Anson was well prepared for winter storm

Imari Scarbrough

January 30, 2014

Anson County received the same amount of snow on Tuesday as many other areas affected by the storm, but had a remarkable lack of accidents that surprised local authorities.

Schools let out at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, well before the first snowflake fell. Superintendent Michael Freeman sent out an email to school staff at 7:49 p.m. Tuesday to cancel school on Wednesday, giving both school employees and parents plenty of warning about the closure.

DOT also got an early start, brining the roads on Monday while municipalities prepared to maintain secondary roads.

The snow came later and lighter than expected, also helping matters. Many weather reports predicted that the snow would begin at noon on Tuesday. By 5 p.m., light sleet had just started, and snow didn’t begin to fall in earnest until 7 p.m., allowing most employees time to get home before the roads grew dangerous.

All of these factors, from the smaller and later storm to the early and well-planned preparation, helped Anson “dodge the bullet,” according to emergency services director and fire marshal Rodney Diggs. As of noon on Tuesday, there were less than a dozen accidents, and of those none were serious.

Compared to other areas, Anson did well. At least five people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in Alabama, while in Atlanta, hundreds of schoolchildren and business employees were stranded well over 24 hours after the storm, according to media reports.

Although Atlanta only received about 3 inches of snow — about the same or less than Anson did — traffic was backed up through the night and into Wednesday, and there were at least 940 confirmed weather-related accidents, with more than 100 involving injuries. Schools and businesses offered shelter for stranded motorists, with Home Depot opening 26 stores overnight in Alabama and Georgia. Birmingham also experienced serious accidents and paralyzed roadways. Some pregnant Atlanta passengers went into labor while stuck in traffic and were forced to deliver their babies while on the road. This was all despite Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s assurance at 7:20 a.m. on Tuesday: “Atlanta, we are ready for the snow,” he tweeted.

Of course, Anson is hardly the busy metropolis that Atlanta and Birmingham are, so fewer accidents here are to be expected. But the amount of stranded motorists and those involved in accidents was much higher than it should have been due to poor planning, Atlanta officials admitted.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that the government should take some of the blame for the traffic conditions and stranded motorists. Schools, businesses and government offices only sent students and employees home on Tuesday afternoon as the snow came and roads iced over, causing a massive gridlock. “We do take responsibility for having the business community, the government and our schools basically leave all at once,” he was quoted saying to CNN.

With its early planning and timely reaction to warnings about the storm, Anson largely avoided such incidents, taking a “better safe than sorry” stance. While Anson schoolchildren could have gone through school and gotten home without seeing a snowflake since the storm came later than expected, it did avoid other cities’ mistake of waiting until after the storm hit to send children and employees home.