Skip to main content

5 reasons Atlanta is not a laughingstock

By Wayne Drash, CNN
updated 4:50 PM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
Atlanta highways were clear Wednesday, a far cry from two weeks ago when some motorists were stranded for 20 hours.
Atlanta highways were clear Wednesday, a far cry from two weeks ago when some motorists were stranded for 20 hours.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Georgia's governor, Atlanta's mayor learned lessons from 2 weeks ago
  • Residents decided to heed warnings
  • Storm was worse, but roads were clear

Editor's note: Wayne Drash is a Southerner by birth and an Atlantan by choice. It's hard for him to sit silently when his city takes a whooping. Thus, his take on Atlanta's "historic" winter storm

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Bruised by the embarrassing 2 inches of snow that crippled Atlanta two weeks ago, the city rallied this week to make sure a repeat wasn't in store.

Here are five reasons Atlanta is not a laughingstock -- this time:

1. People actually listened

I'll be damned. The most historic thing about the storm was people's response: Folks heeded the warnings and stayed home. I didn't think this was possible, until this week.

2. Southern pride

If there's anything Southerners love, it's unleashing a can of whupass. Atlantans and Georgians are resilient folks. We saw the viral posts about Snowjam 2014 and heard the punch lines. We were determined to do better this time.

Vehicles are piled up in an wreck Friday, February 14, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Traffic accidents involving multiple tractor-trailers and dozens of cars completely blocked one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia. Vehicles are piled up in an wreck Friday, February 14, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Traffic accidents involving multiple tractor-trailers and dozens of cars completely blocked one side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside Philadelphia.
Southeast storm moves north
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Southeast storm moves north Southeast storm moves north

So take that, critics.

A rare snowstorm left thousands of motorists trapped on Atlanta interstates overnight. "Thank God I walk to work everyday," said Doug Simonton, who snapped this photo Tuesday afternoon. A rare snowstorm left thousands of motorists trapped on Atlanta interstates overnight. "Thank God I walk to work everyday," said Doug Simonton, who snapped this photo Tuesday afternoon.
Stranded in the snow: Scenes from the South
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
Stranded in the snow: Scenes from the South Stranded in the snow: Scenes from the South

Jon Stewart, is that egg on your face or grits?

3. A most awesome robocall

In my 19 years in Atlanta, never before have I received a call from the mayor's office announcing a state of emergency. But Mayor Kasim Reed did just that Tuesday night, urging hundreds of thousands of Atlantans to remain inside ahead of Wednesday's storm and to stay off the roads.

That's what I call a Robocall of Awesomeness. Whether it was to scare us or save political face from two weeks ago, its intended effect resulted in people not venturing outside.

This is not to exonerate the mayor and Gov. Nathan Deal for their missteps two weeks ago. They blew it during Snowjam, pointing fingers and appearing to play politics while thousands were stranded on the highways of metro Atlanta. In an interview with CNN, the mayor had seemed clueless at residents' angst over his handling of the storm. "I don't think people are mad at me," he told CNN.

But too many times we excoriate leaders -- often rightfully so -- but don't credit them when they learn a lesson. It was clear Mayor Reed and Gov. Deal learned from the mistakes of two weeks ago. For his part, Deal was out front early on, urging residents to use caution and be prepared.

The two leaders weren't going to let the region become the butt of late-night jokes and viral Internet posts again.

4. Admit it: Those meteorologists are pretty good

OK, my generation of Southerners grew up in an era when winter storm predictions stunk. Forecasters would predict 4 inches of snow and, as kids, we'd ditch homework, drink hot cocoa and stay up late looking out our windows. Once every few years, we'd awake to an inch of snow.

This makes for a skeptical bunch.

Fast forward to today: Throw into the mix local news reporters who stand outside while nothing is happening and scream from the TV as dire music plays: SOMETHING REALLY BAD IS HEADED OUR WAY!

This lends itself to eyeball rolling. And I imagine this played a major role in Snowjam. From officials on high to gritty workers, we collectively yawned -- until we all ran out the door at work at the same time.

These days, armed with new-fangled tracking methods, the meteorologists have been spot on. They predicted the storm of two weeks ago with precision and did so again.

Granted, the warnings from the National Weather Service of a catastrophic and historic storm -- repeated by every news outlet -- turned out to be over-the-top. The storm was neither. It packed a powerful punch, for sure, but nothing too alarming. Nothing any non-Southern city wouldn't just take in stride.

5. We didn't 'pull an Atlanta'

Yes, Snowjam had actually coined a new term. Salt truck crews in the Midwest last week repeatedly told reporters they were out early to de-ice roads because they "weren't gonna pull an Atlanta." And this time, by golly, Atlanta didn't pull an Atlanta either. (Apparently the crews in North Carolina were not notified of this term.)

Look. Atlanta has plenty of reasons to be a laughingstock. Congested roads, weird political dynamics and far too few World Series titles (not to mention a lack of NBA titles and Super Bowl victories).

But we do have a thriving economy, tons of green space and friendly people in a world-class city.

I spent Wednesday embedded with Atlanta firefighters at Station 10, Battalion House 5. The collective effort by citizens and local leaders made for a boring day. There were no heroic rescues. This made for a restless bunch. As one put it: "When's that biblical, catastrophic storm gonna get here?"

To be clear, this storm was far worse than the one two weeks ago. More than 350,000 Georgians were without power at its peak, and at least two deaths were attributed to the weather. It was serious business in small pockets. But because most folks stayed inside, it had the feel of a dud.

"That's the way we like it," said fire Sgt. Jared Keba.

If this was a catastrophic storm, I hope I live in Atlanta when the apocalypse hits.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT