On Tuesday this week, over two-thirds of Georgia, experienced one of the worst traffic tie-ups in history. The cause? A mere two to four inches of powdery snow.
If you don’t live in the deep south, you probably won’t understand how this could happen. The fact is our State is simply not equipped to handle this type of weather. Most of the cities and counties have a few sand/salt trucks and a few plow attachments to help clear roadways. Unfortunately, the small amount of equipment we have is not enough to take care of the main roads, much less the winding, curving back-roads that most people have to take to get to the Highways. To further complicate matters, the snow storm hit late morning. Where I live, in northwest Georgia, it started around 10 a.m. By 11 a.m., it was already freezing on the roads and rapidly creating dangerous driving conditions.
To make matters worse, most people were at work and the kids were in school. Around noon, a few million people left their workplaces and schools and headed home. The results? Massive traffic snarls everywhere! There have been reports of it taking as long as 24 hours for some people to commute from their place of business to their home. Many children had to spend the night at school and some were even on school buses stuck in the snow. People parked their cars on the highways, sidewalks and ditches and just walked away.
Then, came the public outcry. Why hadn’t the Governor been more proactive? Why didn’t the school decision makers close schools the night before? There was certainly plenty of warning. The weather reports were fairly accurate in predicting when the snow was going to hit.
Maybe the Governor could have been more proactive or the schools could have closed, but I think there are some deeper questions that we need to ask ourselves…
Why did we choose to let our employers, the Governor, the school boards or anyone else make our decisions for us? Once we decided to allow others to make our choices for us, can we really justify blaming them when it turned out so badly?
As individuals, we can choose not to go to work or not to send our kids to school if we believe it is safer to stay home. Instead, on Tuesday, we let fear overtake our better judgement, we put someone else in charge of our lives and then we pointed our fingers at them for not getting it right.
I am not unsympathetic to those who were stuck in the traffic jams, had to walk home or those whose children spent the night in schools or on buses. It was a mess! We will feel the repercussions of the last 48 hours for weeks to come as we deal with our damaged cars and trucks and other issues. I agree there is always room for improvement in the way our government handles emergency weather situations.
However, I do think it is time for us to stop looking around for people to blame when things like Snow Jam 2014 happen. We must be completely honest with ourselves. When we decide to let someone else determine whether or not it is safe for us to go to work or school, we are making a choice to put them in charge of our own safety. If we are intent on blaming others, when things turn out badly, we will not learn anything from the experience. If we take responsibility for our part, we are more likely to make a different, maybe better decision next time.