The city of Atlanta, eager to avoid a repeat of a paralyzing traffic jam that stranded thousands of people last winter, tried an orderly approach on Wednesday to get drivers off the roads before a snowstorm.
Forecasters called for as much as 4 inches of snow in the northern suburbs, beginning in the afternoon. The Weather Channel said that snow could miss the city itself altogether. But with the temperature expected to be close to freezing, authorities took no chances.
Mayor Kasim Reed asked parents to pick up their children between noon and 2 p.m. and asked other workers to get home between 2 and 4 p.m. — “because at that point, we can’t fix it.”
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the Atlanta area, and schools closed for the day. More than 150 miles of high-priority roads were treated for snow.
“Our posture right now, and the state’s posture, is safe, not sorry,” the mayor told reporters.
Deal said additional equipment and more materials to treat the roadways are available and that "strike teams" are in place to respond to major interstates.
In January 2014, thousands of drivers were stuck on Atlanta interstates for as long as 36 hours after a storm dropped 2½ inches of snow. Authorities said too many people seemed to leave work at once. The city and state were blamed for poor planning.
But on Wednesday morning, Deal said, transportation officials observed a smaller volume of traffic on the interstates. "The public is willing to be a participating partner in the process of protecting themselves and protecting others, so that's a good sign," the governor said.