Sen. Jeff Mullis: The Perfect Storm


Sen. Jeff Mullis: The Perfect Storm

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Sen. Jeff Mullis

The Perfect Storm

From Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga)

The 2014 legislative session was put on hold for several days last week when a winter storm covered much of Atlanta—and our neighbors in Birmingham—with snow and a thick layer of ice. Within 45 minutes or so, temperatures dropped and light snow flurries turned into rapid snow accumulation. While the weather wasn’t completely unexpected, a shift in the severity of the storm—and the impact of thousands of worried Georgians hurrying home to their families all at once—was certainly not expected.

As Atlanta and most of North Georgia braced for a winter storm, tough decisions were being made based on several variables. When any variable is involved—let alone several—it is very difficult to determine the path that is 100% correct. Instead, we can only make decisions regarding what we believe will generate the most successful outcome. Sometimes, those decisions fall short of the desired results. As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” In other words, even the soundest plans still have the ability to turn out not at all like we expected.

The winter storm that hit last week caused treacherous conditions unlike any we’ve ever experienced before. Commute times of up to 24 hours, students sleeping over at schools and hundreds of abandoned cars on the interstates left many Georgians angry, upset—and vocal. These emotions are not unfounded, and every person caught in this storm deserves to have his or her voice heard. Their words will only help us better prepare for next time we are faced with hazardous winter weather and the task of trying to get every person home safely.

Governor Deal and his team, along with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, began expressing concern and directing questions about the impending winter storm to GEMA well before the storm hit. On the morning of the storm, an executive order was issued allowing state employees to go home, but when it became clear that a mass exodus from schools and workplaces were causing unanticipated and severe gridlock, Governor Deal turned his focus to three immediate priorities: 1.) Children on school buses, 2.) Children still at schools, and 3.) stranded motorists.

When a situation of this magnitude hits and there are limited resources, we must step back and begin a triage-like process to ensure the most critical of needs are met first. The Georgia National Guard was deployed to meet stranded busses and retrieve children, while Georgia State Troopers were dispatched to schools where children were spending the night. These officers worked diligently through the night to keep our children safe and help motorists in the most dire of situations. When the interstates began moving again on Wednesday, priorities changed to assisting stranded motorists.

When all was said and done, Governor Deal and Mayor Reed offered sincere apologies for what many are calling inadequate actions during the storm. Both have also recognized that the best plans can turn awry, and have pledged to use this situation as a learning experience. These men acted on the advice of several entities, which in turn, based their advice on several variables. Again, it is impossible to create a plan that is 100% perfect—Governor Deal and Mayor Reed were tasked with creating the plans they thought would generate the best possible outcome.

It is important that we don’t lose sight of the good stories and recognize the unsung heroes of the winter storm. Strangers opened their doors to perfect strangers and offered food, water and a place to rest. Businesses stayed open all night so that stranded drivers would have a warm place to sleep. Teachers remained at schools to continue caring for the children who were unable to travel home on a bus or have their parents pick them up. The Georgia State Patrol and local law enforcement officers remained on the clock in the cold in order to keep those still on the roads as safe as possible. I have never been more proud to be a Georgian.

Although we can prepare to the fullest extent for situations like this, because they happen so rarely, it is hard to predict the steps to take that ensure the plan will be executed without problems or additional influences. Every situation will point out something new we will need to act on or plan for in the future. I have nothing but the highest praise for Governor Deal and Mayor Reed, and know that both will use this as a learning experience to better serve and protect Georgians statewide.

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