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Senator serving on weather task force
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Forsyth County News

Steve Gooch hopes his transportation experience will bring a valuable perspective to the Severe Winter Weather Warning and Preparedness Task Force.

The District 51 state senator is one of more than 30 people tapped by Gov. Nathan Deal for a panel to study the poor response to last week’s winter weather that paralyzed most of the metro Atlanta area.

Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican whose district includes some of north Forsyth, said his work as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and experience with the state transportation board give him a unique understanding of traffic flow in Georgia.

“It’s important that we take a closer look at existing plans to see how we can improve procedures to ensure everyone is able to return home safely in the event of inclement weather,” Gooch said. “I look forward to working with other task force members and finding ways to minimize the impact of inclement weather on all forms of transportation.”

The panel will meet in an open forum and offer recommendations to the governor within 60 days.

Its report will be reviewed internally by agency leaders, who will then produce an action plan to the governor.

Gooch said he’s anxious to hear the results of an internal report on the situation, which left thousands of motorists stranded on the state’s bottlenecked roads for hours.

While the panel includes state lawmakers, business leaders, transportation experts, telecommunications companies, school officials and media, Gooch plans on reaching out to the community.

“I want to hear from the business people, I want to hear from the truck drivers, the moms and everybody that experienced it and the things they saw while they were out there on the road,” he said. “We can do better and we definitely need input from every aspect of Georgians.”

Deal has acknowledged a lack of communication as the storm approached, which resulted in schools, government agencies and private businesses all closing at about the same time.

“We’ve got to communicate quicker and more effectively on the front end to keep as many vehicles off the road as possible,” Deal said. “We made reforms after the 2011 storm on how we treat our roads, and because of that, we have more road treatment facilities located in more critical areas. All the equipment and the all supplies in the world won’t help if the trucks can’t get on the roads.”