Predicting the weather has become increasingly accurate as the tools of the trade become more sophisticated. While never perfect, it’s reasonable to say that when a storm is coming we pretty much know what to expect before it hits.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal seemed quite surprised, however, when a snowstorm paralyzed several southern states last week. Just two inches of snow and ice crippled much of the region, most notably in Atlanta, where thousands of motorists were stranded and more than a thousand accidents were reported. According to USA Today, “Marshall Shepherd…president of the American Meteorological Society…said the weather service issued a winter storm warning for the entire Atlanta metro area…expecting 1-2 inches of snow. The city got about 2.6 inches.” Governor Deal apologized for the debacle. “We did not respond fast enough,” he told reporters. “We will be much more cautious — and much more aggressive in terms of taking action in advance.”
Deal wasn’t the only politician giving post-storm apologies. After Upper East Side residents complained that the plows never showed up after the January 21 snowstorm, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also felt the need to take blame. “After inspecting the area and listening to concerns from residents earlier today, I determined more could have been done to serve the Upper East Side,” he said.
Elected officials often wind up taking the public relations hit when the aftermath of storms aren’t handled perfectly. Mother Nature is cruel and we humans aren’t very patient. Weather events can create havoc, so we expect our leaders to monitor them closely and handle them efficiently. But do mayors and governors personally direct plowing and sanding operations? What if plow operators do a poor job? Who’s to blame if the weather takes an uglier turn than predicted? And how many people ignore warnings about driving?
It’s usually not a mayor or governor’s fault when these situations turn ugly. But they should be prepared for a blizzard of bad PR when people are inconvenienced or put in harm’s way. Your thoughts?