tv CNN Newsroom CNN January 30, 2014 10:00am-11:01am PST
right now atlanta digs out. and the blame game heats up. who's responsible for the chaos created by two inches of snow and ice? also, right now keeping the super bowl safe. why the biggest security challenge may lie miles away from where the game will be held. and right now jeb bush talks about running for president in 2016. and about why he says his mother needs to think more before she speaks. hello. i'm wolf blitzer reporting from washington. icy roads and heated exchanges today in atlanta. the mayor kasim reed and mayor deal going back on claims they seriously mishandled this week's storm. a couple inches of snow created icy conditions, absolute gridlock on side streets and highways. thousands and thousands of drivers were stranded and their
cars, some for days, for two days in fact, everyone has been rescued off those roads. the ice is expected to melt today. but the blame game is intensifying. outraged residents are demanding answers, and so are journalists. here's the front page of to the ease "atlanta journal-constitution" asking, "how did this happen." but the mayor is taking exception to much of the news media coverage. here he is talking on nbc's "today" earlier today. >> in the city of atlanta we have the state, we have myself and we have the school system which are all separate. and in the city of atlanta we started our snow treatment at 9:00 a.m. after getting our weather cast between 4:00 and 5:00. and almost every photo that you just showed is not in the city of atlanta. in fact, within 24 hours the roads in the city of atlanta were more than 80% passable. so i just reviewed your report and it focused almost
exclusively on our city's highways, which the city does not have jurisdiction for. and most of those simply were not in the city of atlanta. >> georgia governor deal also took to the air waves appearing on fox news today. here's what he had to say about the state's response to the storm. >> the real snow started about noon and a little after that. at about 12:15 our signals on our interstates was that all the roads were green, that is they were free and ready to move. within about 15 minutes it had gone to almost completely red. so the congestion on our interstates occurred within a very short period of time. >> by the way, we invited governor deal here to cnn to get his side of the story. he hasn't responded to our requests, but he has scheduled a news conference at the bottom of the hour. we'll bring that to you when it happens. joining us live from baton rouge, the retired u.s. army lieutenant general who led the task force dealing with the
aftermath of hurricane katrina. general, thanks very much for joining us. >> good afternoon, wolf. >> so what's your reaction to the way the city and state leaders handled two inches of snow and some ice? >> well, we got our nation's ninth largest city come to gridlock. we got babies being born on the side of the road. we got kids at school arrived at 8:00 and two hours later trying to send them home. i think they failed. and until they admit that, they will not move toward a road of fixing this. the big problem in atlanta is you've got to decentralize government that control 5 million people. and it doesn't work. it's never worked. and this is another example of why the mayor of atlanta need to be and have the powers like the mayor of new york does. and the state of georgia is going to have to make that happen. >> what do you say to the mayor who says, you know, he can't control the interstates even though you've spent a lot of time in atlanta, so have i, a
lot of those interstates go right through the city of atlanta. he says that's the state's responsibility, not his. >> well, again, i do think they need to have a joint headquarters in the city of atlanta and make those decisions collectively together. after the storm, it did the right thing. but they should have been active 24 hours ahead of that storm when you're dealing with a crossroads for transportation to include the atlanta airport and the three interstates that come through atlanta. you cannot separate those interstates from the city. that's why they've got a mid-19th century government that's not serving a 21st century city. and they need to move on. they screwed up, admit it, fix it and be ready for next week if you get another storm. >> good advice, general. one of the problems though, as you well know, is almost everyone in atlanta seems to commute by car. there isn't a whole lot of rail service, metro service if you
will, and everybody tried to get out of town exactly at the same time. that caused that gridlock and those disastrous images we're showing our viewers right now. >> you're right. you got a world class city, again, with an inadequate public transportation system that is not serving the people. every week statistics show about 700 people move to atlanta. it's a place people want to come to work. it's still growing. and it has a dysfunctional old style of government that need to change. that major yor need to control everything inside the beltway just like it does in new york. do they always make the right decision? no, but right now he's set up for failure in the city of atlanta when people come there they ought to have some sense of security that they're going to leave pending weather conditions. but the decisions have to be made early on. close the schools, only central people on the road. they did not control those businesses, but the mayor and
the governor they control those roads. and they can just tell people the roads are closed. and you can't get on them. >> good advice from retired u.s. army lieutenant general russell honore. good to have you here on cnn, general. thanks very much. a major operation is now underway in atlanta to get the drivers back to their abandoned cars. our george howell is on the city streets. george, a huge undertaking, thousands of cars still littering the roads right there. how is the operation going? >> reporter: wolf, good morning. we spent some time -- rather good afternoon. we spent some time driving the roads to see what the situation is. and quite frankly there are still thousands of cars. at last estimate more than 2,000 cars that crews will have to basically deal with to get people back to those cars. i'm joined here now by sergeant ford. and i want you to tell me first of all, how do you take on a case like this? i mean, it seems to be a monumental task to get that many
