More than 2,000 abandoned cars are left on roads in Atlanta
(CNN) — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday apologized to people who were stranded on roadways and to the parents whose children had to stay overnight in schools after Tuesday’s snowfall.
“I accept responsibility (for) the fact that we did not make (preparations) early enough to avoid these consequences,” he said in a news conference.
People everywhere were forced to spend the night in their cars, in stores, in schools.
One bus driver was already on the road and felt he had no choice but to finish the commute and get his load of children home.
The children were scared but thankful. Watch this report and look for one very adrenaline-filled little girl who articulately described her eagerness to get home to her parents.
The governor, who faces voters again in November, and other public officials in the area have spent two days digging themselves out of an avalanche of criticism over the snarls that resulted when the weather went south.
Meanwhile, beleaguered commuters who had to ditch their cars in the snow — many of them still sleep-deprived and seething two days after some drives stretched into daylong ordeals — have been asked to show up at one of two locations Thursday.
From there, the National Guard will chauffeur them to where they walked away from their vehicles. They’ll also get up to five gallons of gas and, if needed, a jump-start, emergency management spokesman Ken Davis said.
More than 2,000 of the vehicles dotted the highways, Davis said early Thursday.
Towing of abandoned cars was expected to begin around 9 p.m. Thursday, Sgt. Dan Stephens of the Georgia State Patrol told CNN.
Greg Shrader, a truck driver from Maine, told CNN that he left Gainesville, Georgia, around 1 p.m. Tuesday to pick up a load of cars from a plant in Vance, Alabama — typically, a 3½-hour trip. Twenty-seven hours later, he was still on the road, had given up on trying to get to Alabama and was looking for a place to pull over and sleep.
“I’ve hauled cars for 18 years, 48 states and Canada,” he said Wednesday. “I have never been failed by officials like I have here. Still no equipment, no well-being check. No plan. I guess they’re waiting for it to melt.”
He was not alone.
“I’ve lived in Atlanta since 2001, and I have NEVER come across a situation where the city was so unprepared,” CNN iReporter Jay Hayes of Smyrna wrote.
Public officials were singled out for criticism by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Mike Luckovich, who depicted Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed responding to the snowfall by making snow angels.
Other critics asked why lessons learned after Atlanta’s glacial response to an ice storm in 2011 that shut the city for four days had not had an impact Tuesday.
Deal acknowledged Thursday that the response should have been handled differently. “I think we could have probably done a little better had we reacted earlier,” he told Fox News. “That’s always a guessing game.”
He added, “I think that the appropriate thing to do is to apologize for the inconvenience, and we have tried to minimize that inconvenience.”
Reed cited the mass exodus of Atlantans from the city as largely responsible for the resulting gridlock.
“We made an error in the way that we released our citizens,” he told NBC’s “Today.” “I think it would have made a major difference” had releases started from schools, followed by private businesses and then by government offices.
“Lack of experience certainly plays a role,” he said in response to a question. “We don’t have severe weather events like this often in the city of Atlanta or in Georgia.