Pre-Super Bowl storm is early test for Kemp

Updated:  Ga. officials tell some employees to stay home as icy weather nears  

Just weeks after he was sworn into office, Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration faces a test from a wintry storm that’s menacing metro Atlanta as the city prepares to host the Super Bowl.

Forecasts show as much as 2 inches of snow could fall across parts of north Georgia by Tuesday, threatening to snarl traffic and travel across the region ahead of Sunday's NFL title game – and inevitably evoking memories of the cold snaps that marred Atlanta's last Super Bowl in 2000.

Kemp’s office said the governor and his senior aides were briefed late Sunday by emergency management officials, and another meeting was to be held Monday. If the forecast worsens, a state of emergency declaration could follow.

That's the approach that former Gov. Nathan Deal took in the final years of his two terms in office, after poor communication and slow government response to the disastrous 2014 ice storm became an embarrassing debacle for the state.

The state's emergency responders said they've learned from their mistakes, and a weather task force appointed after the storm prompted officials to buy more equipment and improve coordination.

Just as notably, Deal and his advisers embraced a better-safe-than-sorry mantra after that gridlocked chaos, declaring emergencies and calling for state employees to stay home at the threat of severe weather.

The hard-earned lesson his administration learned during that storm, when the ham-handed early response became the butt of national jokes: It's easier to scale back an overreaction than to look caught off guard by a more measured response.

He used the strategy when wintry weather walloped Georgia three weeks after that 2014 gridlock, when a new round of snow threatened metro Atlanta in 2015 and when a spate of hurricanes sideswiped Georgia.

The ex-governor also shook up the state’s emergency response team, tapping the former corrections commissioner, Homer Bryson, to lead the office shortly after Hurricane Matthew battered Georgia in 2016.

And Kemp has stuck with Bryson, an even-keeled administrator who has served more than three decades in state government -- and prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

More: For Deal, new storm produced new approach