DeKalb Officials: Lessons learned after metro-Atlanta ‘snowpocalypse’

County officials held a winter weather press conference Jan. 5 to inform residents that a plan was in place in case of an emergency situation. Storm forecasts predicted some parts of DeKalb County could get up to four inches of snow.Just two years ago, metro-Atlanta was hit with icy conditions and two inches of snow. The combination was enough to gridlock major interstates and secondary roads for hours and in some cases days.

However, DeKalb County officials said the county learned a lesson from the snowy debacle in January of 2014. Ahead of the predicted snowstorm of 2017, county officials said they restocked supplies and were ready this time.

CEO Michael Thurmond, Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander and officials from the DeKalb Emergency Management Agency and the roads and drainage department held a press conference Jan. 5.

Thurmond said he was confident DeKalb County will remain prepared for snow conditions.

“I’m reassured that DeKalb County is prepared for any type of weather event that could occur,” Thurmond said. “[2014] was a lesson-learned experience. Georgia, as well as metro-Atlanta and DeKalb [County], are ready to address whatever issues might present themselves.”

Officials urged residents to stay indoors to help first-responders clear the roads.
During the anticipated bad weather, the county had a full-time 911 operating staff as well as snow plows, salt and sand to help clear the roads the weekend of Jan. 6 when weather forecasters predicted icy conditions.

Roads and Drainage Director Peggy Allen said the county prepared by ordering sand and salt months in advance.

“After the storm in 2014 we realized we needed additional equipment,” Allen said. “We have materials like salt and sand. We had to buy those materials in the summer. You can’t get those materials delivered in the middle of the winter. We had to go through a learning experience. We learned we needed more equipment, more materials and we had to order ahead of time.”

Susan Loeffler, director for the DeKalb Emergency Management Agency, said her agency coordinates with roads and drainage to be prepared for winter storms.

Loeffler also said she coordinates with the police and fire departments across the county.

“They are my eyes and ears out on the road. They can communicate with our roads and drainage and [Peggy] Allen sends us at least two people so we can coordinate,” Loeffler said. “It’s all face-to-face coordinate. We make sure we have the people in here that we need.”

Loeffler said the county and emergency management agency are constantly working to prevent events similar to the 2014 storm.  

“That’s what I do day-to-day because most of the time there’s not a disaster for me to be working on. We plan with our partners and we’re constantly bringing new people to the table,” said Loeffler, who has worked as director for three years and with the county for 24 years. “We exercise to see where in our plans we have gaps. It’s all the coordination that [Emergency Management Agency] does beforehand so that we’re prepared when we get to the actual disaster.”

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