Readers write: Frozen in Place

We received dozens of letters from readers this week about the snowstorm that shut down metro Atlanta, and we wanted to share some with you. Here’s a sampling. Opinion columnists Paul Krugman and Ramesh Ponnuru will return next week.

Storm showed need for transit, planning

I will avoid the temptation to critique the performance of our elected officials and leaders of the various school districts during this week’s snowstorm. I feel that what happened should motivate the metropolitan region to consider several items as we move forward in the future.

First, we should reconsider regional transit. MARTA needs to be expanded throughout metropolitan Atlanta counties to the north, east, west and south. A solid transit system will make Atlanta a stronger international city and allow people to evacuate the downtown area quicker.

Secondly, a coordinated effort between state and local government entities when inclement weather threatens the region should be our future focus. Lessons learned (there are many not listed in this short letter) should be the focus of our elected officials and citizens.


Why didn’t we have an evacuation strategy?

The crisis of Storm Leon overcame us due to the failure of the governor of Georgia and the Atlanta mayor and city council to have a coordinated plan of response. That is unacceptable in our state capital and largest city.

Effective evacuation is key in handling municipal emergencies. Most of the people in a city, especially on a workday, do not live there. Their first response is to get to their children and/or to safe harbor. Mostly, that means getting into a motor vehicle and entering our streets and roads all at once. Of course the streets and roads cannot handle that traffic. The result is extreme congestion and dire first-responder impediments.

We must have a coordinated emergency evacuation plan. This is a call to the governor and Atlanta mayor and city council to announce the onset of work to produce that plan.


Snow casts spotlight on area’s vulnerability

With all the recriminations currently going on for the snow debacle, nobody is addressing the real issues — that Atlanta has an extremely vulnerable, inadequate road system and almost nonexistent public transport alternatives. Even in normal times, minor road incidents in Atlanta cause severe traffic issues, so it’s no surprise when inclement weather plus everyone leaving work at the same time creates total chaos. We need a comprehensive regional transport plan with a commitment to fund critical improvements.


Thanks, Home Depot, for helping us in need

After more than eight hours in my car on Tuesday, I was unable to continue my trip home and noticed the Home Depot on Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell was still open. They welcomed me (and at least 350 people) to spend the night in the store. They provided blankets and pillows, offered the use of their break room, handed out snacks and beverages at no charge and went out of their way to ensure our comfort.

Wednesday morning, they served up doughnuts and pastries, and at lunchtime, there were 35 pizzas! Many of the employees had already completed their work shift and were at the store for more than 24 hours. Thank you Home Depot — you deserve a huge amount of praise for your efforts during this difficult situation.


We should pay attention to bad-weather threats

Are we a city of sheep? Do we really need to wait to be told to stay home when a storm is approaching? We all knew on Monday that a winter storm was expected to hit the area during the day Tuesday. Why didn’t everyone heed the warning? My decision to stay home Tuesday turned out to be one of the best I ever made.


Not everyone can just refuse to go to work

The gentleman who suggested that the blame for the weather-related traffic snarls rests with employees who went to work in the face of the pending weather obviously is either self-employed or very wealthy and doesn’t have to work for a living. If that were not true, he wouldn’t have to ask why people went to work under such conditions. If they don’t, they tend to lose their jobs.

There was a time when employers were concerned about their workers and would tell them to stay home when the weather made travel hazardous, but those days are long, long gone. With as many as 30 people applying for each job opening, employers don’t need to worry about replacing a worker they — correctly or not — view as a slacker. So it is, unfortunately, necessary to get to work at all costs.

It is a pity that this gentleman doesn’t realize that his question should be addressed to employers, not to their employees.


Storm shows that we should think regionally

David Emory (“This is why we need real regional transit,” Opinion, Jan. 31) and Baruch Feigenbaum (“Better planning can help avert next crisis,” Opinion, Jan. 31) wrote perceptively about the region, and particularly about the transportation issue. This week’s ice storm reanimates our 2012 summertime debate that ended with the thumping defeat of T-SPLOST.

When we voted against this rational approach to upgrading our regional transportation infrastructure, we voted against ourselves and our children. It is not hard to grasp the point that there is widespread contempt for every level of government. It is the other side of our widespread desire to affirm our own personal history, culture and political autonomy.

But successful living usually demands a capacity for a simultaneous embrace of opposites. Yes, we need our personal sociology. And yes, we need a healthy region. We have too much “What’s in it for my county?” and too little awareness that we live in the Atlanta region. We still haven’t solved our water problem. And as we have just seen, we’re 50 years behind on the transportation problem. It may feel good to denounce someone as a socialist or a tea party type, but that stops the conversation before it starts.


Politicians should pay for weather missteps

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have attained national notoriety by being inept and incompetent to tackle a mere two-inch snow storm that crippled the entire state, stranding thousands of automobiles and leaving hundreds of school children away from their parents for over 24 hours. They both have embarrassed Georgia citizens by becoming laughingstock and targets of ridicule in the press across the world..

Let us hope the memory of the snow snafu is not short-lived. Remember the 1979 Chicago blizzard? Then-Mayor Michael Bilandic failed miserably to clear the more-than 16 inches snow. Everyone blamed him, deservedly so, and he was soundly defeated by Jane Byrne, his political nemesis. She become mayor of Chicago — thanks to the snowstorm!

When Nathan Deal runs for re-election, should the Georgia electorate pop the question, “Deal or no Deal?” The unanimous answer should be, “No Deal.”


Don’t be so quick to judge leaders’ actions

We humans are far too quick to throw stones. As my husband and I were leaving Atlanta Tuesday morning on an early flight, we had listened carefully to weather reports from the National Weather Service, which, if it ever gave a definite storm warning, gave it too late for us or anybody else to plan for it. Even on our way to the airport, the radio weather report allowed that it “might” snow in the afternoon.

We got out of Atlanta with no problem, but by the time we landed in Arizona, Atlanta was in gridlock. Maybe our mayor and governor could have done something differently, but given the lack of adequate warning, I think the media overreacted. I am no fan of politicians, but there are times when we need to show a little mercy. Everything that happened in Atlanta happened in Birmingham, too, but CNN is not headquartered there.


Drivers need to take responsibility as well

While the mayor and governor have taken responsibility for most of the horrible mess of this past week, there is another group that needs to look within and accept responsibility. Those are the stupid, arrogant, incompetent and insolent drivers in the Atlanta area. You ignore stop lights and stop signs, drive 85 mph on Ga. 400 ten feet behind the car in front of you, and think you are great enough to do the same in inclement weather. Were you the first to spin out on I-75?


Traffic is the beast to our area’s beauty

Recently, I asked my daughter if she missed Atlanta. Her response was an immediate and direct, “No!” Her answer is based one major issue: Atlanta’s Achilles heel — of course, our traffic problem.

With its rolling hills, national forest and a river that provides much recreation, Atlanta is a beautiful city. Unfortunately, we’ve turned it into a beast. Our recent weather debacle is one of many problems this city has. As two of our professional sports teams embark on building new massive stadium complexes, I can only wonder: “Why was there no master plan to build a world-class complex that incorporates two stadiums with a major entertainment and transportation system?”

The “snow event” that is still on everyone’s mind is just a strong reminder that Atlanta has no plan, lacks vision, and forevermore will be gridlocked by traffic, politics and finger-pointing. Yes, the beast has swallowed the beauty.