Georgia Gov. anticipates clear roads as state thaws from winter storm
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JEFFREY BROWN: And just a short time ago, I spoke with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal via Skype. He was unable to get to a television studio because of the conditions.
Governor Deal, thanks so much for joining us.
What’s the situation right now? Are there still people stranded in cars, schools, and elsewhere?
GOV. NATHAN DEAL: Well, the situation is much improved from what it was yesterday.
There are still some people who are in their cars. I have taken an aerial helicopter tour of our interstates, and we have most of the area completely opened, with a few exceptions. However, because it was such a heavy outpouring of snow and in such a short time frame, and we had so many people on the roads, there are still vehicles that are on the sides of the roads or in the outside lanes that still will need to be removed.
The roads are being cleared, so that if they have their drivers in them, many of those are now being able to get back into the main pathway of the roadway and be able to move their vehicles. We are hopeful that the weather change which will come tomorrow will get above freezing.
And if that happens, then it will allow many of these roads to be completely cleared. But it appears that we have made significant progress. We are trying to extract those drivers that are still in their vehicles. If they choose to leave, they will be provided the option of doing so, and taken either to their homes or to another area where they can be secure and not be in the elements.
JEFFREY BROWN: You know, there have been a lot of questions and some anger at officials. I wonder, what would you say tonight to residents who are angry about the way that the state and other government officials handled this?
GOV. NATHAN DEAL: Well, we tried to respond as quickly as we could. The mayor of the city of Atlanta and I and our resources have worked very cooperatively together, because we were faced with the same problems. We had the interstate responsibility, and he, of course, had the off-interstate roadways.
And they both experienced the same kinds of heavy traffic, where everybody got on the roadway at practically the same point in time. And that creates a huge backlog of traffic. Atlanta is one of the larger metropolitan areas. And we have a lot of natural traffic, people wanting to go and come back and forth to work.
We also have the major interstate corridors that lead into the downtown area and around the perimeter of Atlanta.
JEFFREY BROWN: Excuse me. Was there a lack of coordination, or some have even thought about a lack of trust between government and some of the local — local governments.
GOV. NATHAN DEAL: No, absolutely not.
We all were on the same page. We worked together. The truth of the matter is that we were all surprised. This — I am told that, for yesterday, as a calendar day, that it was the largest snowfall we have had on that date, January the 28th, here in Atlanta. So it was a combination of a lot of things.
It came in a very quick time frame. People got on the roadway, and there were just too many cars and too many trucks to be able to accommodate any rapid movement with snow being packed down and becoming ice very quickly.
JEFFREY BROWN: Can you tell us briefly what you are looking at in the next hours or day in terms of how long you think it will be before you get back to something approaching normal?
GOV. NATHAN DEAL: Well, we are hopeful that, with the thaw tomorrow, that we should have almost all the vehicles that either were left by their owners or those that may still be occupied, that we will have them off of the roadway.
We concentrated our efforts because it wasn’t just state and local government that got caught by surprise. We had school systems that had children in their schools. And when the snow came, even though they called a halt to their school day, we had several thousand students who had to spend the night in their schools last night.
We have now verified that all of those students have been returned home or at least are on their way home at this point in time. We called in the Georgia State Patrol. They provided security at each of those school sites. We called in the National Guard, and they became a force that worked to get the children that were on school buses — some 99 school buses at one point in time that had children on them, we were able to get them off of those buses and either back to their schools or to another location.
So, as far as the schoolchildren are concerned, we feel fairly comfort at this point in time that they are back home and they are with their parents or their families.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia, thanks so much, and good luck.
GOV. NATHAN DEAL: Thank you very much.