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. Mmmmm

    Oh dear, another coldspell, I'm gonna have go and pull out all the body pillows to keep warm.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      I wonder if people realize that all the equipment in the world won't do any good if you don't have salt (or a salt equivalent) to put on the ICE.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • tensor

      It'll be 50 degrees in another day or so and Atlanta will be back to normal. At least the cornucopia of criminals are also stuck inside for a few days. Metro Atlanta gets one of these every 10 years. Rent or buy near MARTA or be prepared to hunker down in front of a fireplace for a few days. At least there wasn't a giant ice *storm,* as in Snowjam '82 and again in '93, leaving millions stranded and without power. GADOT does a pretty good job on interstates and highways in rare incapacitating weather-related incidents, considering most in this area can't drive even on a bright, sunny day. City of Atlanta has been broke and badly managed for 2 decades; it can't spend money it doesn't have on snow equipment, at least not until it fixes the 100-year-old dilapidated sewer system and failed, corrupt school system. Never lived in a place with such short-term memory loss. In 3 months, the entire sprawling crazy quilt that is the metro area will be back in a drought.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Tensor, you hit the nail on the head. Something that is incredibly infrequent can't be prepared for in an affordable manner.
      Back in 93, Philadelphia got whalloped by 3 feet of snow, the storm of the century. It took two weeks to recover from that mess. The city was dumping the show into one river, ended up damming the river with snow!
      So, they pushed it into the OTHER river...

      January 12, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • tallblondes

      Amen, Charlie. It's strange to me that there's been no mention of salt, much less use of it out on the roads.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • adam

      I also wonder if people know that TAXES pay for new snowplows and Atlanta and its citizens should probably just suck it up for a couple of days instead of complaining. You can't have it both ways people. If you want every public service in the world you have to pay.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • brt

      they could and should have put out salt the night before, but they have very little experience with snow like this. To top that off, Atlanta government officials are especially dim. It wasn't handled well, but I don't think anyone expected that it would be given the way Atlanta is governed on a regular basis. I really have no idea how the city hasn't turned into another Detroit given all the similarities between the 2.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      People can argue man made climate change all they want but its happening regardless of why or our ideology. In fact Insurance companies quietly have already started pricing it into their business. When money is on the line even a right wing nut will tell people pay attention to reality.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      And climate change does not mean only global warming. The storms and unusual weather (cold and hot, storms, etc) is only going to get worse. It may not be man made but 20 years from now nobody will argue it.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      Methane is many times worse for climate than CO2. Our massive increase in livestock has probably done more to change climate than our SUVs. Vegans may be right but their diet still sucks. Give me steak or give me death.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ellen

    I happened to be in Atlanta in the winter of 1993, and thought I would freeze to death. There was no snow during the seven weeks I was there, but there might as well have been. It was one of the coldest winters on record for that city. Those who would deny climate change have not been paying attention.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
    • BillyG

      No one deny's that the climate changes massively; only silly people believe that is such a new thing...

      January 12, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • kyle

      Climate change? Or global warming...? Or the coming ice age predicted in the 70's...? Or are we only allowed to say "Climate Chaos" now? If you don't like SUV's , don't buy one and leave the rest of us alone!

      January 12, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      NO SNOW??? Lady I lived in Atlanta in 93 and it was a blizzard, and the ENTIRE city and surrounding areas came to a complete STANDSTILL for about 3 days. No power, no way to get around, only a few Waffle Houses managed to stay open and they were packed non-stop. What did you do for 7 weeks, stay on an LSD trip or something, lol?

      January 12, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank Rizzo

      even if the climate is changing , Guess what no one can do anything about it , so why dwell on it move on will ya .

      January 12, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • BillyG

      Correct. All species "adapt or die" every generation or become extinct. Same as it ever was or ever will be.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      Funny how the tree-huggers have dumped the "Global Warming" theme that they ran around screaming for years every time we have a hot summer and now they are screaming "Global Climate Change" because it's cold. They can't make up their minds whats going to happen. As soon as people realize the environmental issue is about money (i.e. "carbon credits") then this issue will die a quiet death.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      No one denies that the climate is changing; in fact it has been changing for the last 1,000,000 years as shown by Al Gore himself. The issue is does the 0.005% of CO2 man produces of total greenhouse gases have an effect. I say no as the amount of CO2 produced by mankind is negligible.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • bitterjack

      By global climate change are you referring to the ozone hole?

