OK, now what?

For the second time in three years, Old Man Winter brought metro Atlanta to its knees. This storm had a name (Leon; who knew they named winter storms?) but its kind are so unusual we usually just remember them by the year: 1973, 1982, 1993, 2000.

Harsh winter weather may be rare here, but not rare enough to excuse the terrible situation thousands of people found themselves in Tuesday and Wednesday. Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday he ordered an internal review of state agencies’ actions, and Common Cause Georgia called for a broader, independent inquiry to produce recommendations for all levels of government.

Here’s where I’d start:

In the short term — and for what it’s worth, the Farmer’s Almanac says February will be Atlanta’s snowiest month this year — it’s clear people didn’t catch the significant changes in the forecast on Monday and early Tuesday. Meteorologists issue watches, advisories and warnings, but a whole lot of educated people aren’t sure what those terms mean.

How about a traffic-light system to accompany them? Green if there’s no danger, yellow if people should delay trips if possible, red if everyone needs to stay put. Call it dumbing down, but I’d rather do that than have our streets bogged down.

And if the day starts yellow and is expected to end in the red, a school system ought to think twice about holding classes.

More clarity about the gravity of a storm could keep a lot of cars off the road. For those people who do travel, we need a traffic-management plan to keep the roads unclogged so snowplows can work to keep traffic moving.

That means deploying police officers to keep intersections clear and direct motorists to roads designated for the direction they’re headed. It means limiting access to main thoroughfares to keep cars on them moving. It means preparing to shelter those who can’t make it home at schools (minus students, one hopes), rec centers, churches.

If people know ahead of time that’s the plan, they might be more likely to take mass transit and keep still more cars off the road. Priority could be given to clearing express lanes for buses.

Speaking of transit, “snow jam 2014” rekindled the debate about roads versus rail. Given the infrequency with which winter storms occur, it’s hard to justify doing anything that doesn’t make sense for 999 days just because it would be helpful on the 1,000th.

If bus service makes more sense when it’s not snowing, we should acknowledge it doesn’t snow often enough to tip the scales in favor of rail. Where rail does make more sense, the advantage on snow days would be a bonus.

Three transportation challenges where improvements would bring benefits in all kinds of weather are our numerous bottlenecks, our lack of a network of arterial roads to relieve pressure from the interstates, and the huge volume of tractor-trailers passing through the area.

A study by McKinsey & Co. found 28,000 trucks simply pass through metro Atlanta each day. That’s the equivalent of 100,000 cars. Get more of that tonnage onto our rail system or a new outer bypass, and they won’t clog the roads in summer or jack-knife when ice does come.

That would alleviate some of the problems related to bottlenecks and arterials, but not all of them. We still need major investment in that infrastructure, with benefits for both cars and transit, and the state must take the lead. State lawmakers have punted on this issue for too long.