Kasim Reed unveils Atlanta winter storm plan, urges staggered release

With hard lessons learned from a traffic-snarling snowstorm in 2014, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed laid out the city’s emergency preparedness plan Friday, hours before a major winter storm is set to brush by the region on its way to the Northeast.

Working with local school, county and state governments, officials are urging a staggered release schedule that they hope will prevent the epic traffic jam that stranded thousands on highways two years ago. That, Reed said, is the biggest lesson learned from the debacle.

“It is extremely important that when people leave, they not all leave at once,” Reed told reporters during a press conference Friday morning.

Atlanta city government, municipal court and parks will close at 11 a.m., he told reporters, one hour before the state government offices shutter at noon. Reed shared word that Atlanta Public Schools will release students on a staggered schedule between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and that Fulton County government will close by 1:30 p.m.

Reed also urged businesses to begin releasing employees no later than 2 p.m., calling for flexibility for workers who must pick up children from area schools. The Old Adamsville Recreation Center will be open tonight for those who need shelter.

Atlanta has beefed up its equipment since January 2014, when an icy storm caught city and state leaders flat-footed. Now, Atlanta has 23 spreaders, 32 snow plows, nine brine trucks and two brine makers, Reed said. City crews have already begun treating roadways, he added, and are expected to work around the clock until the storm subsides.

Reed also urged Atlantans to sign up for the city's emergency notification system, NotifyATL.

If it seems like an outsized response to what forecasters say could amount to just a couple inches of snow in metro Atlanta, Reed doesn’t mind. The mayor and Gov. Nathan Deal were blasted two years ago for what they’ve acknowledged was a failure to adequately prepare for the Jan. 28, 2014 storm.

“I’ll take the story that says we overreacted, versus the folks on the highways saying we didn’t do enough,” he told reporters during a press conference Friday. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Rain is expected to turn to snow between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., officials said, as the region will see flashes of a massive storm system set to hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Washington, D.C. is bracing for more than two feet of snow and several other major cities are expecting blizzard-like conditions.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was slammed earlier this week for her city’s failure to adequately prepare roads ahead of snowfall there on Wednesday. She has now declared a state of emergency heading into the weekend storm.

Asked what advice he'd give to Bowser, having experienced similar criticism two years ago, Reed praised her as a "terrific mayor" and said: "Everybody has bad days."

“What you do in government is when you have a bad day, you fix it. That’s what people expect. They do not expect perfection,” he continued. “We had a very tough day in 2014 and what we have tried to do is fix it.”

His only comment for Bowser, he said, is “to do what she did. She acknowledged responsibility for it, and started addressing it.”

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