      January 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • BillyG

      The "ozone hole" is no longer talked about because it (like man made global warming) was discredited. The atmosphere is so complex that simplistic CO2 levels (and attempts to find the "perfect level") are so misguided.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Dragon

      It's global warming. Gloabl weather taken as a whole is a "system". Heat is energy. Add energy to a system and the fluctuations in that system intensify. This means higher highs AND lower lows, more intense storms, and more parched droughts. Global warming is like adding octane booter to the world's weather engine. I'll leave it to scientists and pundits to fight it out over whether human activity is to blame. Certainly human activity affects climate on a local scale (urban heat sinks, deforestation, etc...) but on a global scale, and even counting hydrocarbons, you can't just ignore natural sources like volcanoes (of which a great many undersea ones have been quite active lately).

      January 12, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • BillyG

      "Global warming is like adding octane booster to the world's weather engine"

      You do realize that octane booster SLOWS DOWN combustion, right?

      January 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Dragon

      Oops. Yeah, I'd forgotten that in my search for analogy. replace "octane booster" with "nitrous oxide".

      January 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillyG

      No need for an analogy at all; CO2 is CO2 (and not NOx). Just a hint: the PRIMARY agent in the atmosphere that contains heat is H20. CO2 is basically irrelevant in that process....

      January 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • brt

      It was called (cue dramatic music) "the blizzard of '93". There was over a foot of ice on the roads. My family has lived here since the 50s and that's the worst they have ever seen it.

      So there is this thing called global dimming. When you put macromolecules into the atmosphere it blocks out the sun. There is a micro ice age every few hundred years in Europe because of the constant and steady distribution of ash into the air by the same volcano that recently caused weeks long delays (was it iceland or greenland?). I found out about that after researching why stradivarius violins have such a unique resonant frequency from their unique tone wood. Turns out those violins were made during one of these short lived mini-ice ages at a time when sunlight was restricted by atmospheric dimming...not enough light for the trees so they grew much slower compressing cells making a much tighter and stronger wood. insert penis joke.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillyG

      "The storms and unusual weather (cold and hot, storms, etc) is only going to get worse."

      You don't know that at all and no one can be sure.
      What we do know is that we can actually RECORD storms now. Guess what happened when they launched weather satellites in the 70's? We doubled the number of named storms in the Atlantic. Duh!

      January 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |

      this reminds me of the movie .... The Day After Tomorrow.......

      January 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. battlelanta

    Mayor Reed,that white stuff is snow..I cant drive to airport,but hey I can drive to falcons playoff.Gotta love the priorities.

    January 12, 2011 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
    • SoutherMan

      No! It is called ICE! There is a big difference. You must be a product of the public schools. Also when the Falcons play this weekend the temp will be 50 degrees and the ICE will be gone. Stop your WHINING!

      January 12, 2011 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. Simon

    battlelanta - the City of Atlanta isn't responsible for the interstate highways that lead you to the airport. That falls under the jurisdiction of GA DOT. Your complaint about the path to the airport should be directed at that agency, not the mayor. Also, FYI, there's a MARTA train station inside the airport and the trains are running fine in the snow. You say you don't live near a train station? Well, that's your priority.

    January 12, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • regertz

      As the first poster said, complain to the state about the roads to the airport and take the train if you can. It's Mayor Reed's job to focus on protecting citizens and keeping emergency roads to hospitals open, not provide you with easy access to your vacation or home flight. Southerners would be stupid if they listened to a whiner and foolishly bought equipment they will almost never use.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • SoutherMan

      The airport is no different than anywhere else. If getting to the airport is so damn important then ride the train. That is what it's there for. Why do you snowbirds whine so much?

      January 12, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • jay

      Why should the road to the airport be cleared when the airport is mostly closed?? thousands of flights have been cancelled so why pack the airport with people who will be stuck there? Come on people..think a litttle.. This is a generation type storm. There is no way to fiscally prepare for it. Especially ice vs a snow even which wouldnt have been near as bad. You cant buy millions of dollars in equipment you may use once or twice a decade. Just deal with it and move on.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      so are Marty. STFU.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Janine

      Why should the roads to the airport be cleared when A.) The government said stay off the road (can't you follow basic instructions?) B.) The airplanes aren't flying (couldn't read Delta's and Airtran's warnings either? nor their requests to reschedule for free?) C.) People move to GA because we Don't usually have snow, so why expect the city to own the equipment to handle what they don't norally have? If Southerners are so stupid, then get out of our area. Maybe we just take things in stride better and know how to prepare for being home. Wow! What a concept. Some of us actually enjoy it. Quit whining.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • CMS

      Janine –

      This snow-loving northerner enjoyed your comment. It seems you just can't win with the snowbirds. We can't stand them during the summer and you can't stand them during the winter. I suppose it makes for some good entertainment though.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cesar

    With the changing weather patterns, it is a good idea for the fleet increase.

    January 12, 2011 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
    • regertz

      A state or county pool would be better...Every city could draw on equipment and at least someone would actually use it during the winter.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sean

    Its almost funny that Atlanta will have nearly as much snow equipment as Cleveland... what a waste of taxpayer money.. By the time its needed again it will probably be all rusted away and useless. This was a freak storm, people need to stop trying to throw blame around., do you really think any other Southern city would have been any better prepared?

    January 12, 2011 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
    • cwrighta70

      Sean – what I gathered from the article is that the city of Atlanta is basically borrowing equipment from other municipalities so they don't have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff. The mayor is even quoted saying: "We are doing this so the city doesn't have to purchase mass amounts of equipment that we may never use again."

      January 12, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Yes,any other city would of been prepared, everyone knew for days this was coming, just turn the tv on – the fact that the main roads (peachtree, piedmont, etc...) haven't been touched until last night is a joke. The mayor says I didn't anticipate this. They (city, state, county government) were too busy trying to figure out who should plow what street on Monday/Tuesday and ordering more equipment and this is what you get. A major city with barely an inch of ice on the ground brought to a screaching halt...

      January 12, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Janine

      Mike read the article. Other Southern cities are also fighting for the equipment. Why? Because in the SOuth the snow usually lasts a day and melts away the next. No one plans to buy the equipment because WHO WILL PAY FOR IT? Has the government policy of hnding out things to people colored hteir understanding that there has to be money to spend it? The government was already at a deficit. Why put it further in for 1 storm in 10 years? What is wrong? You didn't buy groceries and couldn't get back out for not preparing? Or are you whining because you are inconvenienced and had to stay in your boring home? Smart people prepared to be home. Smart people don't keep demanding things be bought with money that doesn't exist just so they aren't inconvenienced slightly. GET OVER IT. Sit your butt at home and relax. You might actually find something to do at home like the rest of us.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Sean, actually READ before posting.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Dragon

      I see an opportunity for some enterprising company to stock up on snow equipment in the area and rent it out to municipalities throughout the South.
      They'd have to have a reliable delivery method, though.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeffrey

      @Mike–Peachtree and Piedmont are state highways–not city streets. Why don't you quit blasting the city officials and point the blame at the governor and head of the STATE DOT, whom by the way thinks the DOT is doing an excellent job. LOL! Mayor Reed had to ask the state for permission to let city crews and contractors clear those state highways yesterday when it was apparent the state wasn't going to do the job. Seems like everybody in the state of GA is so obsessed with lower taxes and little government, yet they are so quick to blast government officials when government services, which aren't paid for, aren't there to help the very people that are complaining. Laughable, just laughable. You get what you pay for.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sidewinder

    Maybe they can see the equipment if it remains unused. Another storm like this in a town close by and they'll be clammoring for the plows. It's all fun and games until there's so much snow on the ground people are trapped in their homes. Bloomberg was slammed for NYC snow cleanup crews failure to react timely and properly to the cleanup there, and when they did it was already too late. NYC seldom ever gets that much snow, and neither does Atlanta. To be prepared for it is a wise decision.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sidewinder

    Sell*, that's sell the equipment. Yeesh!

    January 12, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. AMERICA 1st

    stay home and there wouldnt accidents

    January 12, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. AMERICA 1st

    stay home and there wouldnt be any accidents

    January 12, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. banasy

    The article says, "amid criticism" other words, SOMEBODY is going to be inconvenienced no matter HOW prepared ANY city is. These are indeed freak weather patterns we are experiencing, and if one thinks a few days' notice is enough to get a plan in place to thwart nature, one would be wrong. It takes money and time to get all the equipment needed to clear a projected snowfall of any significance; in a ace where one rarely see snow, it's chaos. Give these cities and towns a break! We're sometimes unprepared for nature's dumps and I live in a state where we see snow constantly! A few years ago, it we were running out of snow salt; there was kvetching all around, but there was a shortage, and that was that.