people back to their cars. >> not as monumental as you might think. first it takes the governor. he requests us to come in and to assist gena and other agencies within georgia to help out. and they task our units who then come down and say, hey, we need this many people, this many vehicles to go out and do that. and we were able to come up with those numbers. and we came out here and we are handling the volume just fine. >> and quite frankly, i mean, watching you guys it does seem to be a very smooth operation as far as people coming in. can you talk to us about what happens later tonight? how long do people have to get to their vehicles? >> the word i'm receiving is that we're going to continue this operation until about 5:00 this evening. then at 9:00 tonight gsp is going to start towing and removing those vehicles from the side of the road to try to minimize that safety hazard. there is word that we may continue this operation on through saturday, possibly sunday, but we haven't got a
definitive answer on that yet. >> sergeant ford, thanks for your time. >> sure. >> the georgia national guard certainly not phased by this, but again a lot of cars that are out there. and, wolf, what we understand at this point 9:00 p.m. eastern time here in the metro atlanta area, that really is the latest that you want to have that car still out there. the best advice is to go to either of these two spots here in the area where the national guard where the georgia state patrol, they're helping to reunite people with those cars. after 9:00 p.m. eastern time we understand that that is when private tow truck companies will come in and start towing cars. there is a potential that people will have to pay for their cars if the car's towed away, wolf. >> that would be not good. all right, george howell, thanks very much. thanks to the national guard of georgia as well for all the important work they're doing. other stories we're following, on the road again. this is day two of president obama's road trip. he's promoting issues he outlined during the state of the union speech and stressing his promise to "go it alone" if congress doesn't act. the latest stop wisconsin at a
ge plant in waukesha last hour. he told workers the right kind of job training is essential to the economy. >> vice president biden, a man who was raised on the value of hard work and is tenacious, is going to lead an across-the-board review of america's training programs. we've got a lot of programs, but not all of them are doing what they should be doing to get people filled for jobs that exist right now. and we've got to move away from what my labor secretary tom perez calls train and pray. you train workers first, and then you hope they get a job. >> bit of political irony playing out during president obama's visit to wisconsin. the state's republican governor, scott walker, met with the president as soon as he arrived, he walked down the stairs, the governor was there. but governor walker's democratic opponent, there's an election this year, did not. walker greeted the president at
the airport, you're about to see that greeting. he said he wanted to talk with the president about wisconsin's significant propane shortage. there the president shaking hands with the governor. on the other hand, walker's democratic challenger, there she is, mary burk, did not meet with the president. a spokesman saying burk is busy. she's campaigning in western wisconsin. republicans say it's a sign of how unpopular president obama is right now. from wisconsin it's onto national for the president he visits a high school to promote plans for new private-public partnership. but gun control will be front and center when he arrives in a few hours. brianna keilar explains. >> president obama is promoting his go-around congress economic message from the state of the union address. but as he pitches his plan, the issue of gun violence is following him to nashville where he's scheduled to tout new public-private partnerships today at a high school reeling after a student was killed by
gun violence tuesday. a 17-year-old student is charged with killing his 15-year-old friend inside this apartment building. witnesses told police that the shooter was playing with the gun when it discharged. last year gun control was front and center in obama's state of the union. >> the families of newtown deserve a vote. >> but after a failed vote in congress to expand background checks. >> the amendment is not agreed to. >> gun issues got just a mention in this year's state of the union. >> i intend to keep trying with or without congress to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent americans in our movie theaters and shopping malls or schools like sandy hook. >> that report from brianna keilar. the president by the way will address the school shooting incident in his national speech later this afternoon. and later today the president will also sit down with cnn's jake tapper for his first
interview after the state of the union address. that interview will air tomorrow morning on "new day" 6:00 a.m. eastern and also 4:00 p.m. eastern on "the lead." forget what my mother said, that's what jeb bush is now saying about the former first lady, barbara bush, and her advice on not running in 2016. so does that mean the florida governor -- the former governor, is ready to declare? we'll have that and more when we come back. [ male announcer ] the new new york is open. open to innovation. open to ambition. open to bold ideas. that's why new york has a new plan -- dozens of tax free zones all across the state. move here, expand here, or start a new business here and pay no taxes for ten years... we're new york. if there's something that creates more jobs, and grows more businesses... we're open to it. start a tax-free business at startup-ny.com.
