Atlanta must learn how to fight frigid weather

Four years ago, “snowpocalypse” brought two inches of snow to Atlanta and stranded thousands of people in rush-hour traffic. At that time, annual snowfall in the city was unheard of; I could count on one hand the amount of times I had witnessed snow in Atlanta in my life. However, with climate change and extreme weather becoming increasingly common, Atlantans have started to see a rise in wintry weather. Already this school year, we have had two bouts of snow and missed four full days of instruction due to snow or icy weather. This begs the question: do Atlanta and other Southern cities need to start preparing for annual snowfall and icy road conditions?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) applied brine, calcium chloride, salt and gravel to roads and highways to break up ice and snow and prevent refreezing in January. Although snowflakes stopped falling after Jan. 17, roads remained icy and were deemed unsafe throughout the rest of the week. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) superintendent Meria Carstarphen even announced that students would return to school on Friday, Jan. 19, only to later reverse her decision due to road safety.

Although mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that Atlanta Public Works crews were “working around the clock,” roads were unsafe throughout the week, and several school systems including APS, DeKalb County School District and Fulton County Schools were closed on Friday. Additionally, the City of Atlanta Government Offices and Municipal Court of Atlanta were closed through Thursday, Jan. 18. For non-drivers, other forms of transportation such as MARTA were severely delayed and even closed at points during the week.

I braved the roads for the first time on Friday, and overall, I didn’t feel unsafe while driving. However, there was still ice on some side streets and on certain lanes on major roads, so I understand why school was cancelled. Many young drivers at Grady have never driven in icy conditions before and don’t know how to drive with ice or snow on the roads. Additionally, school buses may have had a more difficult time driving in those conditions.

It seems that Atlanta winters are just going to keep getting worse, and city officials and residents need to be prepared for more wintry weather to come. Atlanta is a hub of business and travel, home to the headquarters of companies as well as the busiest airport in the world. We can’t keep shutting the city down for days due to snow and ice.