Mother Nature sent much of Georgia a harsh reminder last week that she can be a difficult lady to handle when she chooses to.
The snow and ice that blanketed most of the metro area and turned interstates into parking lots served as a cold and harsh reminder that despite our best efforts, we cannot always control what goes on around us.
By now the winter storm, its aftermath, and the actions of local governments have been thoroughly analyzed, dissected and critiqued. Those looking for someone to blame have had plenty of targets toward which to point fingers: Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the state DOT, emergency management, school officials, city officials and virtually anyone else with any semblance of decision making responsibility.
While it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon in search of a scapegoat, we also have to realize that there are limits to what any of those being chastised for their actions, or lack thereof, could have done.
Predicting the weather is an iffy proposition at best. The forecast for last week’s storm was a moving target, the area expected to be impacted changing frequently, the amount of precipitation expected fluctuating by forecaster. No one knew exactly what to expect, or when. In truth, no one ever does when it comes to the region’s winter weather.
For every ice and snow event like that of last week, there may be half a dozen times when forecasts call for something to happen and nothing ever does. It is against that background that government leaders and school officials must decide when and what to do. React and nothing happens, you create problems and get blamed; fail to react and something happens, same result.
It’s not easy being the person responsible for making decisions that can impact thousands of people, or costs millions of dollars.
Yes, mistakes were made. They’ve been admitted. Hopefully lessons were learned, and next time things will be better. But you can’t empty millions of people out of a major city at a moment’s notice; can’t dump sand and gravel on roads when cars are gridlocked; can’t make big trucks start from a dead stop on ice. A perfect response to the storm from all those involved would still have resulted in a bad situation.
Lost amid all the critical commentary of recent days has been the many uplifting, positive stories that emerged from last week’s events – strangers helping strangers on the road, businesses offering free food and drink, first responders going above and beyond the call of duty, teachers taking care of their charges in extreme conditions, medical personnel camping out at hospitals, utility crews and tow truck drivers and DOT employees and hundreds of others spending two days helping others without recognition or fanfare.
Yes, much might have been done differently, but in the end things could have been much worse than they were. We may never know how many lives were saved by the kindness of strangers.
If Mother Nature was testing our mettle, surely we passed, hopefully with a high enough score not to be tested again anytime soon.