    People are always going to blame politicians for anything that goes wrong, and they're right, mostly. I fail to see how a storm is on their heads; already one poster says it is a waste of taxpayers' money to be so what's gonna make everyone happy? Hmmm?

    January 12, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • regertz

      People aren't happy without a chance to blame someone. In New England, my pre-Atlanta ole home turf we brag about our snow-savvy but often get wiped out by heavy storms regardless of preparation and equipment. Anyway we're lucky not to have major power failures or back-to-back storms and things would be much easier if people would not try to drive for another day or two. Let the city/county/state keep the emergency routes open and focus on getting the cars we abandoned out of the roads and the tractor-trailers in to refill the stores. It will all be right in a few days.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. Syracuse


    January 12, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • ATL Transplant

      You do not have snow "ALMOST YEAR-ROUND" in Syracuse. And, peaches don't grow in the winter. Sheesh.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Mamaw

      Because you have snow so often, you are prepared. The people know how to drive on it. You have equipment that is needed to clear the streets. Atlanta has people who have never seen snow and no equipment. Quit trying to make yourself look macho and get with the reality of the situation. I also like in a snow prone area, but I have the necessary intelligence to understand Atlanta's problem.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • hahaha

      the problem is atlanta needs to be patient. id drive down there and pull some equipment out of my butt if i could. but im not that fat and all the equipment on the east coast is being USED right now. americans are crybabies. Shutup and go to your room america!!lol

      January 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. StopYouWhinyPigs

    Why don't you all stop complaining. It was an unusual storm that almost all cities in the south would have been unprepared for. You all suck for complaining.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Agreed. It's a major ice storm that's rare for the area. They're doing the best they can. People, stay off the roads and stay safe. The people complaining have unrealisitic expectations.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JEROME

    If we look at what has happen to atlanta, we look back at new orleans.The state officials must in times of emergency take over and be LEADERS.Give a helping hand to MAJOR cities within the state that provide much of the revenue.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • jorge washinsen

      How many days notice was it in New Orleans?13 I think it was.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      The city leaders need to be the ones to ask for that help. State officials don't just "swoop" in and take over. They have to be asked to lend assistance.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  15. StuckInsideInATL

    What we have here is not a problem with a lack of equipment. What we have is a lack of basic grade-school level science capacity. They're spreading a 'gravel and sand' mixture thinking it'll get the job done. I lived up north and have family there.... It's called SALT, stupid!!!! Sand and gravel does NOTHING to remove the ice, it only adds a little bit of traction. These people down here are idiots in the way they're handling this. Start dropping 100% salt and watch the ice be gone by tomrorrow you idiots!

    January 12, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • JEROME

      That good information to pass on, but not like that. Be postive, remember the main thing is that people dont get hurt or injuried, and the ATL get back up and running.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • LivesUpNorth

      Generally, municipalities in the southern portion of the US do not keep large amounts of salt on hand for incidents like this one. Nor can they quickly get it when a freak storm like this occurs. Before you start spouting off, calling people idiots, think things through a little bit.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • flooby

      So you can crap 100 tons of salt on a 72 hour notice? Get real and please go back to wherever it is you're from that apparently is perfect.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • jorge washinsen

      watch your bridges structures disappear also as rust takes over. Newton's law.

      January 12, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Agreed. I'm in Atlanta near Emory. The temperature has been between 20 and 30 since Sunday. There are several grades of salt municipalities can use, but even the cheap stuff works down to 15 degrees. The National Weather Service gave 72 hours notice of this storm which largely contributed to people staying home. If they had started spreading salt on major roads on Sunday night, everything would have been back to normal by Tuesday. The AJC article today said that GDOT has put down 300 tons of sand on the interstates. Ask the professionals in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and plenty of other places: this is just not the answer.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      ...and then watch the bottom of your car rust out in a few years. Better to just stay home a few days and enjoy the snow.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Dragon

      Actually, sand and gravel are very effective if the ice layer is relatively thin. They act mechanically to break up the ice when driven on, and are a whole lot less expensive than salt. Salt also has some problems as a corrosive and being harmful to some vegetation, which makes it lesss than optimal for neighborhood streets. From what I've seen, most agencies around here in the South are using both. Salt and brine on the major roads and sand on the back roads and at intersections in addition to salt.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
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