Yes, Really, Ice Shutdown Georgia. Why?

To my friends who don’t understand Georgia and ice shutdowns, here’s an explanation. For the decades that I remember, weather forecasters, who I refer to as weather psychics, flip out, or as some might say, “nut up,” when there is any possibility that water might fall from the sky while the air temperature is below freezing. The sensational manner in which the media present these possibilities (apocalyptic graphics and music) has created in essence the effect of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” (see Aesop).

In practical terms this is what happens. Sunday and Monday temperatures were in the 60s. Forecasts for Tuesday, reported a high of just above freezing. Yesterday, I walked to the courthouse, five blocks from my office around noon in Athens. Light snow fell and didn’t make it to the ground but the temperature was above freezing. In the next two hours, the snow became heavy hitting the street and melting. This water didn’t evaporate. As the temperature dropped, the watern to freeze. Two hours later, snow piled up in trees and on cars. As the temperature dropped, the water began to freeze, create a layer of ice which covered with snow became deceptively pretty. Even experienced Northerners who can drive through snow have trouble with hidden ice.

Businesses, which are skeptical of weather forecasts, and schools, which already closed one day due to bitter cold, have difficulty justifying closing, losing business or school days with the potential for embarrassment when, as often happens, there’s no snow.

Yesterday, the delay in decision making created what one can only hope is significant embarrassment for government and business. We’ll have to see what our fair governor has to say. What is for sure? National coverage, horrible traffic photos, people sleeping cars, being taken in by strangers, big box stores providing shelter-none of that looks promising to businesses planning to relocate. Children stuck at schools without their parents, parents unable to even locate children because schools don’t know where the children are.

Yes, there are many stories of wonderful people taking care of their neighbors and strangers and that is heartwarming. Those doing the cost/benefit analysis, however, should realize that having employees and children and pregnant women stuck on interstates and roads is bad advertising for the entire state of Georgia. The longer term impact of this snow-generated gridlock will outweigh any productivity that might have been squeezed out of people in the hour or two when they should have been headed home.

Delay by employers and schools created a situation in which people ands school buses were REQUIRED to drive on icy roads. The amount of people didn’t create this situation, the decisions of those in control of employees and students did.

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