‘You were warned!’ Al Roker and National Weather Service hit back at politicians blaming bad forecasts for chaos in the South that left roads clogged and coated in ice and forced 15,000 children to sleep at their schools because officials had not cancelled classes
- Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed blaming each other over the traffic chaos and claim they were not forewarned
- However, the National Weather Service explicitly cautioned on Monday that snow-covered roads ‘will make travel difficult or impossible’
- Al Roker said: ‘They were warned about it and they should have been prepared for it. It’s a shame. It really is’
- Around the time the traffic jams began on Tuesday, Deal and Reed were at an awards ceremony recognizing the mayor as the ‘2014 Georgian of the Year’
- Georgia National Guard is taking drivers to find their abandoned cars today
- Temperatures dropped to about 15 degrees overnight on Wednesday in the Atlanta area but rose to high 30s today
- Six dead in traffic accidents, including five in Alabama, and four people were killed early on Tuesday in a Mississippi mobile home fire blamed on a faulty space heater
The snow and sleet have stopped falling and traffic is slowly moving again but a storm is now brewing over who exactly is at fault for the South’s winter weather fiasco.
Weatherman Al Roker and the National Weather Service hit back at politicians in the South who have pointed the finger at inaccurate forecasts as the reason why authorities were so ill-prepared for snowfall and icy conditions which led to chaos on the roads.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said on Tuesday: ‘The National Weather [Service] continually had their modelling showing that Atlanta would not be the area where the storm would hit.’ The governor added that the snow and ice was ‘unexpected’ and ‘we can’t control Mother Nature’.
However NBC’s Al Roker completely rebuffed this claim on Wednesday, saying: ‘The mayor and the governor got on TV yesterday and said all this wasn’t expected, and that’s not true.’
Roker pointed out that the weather service issued an official warning for Atlanta at 3.38am local time on Tuesday and added: ‘They were warned about it and they should have been prepared for it. It’s a shame. It really is.’
Two inches of snow fell on Tuesday around 1.30pm in the Atlanta area leading to chaos as schools, government workers and private employees took to the roads at the same time. With few highways treated for ice and snow, slippery conditions quickly led to pile-ups and congestion, with many drivers forced to abandoned their cars or sit for hours without heat, food or water.
As many as 15,000 schoolchildren across the South either slept on the buses that tried and failed to get them home, or on cots in school gymnasiums, GMA reported on air today. All students made it home by Wednesday evening, officials said.
Teachers and parents questioned why classes went ahead on Tuesday if government officials received the adverse weather warning in the early hours.
At Atlanta’s Deerwood Elementary School, librarian Brian Ashley, a dozen of his colleagues and 35 children spent the night on cots set up in the gym.
The teachers and other staff members opened up the pantry in the cafeteria, making pizza and chicken nuggets accompanied by carrots and apples for dinner. Later, some police officers dropped off sandwiches, and parents living nearby brought food.
‘The kids slept peacefully through the night,’ Ashley said. ‘They knew that there were people around them that cared about them.’
However, Ashley said he was surprised officials allowed the schools to open Tuesday in the first place.
‘They were forewarned about the weather, and they were ill-prepared,’ he said. ‘If schools were canceled yesterday, we would not have had the catastrophe we did last night and today.’
The National Weather Service explicitly cautioned on Monday that snow-covered roads ‘will make travel difficult or impossible’. The agency issued a winter storm warning for metro Atlanta early on Tuesday and cautioned against driving.
Its website warned of possible ‘widespread ice accumulations’ across the South as early as Saturday – ‘expanding into the Southeast U.S. Tuesday into Wednesday’. This is what happened across the state and much of the South.
Furthermore, on Monday the weather service issued an advisory at 3.22 pm – almost 24 hours before the storm struck – that there was the potential ‘for 2 inches of snow and up to a half-inch of sleet from Atlanta to Athens’.