(CNN) — Editor’s note: David Levinson is a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota and director of the Networks, Economics and Urban Systems Research Group, or NEXUS. He has authored or edited several books, including “Planning for Place and Plexus: Metropolitan Land Use and Transport.” He is the editor of the Journal of Transport and Land Use. He blogs at Transportationist.
Of course it is frozen in the form of ice. Driving on ice is a fool’s errand. On ice it is hard to stop (or start) moving. On ice, vehicle control is difficult at best. You don’t need to be a transportation engineer to know that crashes increase with snow and especially ice, with its reduced friction. The problem is not that Atlanta got snow, but that the snow turned into ice.
Should Atlanta have been better prepared? In retrospect, the answer is obvious. In prospect it should have been as well.
While it’s hot in the summer, Atlanta is in the foothills of the Appalachians, not the beaches of the Caribbean. In the past eight decades, it has snowed 4 inches or more 11 times in Atlanta. There are periodic ice storms. According to Weatherspark, the average low temperature in January is 34 degrees F, just above freezing. In other words, half the time in January the daytime low is below 34.
I lived in Atlanta for five years. As a freshman, I remember a cold spell in January 1985, when Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration was canceled in Washington because of cold, and Georgia Tech, where I was a student, had a delayed opening because it was 8 degrees. So winter is something that leaders should be aware of in Georgia.
Atlanta does not get as much snow as Minneapolis, my current home, and where we have stared down a polar vortex, and are now blanketed with about 2 feet of snow. Atlanta is certainly not as cold as Minneapolis, where unusually, school was canceled two days this week, and five days this school year, and we now look at ice planet Hoth (where Luke Skywalker and friends were based at the opening of “The Empire Strikes Back”) as an improvement. But Atlanta still experiences winter. Atlanta still has access to forecasts from the National Weather Service. This storm was not a surprise.
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