Is full-throttle response to threat of icy rain a new normal in storm response?

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The AJC continues to cover the aftermath of last week’s winter storm. Visit for the latest insight into what our leaders can do to prepare for Atlanta’s next weather event.

An emergency command center was up and running shortly after daybreak Thursday. Teams of de-icing trucks were standing at the ready. And overzealous workers plastered signs on highways warning of treacherous black ice.

The gathering storm behind this aggressive government response? A National Weather Service statement that pointed to the slight possibility of frozen precipitation late Thursday. A week after a few inches of snowfall embarrassed metropolitan Atlanta, no one in state government wanted to risk being caught off guard by a second blast of wintry weather in as many weeks.

Gov. Nathan Deal had warned the bar would be low for future weather emergencies, and that state planners would be less concerned about being accused of “crying wolf” while sounding the alarms on inclement weather. The state’s full-throttle response Thursday showed just what that means.

By 9 a.m. Thursday, Georgia’s emergency planners had opened a command center to coordinate the state’s response to the forecasts. This after facing intense criticism last week for not opening such a center until hours after icy weather had brought Atlanta traffic to a standstill.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency director Charley English sent Deal’s staffers a flurry of dispatches about the mere possibility of snow flurries. English, who was blasted for his arms-length response to last week’s weather, was taking no chances this time. The command center remained open late Thursday afternoon.

State planners had two conference calls with local meteorologists who tried to calm their concerns. And stores of salt, sand and brine to treat icy roadways were restocked and at the ready just in case dropping temperatures wreaked havoc on roadways.

Across metro Atlanta, school superintendents were on edge. Cherokee County school officials went ahead and canceled a range of after-school activities Thursday evening “in an abundance of caution.”

But the most visible indications that the state was in high gear over the merest prospect of icy weather were Georgia Department of Transportation messages plastered across interstate highways warning that a winter storm watch was in effect with “black ice possible.”

The National Weather Service, however, had issued no such warning, the GDOT signs were quickly taken down, and the agency later said it simply “overreacted.”

As the governor predicted last week as criticism swirled over his handling of the icy gridlock, this type of all-out response could become the new norm.

“I can say this to you: We will be more aggressive, ” he said. “We will take those weather warnings more seriously.”