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2016 presidential candidate, talking about jeb bush, he went one step further touring a charter school in southern florida. while there he was asked about his 2016 plans. >> i'm considering, i'm going to think about it later. so i don't wake up each day saying what am i going to do today to make this decision. i'm deferring the decision to the right time, which is later this year. and the decision will be based on can i do it joyfully, because i think we need to have candidates lift our spirits. it's a pretty pessimistic country right now. and is it right for my family? i don't want to even think about that until the right time. and that's later on. >> and your mother said he is qualified, but i hope he doesn't run. >> yeah, she promised me she wouldn't keep saying this, but she's 89 years old. and if you have elderly parents or grandparents, you know that they speak their mind. there's not much stopping between thinking and speaking. i love her. >> i'm sure she loves him as
well. chief political analyst gloria borger is here. the fact that barbara bush said, he is qualified but i hope he doesn't run, does that make it harder for him to decide to run if he decides to run? >> it's a little awkward that a 60-year-old guy has to kind of say publicly, come on, mom, you know. no, it doesn't make it anymore difficult for him. look, she's expressed it before. she clearly doesn't want to have to go through a campaign again. she's had a husband who did it, she's had another son who's been president. she makes an interesting point, which is isn't there anybody other than the clintons and the bushes who can run for the presidency? so i think it's kind of embarrassing for him, but he handled it very well. >> yeah. he's obviously a smart, talented person. >> he's 60. it's not like he's 15, right? >> let's look at this new abc/washington post poll on republican potential for 2016. paul ryan, you see with 20%. jeb bush 18%. chris christie 13%.
ted cruz 12%. rand paul 11%. so it's pretty tight right there. i think christie's problems with the george washington bridge and scandal, he probably would have been higher. >> i think he would have been higher when you look at the internals of the poll, wolf, he's doing less well with democrats, less well with independent voters which have really been his mainstay. and while he's gone down a little bit with republicans, republicans still have more of a favorable opinion of chris christie than an unfavorable opinion of chris christie. the paul ryan name is interesting to me there. he does have some name recognition, but he did do a budget deal which conservatives, many conservatives, criticized. but he did manage to get something done in congress. so he may be getting credit for that with independent voters. and of course you have jeb bush up there probably because chris christie has gone down, jeb bush has risen. >> a lot of the establishment republicans with the big money they would like jeb bush to run.
he's pretty popular. >> this is not good for chris christie. this is the money primary time. when you're out raising money, you have to have people take a look at you and want to commit lots of money to you. this could be a problem for him. >> let me give you spers pektive, at this point in the race for the 2008 republican nomination, two years before the iowa caucuses, new hampshire -- >> 2012. >> this is back in february 2006 -- oh, there it is. giuliani at 33%, mccain 28%. that's back in 2006. so, you know, in 2010 though in the race for the 2012 nominee, romney was at 22%, sarah palin at 18%. sometimes polls at this time are indicative, other times not so much. >> you know, wolf, at this point it's about name recognition.
people knew rudy giuliani, for example. he'd been a famous mayor and knew who he was. in theory they thought, okay, this is the person who's going to have the most appeal to the general election. but the problem is for every party is that you have to get through the primary season. and rudy giuliani made a big mistake, which was he kind of bypassed iowa, new hampshire, decided to start in florida. by the time florida occurred, he was sort of out of the running. so it was a real problem for him. so we can't make the mistake of this early on in the campaign saying so and so is the big, big favorite unless of course it's hillary clinton, right? >> she is a huge. she's at 73% in "the washington post" poll. she's up by as much as six times as anybody else. >> she was up remember when she lost to barack obama. but the difference this time in that 73%, wolf, is her support is much more broad. it's among women, it's among men, it's among old people, young people.
so her support within the democratic party is so much stronger. >> yeah. >> this time around than it was. >> gloria, thanks very much. >> sure. >> it's three days until kickoff over at the super bowl. the players know what they have to do. and so do the thousands whose job it is to protect the game and the fans. up next, take a closer look at what's being done right now to keep the stadium and the fans safe.
the job of securing the super bowl is even bigger this year, besides protecting the stadium itself in east rutherford, new jersey, there's also the nfl's super bowl street fair going on in manhattan right now ten miles away. our alexandra field is there on super bowl boulevard it's now called, how large of an endeavor is this, alexandra? >> reporter: this is ambition
undertaking. new york city is of course used to hosting large crowds. in this case we're talking about a very large crowd in a very high profile area. super bowl boulevard is expected to attract some 400,000 to 500,000 visitors. it's all happening in times square. that's one reason securing this super bowl is really a job unlike any before. >> i would say arguably this is the biggest security challenge the city has ever faced. >> reporter: ed hartnet, a former nypd intelligence commander has overseen some of the most high profile, high security moments in new york city's history. but he says the nypd's latest mission, securing super bowl boulevard, a 13-block stretch in the middle of manhattan, could be even tougher. hartnet thinks of it as new year's eve going on for days with all the same challenges. those challenges magnified now, hartnet says, following threats made on the olympic games in sochi. >> if you recall before 9/11 a lot of the so-called chatter was about a big event that would
probably happen in europe. i think law enforcement officials are mindful of that. >> reporter: 100 law enforcement agencies are bringing in manpower and resources to keep super bowl xlviii safe. on monday the task force deployed officers to a new jersey home less than 20 miles away from metlife stadium where the game will be played. one man was arrested after a bomb squad found homemade explosive devices and guns. officials say they found no link to terrorism or the super bowl. >> there's been a lot of planning. there's been a lot of preparation. but what's still keeping you up at night? >> nothing. >> reporter: lieutenant colonel ed setnar took us inside the super bowl's command center in a secret location where a vast network of cameras are monitored around the clock. >> in my career in 27 years this is the largest event that the new jersey state police is undertaking. the super bowl, it's not a holiday, but it's an american tradition that this is huge. >> reporter: super bowl xlviii has its own unique challenges.
there will be events in both new jersey and new york. there are four nearby airports where air traffic will have to stop at times. several event venues sit close to water. for that reason authorities studied the 2008 terrorist attack in mumbai, which launched from the water. >> we've been looking at all vulnerability sites and making sure that when the 80,000 folks come in to celebrate the super bowl, every contingency is covered. >> reporter: there is a heavy police presence out here, as you would expect. but the event has been kept very much open to the public. in fact, there are no restrictions on what kind of bags you can bring in, but they are subject to search if needed. wolf. >> thanks very much alexandra field reporting for us. let's get to the olympics right now and more on the potential threats against the games there in sochi. there's been an arrest in connection with the recent suicide attack in nearby volgograd. russian police have identified the two suicide bombers and arrested two suspected accomplices. they say they may be connected
to the recent video threats against the upcoming winter games as well. the blame game heating up in atlanta right now where thousands of drivers were stuck, some for two days on icy roads. so what happened? georgia's governor is about to hold a news conference. we'll bring that to you live. stay with us. [ male announcer ] the new new york is open. open to innovation. open to ambition. open to bold ideas. that's why new york has a new plan -- dozens of tax free zones all across the state. move here, expand here, or start a new business here and pay no taxes for ten years... we're new york. if there's something that creates more jobs, and grows more businesses... we're open to it. start a tax-free business at startup-ny.com.
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>> -- make preparations early enough to avoid these consequences. as a parent i would certainly understand how someone would feel if their child was either on a school bus or at a school and unable to come back home. accepting that responsibility up front though, let me tell you what our focus has been in trying to deal with those circumstances and review for you what our actions were, what our priorities were and where we are in terms of making those priorities become a reality for solution. first of all, as you know, i made the priority of those school children the first thing that we should concentrate on. we had school buses who were stopped on roadways and could not complete their routes. and we of course had children who were required to stay in those schools overnight. our first focus was to make sure that those school environments were safe.
