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. TacoLady

    In my city we bought snow plow trucks that dispence salt but we also have plows that we attack to the garbage trucks. So that not only can the garbage runs be done but those trucks will also plow the inner neighborhoods that may not get hit by the snow plow trucks.

    January 12, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stan

      Attaching plows to the front of garbage trucks that already go down every street is what is called SMART and using common sense. That is lacking in the Atlanta area.

      Why are there still HUGE patches of thick ice all over when it snowed 5 days ago? Waiting for the sun to do the job is NOT a plan!

      January 14, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    I live 40 miles NE of Atlanta, in Gainesville, I drive into Atlanta daily. I can see clearly the boundry lines for each DOT district. Gainesville district had all of the ice off of the state roads and interstates Tuesday morning. I then pass thru Dawson County some ice left on Ga 400 but clearly passable in all 4 lanes Tuesday morning . Forsyth county south they finally cleared Ga 400 TODAY, its passable but still extremely dangerous. Gainesville DOT has most of its trucks adapted for plows and I know they don't cost $225,000 apiece. Most are right off the lot then retro fitted for plows.
    I've seen the workers spreading salt and gravel mix from the back of pick ups with shovels following the plows.
    I'm sure this "Old Fashion" way of doing things while not as profitable for the sellers of this high dollar truck would enable the state to be better prepared, without millions spend on equipment which maybe obsolete before it gets used.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Antwoine

    Blaming the city for the ice storm is like blaming the doctor for your broken leg. I moved to Metro Atlanta from Springfield, MA over a decade ago an in that time this area has received 2 snow and ice storms of over and inch or two.... and both times the same questions are asked. And both times the elected officials miss the point. See, when dealing with snow removal, and that is all we are talking about, it does not take brand new FLEET of snow plows and dump trucks to keep the roads open... it just takes PLANNING. Georgia is one of the largest agricultural states in the unions with THOUSANDS of farms with equipment sitting IDLE until the spring. If even a fraction of those farmers were offered a few hundred dollars, or a tax break to remove snow from the streets, the city would have had to turn people away instead of once again missing the boat.

    January 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Downtown Atlanta Business Owner

    I own a business in downtown Atlanta. Driving 5 mph, I made it to the office today. I can tell you first hand that as of 10AM, Wednesday (3rd day of snow), most of the roads in downtown Atlanta – the heart of the city – were still covered in ice and snow, with no sign of a snowplow anywhere. The Mayor says they had 58 snow plows... why did I not see any sign of them downtown today??

    January 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Todd

    I think another issue here is that the school boards are completely mad. They've canceled school for tomorrow, even though most of the streets around me are free of snow/ice and even water today. So, how many days of work am I supposed to miss because Atlanta has no capacity for dealing with a 4" snow storm. OK, now multiply that by the million or so people in the same boat... what did this storm really cost?

    January 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • e

      and what are the roads like in other parts of your county? My neighborhood has numerous hills that are iced over that buses cannot travel on (and regularly do) The counties around here are HUGE and some have greatly varying landscapes.

      January 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      I understand what you mean, the counties are huge, and there may be slick spots... but come on. Like others have said, I moved here from Colorado, where it would have to snow about a yard before school got canceled for 4 days. 4 days... that seems a tad ridiculous. I went out and about today, and unless you drove like the streets were totally dry, you were fine.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • SNJ

      As an Emory University student, I'm not complaining. Let the ice melt on its own. Taxes dollars do not need to be used for cleaning up the ice from a once-in-a-decade weather event.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • e

      and how would those roads be clogged with the normal amount of drivers and tens of thousands of school students? It is not yet safe to have that many people suddenly flooding the roads, most of whom have driven on ice maybe twice in their lives. Schools are closed for the safety of the kids, which is judged by multiple places in the county, like I said your neighborhood may be fine, but mine still has cars sliding backwards down steep hills as of this evening.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GoFaster58

    Why criticize something that you have no control over. If they had 100 snow plows they couldn't keep up.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Toano

    Did I read this correctly – city officials initially had 10 snow removal vehicles on the road. 10? In Atlanta? 10? My goodness – I have had the unfortunate "pleasure" of driving AROUND Atlanta at rush hour on several of its beltways. 5 or 6 lanes wide in both directions, crawling bumper to bumper traffic. I would have thought this was an indication of a huge city. I guess I was wrong if Hizzonner the Mayor thought 10 snow removal vehicles could handle the city.

    January 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • e

      it is a huge city that gets snow like this once a decade.

      January 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    Global warming at it's best. Thank Al. You warned us??????

    January 12, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. keith

    amazing how people get upset about ice and snow removal in a city that doesn't usually get snow and ice very often – yeah its something a city up north that regularly gets it should be able to be efficient at doing, but a city in the south that doesn't get this magnitude of a storm very often and people are complaining....the city has what a total of 4 plows?? geez people get real

    January 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. swohio

    I live in southwest Ohio, and I'm still amazed that so far this season there are places hundreds of miles to my south which have seen larger single-event snowfalls than I've seen in the past 2 years. Seriously. The largest single snowfall I've seen in the past two Winters has only been 4.5" out of any one storm. But *BAM*, the south gets nailed with 8-10" of snow out of one storm??

    January 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Daniel

    I do feel for those of you stuck in this stormy mess. We in Californian don't know how to act when the temperature gets in the 30's let lone if we had this ice & snow it would be circus of death on the roads.
    I blame Al Gore and the global warming... Ops, explain how this fits in to the global warming agenda, Al.
    Anyone still gullible enough to think "Global Warming" isn't a fraud and just a scam to extract cash from idiots?

    January 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. james

    5" of snow and it shuts down Atlanta for a week?? We got 2 feet in Boston today and things will be back to normal tomorrow.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • FromTheSouth

      You can't compare Boston to Atlanta. Boston is used to snow storms. 5" in Boston would be just another day because you guys are used to that weather and have the resources to take care of something like that. 5" in Atlanta is a once in 20 years thing. We don't have the resources to deal with this kind of situation because it doesn't occur. It would be a waste of money for us to invest in the equipment to deal with this weather because we would hardly use it. So it makes complete sense for us to just shut down for a couple days to deal with this.

      January 13, 2011 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rifath

    I am not surprised. I've lived in the Atlanta metro area all my life (18 yrs) and I can't remember if this ever happened. My parents remember once back in 1993. But Atlanta rarely receives snow like this and freezing rain after that. I was traveling on I-85, NE section, and only 3 out of the 6 lanes were clear of ice/snow in one direction. The HOV lane was unusable. I agree, Atlanta shouldn't waste money on snow equipment that only would be used once or twice a year. But there has to be better preparation for something like this. This is just embarrassing.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Peach nailed it. It *is* embarrassing. This story was big news everywhere.

      January 14, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. hollyjames3

    "Clearance Auto Insurance" rates are very low and now I am saving a lot on my car insurance. Dont be fooled by 5 mins can save 500$

    January 13, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. TonyL

    Besides this blunder by the the city of Atlanta, Fulton county and the state of Georgia, the city, county and state are highly taxed with the lowest services provided to taxpayers and citizens. The people employed by all three are lazy and some cases corrupt. I pay business taxes and property taxes and other taxes but beg for services at the mercy of the employees and workers. The police response is terrible for the business owners. I have learned my lesson and will not invest further more in the city, county or even this state.

    January 13, 2011 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
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