns into black ice.

      My solution is that Atlanta and the state of GA need to go visit some of these colder states, ride along inside these salting trucks and see how it is done. It is like the road crews and those telling them what to do really haven't a clue that time is of the essence when there is a storm.

      I have heard from other folks who used to live here in Atlanta and the comment I got over and over was "I see Atlanta still doesn't have it right do they".......

      January 14, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lany

    I think Atlanta did as good of a job as possible. If Sonny Perdue did not leave a state plan in place, what the heck is happening? While I doubt that happened, more communication and collaboration is needed definitely. But I do applaud the local leaders for getting into the problem to find solutions. Good job to me as I have lived in other cities, including NY and DC, I would suggest salt for the roads prior to these storms and a vendors list where private invdividuals can sign up to be vetted for a response team with the city and/or state.

    January 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Peach

    I have lived in Atlanta now for a decade, and granted we have not had anything this bad in that time, I am dismayed at the lack of preparedness of a city this size. I have been driving into work from the 'burbs since the storm, and never called out because I couldn't get in. The snow and ice don't bother me, I have lived in western states and you just learn to drive in the stuff.-that's just what you do.

    That said, I do NOT understand Atlanta's lack of "haste" to get this solved. Semi Trucks and cars sat on I-20 east bound on 6 Flags hill for THREE DAYS. THREE DAYS!!!! You could see the semi trucks lined up for miles and miles with parking lights on, just waiting on the hill to be treated. How hard is it to get that 3 to 5 mile stretch plowed and treated??? Does it take THREE DAYS??? I don't care who you are, that is unheard of anywhere else in the country.

    Case in point: Memphis got 4 inches of snow the day before we did but their roads were clean and dry by Tuesday. How can Memphis get their act together and we can't????? My friend in Memphis says that with all that city's faults, they DO get their act together on snow preparedness. I would like some of the state and city supporters who are saying this is a "once in a decade" event, to explain how Memphis can get it right and Atlanta and the state of Georgia can't.

    Now we have the city of Atlanta passing the blame on the state and the GDOT, and the GDOT saying it is the state and the state says it is the city's problem. Always pointing the finger of blame, while the residents suffer. Period.

    I have often wondered this week why the state and city can't buy some multi use trucks, ones that can be used for hauling things in the summer and spring and then in the winter attach some blades so the roads can be cleared.
    Now before you jump on the band-wagon about how much the purchase of trucks would be for a once-in-a-decade-event, think of how many MILLIONS or even BILLIONS of dollars of LOST COMMERCE AND REVENUE took place this week. Some can NOT be made up in this already-suffering economy.

    'Nuff said.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stan

    Trying to cheap out the weather is what made Katrina such a disaster. Cities never learn from other's mistakes. So trying to save a few bucks and using HOPE to protect us from the snow and ice, they managed to probably cost the metro area a billion or two in lost revenue/income/trade and who knows how much future business. I'd rather relocate a company to Minneapolis than Atlanta if this is how they handle snow removal.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rich

    Just one additional point. It seems clear that Atlanta and the state of Georgia think that sand mixed with some salt mixture is sufficient. It is not! Northern states abandoned sand a long time ago for a number of reasons including the most obvious: it doesn't melt ice. It is a cheap alternative to salt. But, when there are consecutive days of freezing, there is big trouble.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Beth

    Too bad they didn't get any SnoClaws. Check us out Georgia.

    November 30, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
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    April 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ice melt brick

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