Atlanta Digs Out of Snow Gridlock as Mayor Defends Response

Kasim Reed faces public anger after snow snarled city

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Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed fended off attacks Wednesday from constituents angry over the city’s response to a snowfall Tuesday that still had highways gridlocked the next day.

It only took three inches of snow to leave the city in mayhem Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, causing over 1,200 traffic accidents, 300 injuries and one fatality, officials said, as traffic backed up on Atlanta highways and held up motorists overnight. Five people died in traffic accidents in neighboring Alabama.

The snow stranded several hundred students in transit from Atlanta schools overnight, as the warm-blooded city struggled to utilize its 30 salt-spreaders and 40 snowplows. Atlantans lambasted Reed on Twitter for his handling of the snow dusting. 

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Reed defended the city’s response Wednesday morning and blamed the gridlock on decisions by the school district and businesses to simultaneously let students and workers off early on Tuesday.

“I said immediately yesterday that releasing all of these folks was not the right way to go,” Reed said on CNN, adding that the releases should have been staggered.

“We’re going to get the city operational, we’re going to get people off the [roads], and we’re going to keep people safe,” Reed added. “We responded immediately, we started de-icing the city before the snow even fell.”

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced that state government offices would be closed Thursday, and urged people to stay home so emergency responders and road workers would have an easier time clearing the remaining gridlock, which had begun to ease by Wednesday afternoon. “We do not want our employees on the road, and we would encourage businesses to follow suit,” he said at a news conference in Atlanta.

-with reporting from Dan Hirschhorn