again, thanks to the teachers and the administrators who served in those schools who did their very best. and also thanks to the georgia state patrol and to the national guard, especially the georgia state patrol who had their people at all of the school sites that were required to keep children overnight. we have not heard of any adverse incidents that occurred because of lack of safety protections. so i think that part was done very well. with regard to getting those children home, we have made that a priority. as of yesterday all school children were returned. and that was done over multiple school districts who were affected by the storm. now, yesterday and today another of our priorities has been to deal with those vehicles that are stranded on our roadways. and you will hear more details
about that issue from the agency heads who have been involved in getting those vehicles removed in just a moment. but in dealing with those stranded vehicles, first of all, we wanted to make sure that everyone who was in a vehicle was given the opportunity to leave if they chose to do so. if they needed water or food to provide that to them. and the multiple agencies that were working on this by all reports have done a very good job in that regard. now, we continued yesterday to continue the road clearing efforts. and you will hear from the department as to how effective that has been. i took an aerial view of the interstate system around the city. and there were a few spots that still required action as of the middle of the day yesterday and into the afternoon. by the end of the afternoon i'm told that even those spots were
cleared. one involved a wreck that had occurred at the intersection of 285 and i-75 north where apparently an 18-wheeler had jackknifed. now, i also want to assure you that our department of natural resources have made their people and their equipment available to be sure that hospitals had adequate blood supplies and adequate other supplies that they needed to keep their hospitals operational. and apparently that was also successful. today, since the sun is out and hopefully the temperatures are going to stay above freezing for a few hours, we're going to put a concentrated effort on getting those additional stranded vehicles removed from our interstate, highways, the sides of those highwas and in the
medians themselves. to tell you what has been done in that regard and to tell you what some future preparations in that regard will be, i'm going to call on colonel mcdonaugh of georgia state patrol to give you an update on that. >> thank you, governor. good afternoon, everybody. as of 10:00 a.m. this morning 1,521 traffic crashes were worked by state troopers. 184 injuries. and still only one weather-related fatality here in the metro atlanta area. we have assisted 1,185 motorists during that period of time. changing tires, getting them off the roadway, taking care of any needs that they might have. we've also used our helicopters to take food and water to those areas, and actually landed in those sections of the interstate so that there was food and water available to those that had been there for an extended period of time. yesterday our efforts were very clear, our goal was to ensure
that the roadway was clear and that we were assisting the d.o.t. in the effort to get the product on the roadway and to get things cleared. and also to concentrate on the citize citizens. last night over 2,029 vehicles were checked by state troopers to ensure that no one was in the vehicle and that we didn't have anybody still stranded out in the roadway. and i can report that nobody came into contact with anybody that was still stranded in that capacity. so what about today? it's obvious that we have a large commute coming tomorrow morning. if you come into this town, it starts at about 4:00 to 5:00 a.m. this is the time for us to try to get the roadways completely cleared of those vehicles, and particularly those vehicles that are in the emergency lanes. so we want to ask the public as the day warms up, and thank god for the sunshine, that they start moving in a safe fashion to go and recover their
vehicles. state troopers will be in the area as well as national guardsmen there to provide security for the vehicles and safety as they recover it. and we've actually established two locations, one at mt. perrin baptist church on i-75 and west lake martyr station on i-20 where citizens if they need help can go there. and we have personnel to help take them out on to the interstate and help them recover their vehicles. now, there's a point at which we've got to stop a recovery and then start thinking about that safety for the commute tomorrow. so at 9:00 tonight state troopers are going to start looking particularly at 285 and the interstate system inside of 285, and then 75 up to the 575 interchange and i-20 all the way out to what's known as six flags hill on mile marker 47. and after 9:00 tonight if troopers come upon vehicles that
are still have not gotten from the roadway and are in the emergency lanes, we will be removing those vehicles from the roadway. because anticipation for the normal commute tomorrow, we want to make sure that the interstate system is properly managed and we provide a safe environment. thank you. >> thank you, colonel. the efforts on getting stranded motorists back to their vehicles has been one that the national guard has had a prominent role in. i'm going to ask the add degent general to come and tell what he's been doing in that effort. >> thank you. our first priority was to respond and provide to critical needs at this point. our priority is to provide safety and transportation assistance, as is necessary. we are assisting with the two sites that the colonel mentioned. and we will continue to do that provide a presence to ensure the
safety as we continue. and those are basically our ongoing missions. we have at this point about 189 to be exact individuals that are providing these assistance, continuing with 50 vehicles throughout the metro atlanta area at any of the critical need areas. thank you. >> thank you, sir. i had originally planned to have commissioner of d.o.t. here. but he got called away to his operational headquarters. quite honestly, i would rather have him there than at a news conference. i want him to be taking care of the business that the department of transportation sees as appropriate. but let me just sort of summarize what they are doing. they are continuing to treat streets, especially those that are the most vulnerable areas. and because the temperatures apparently are going to return below freezing tonight, be as much as possible pretreating those especially vulnerable areas, which are overpasses and
some of our elevated entrances and exits off of our interstate system. that will be their primary focus as they prepare for the rest of the week. the individuals who have concerns about their vehicles, we have agreed that the most appropriate thing for them to do would be to call the 511 number. it will be a coordinated effort between the state patrol and the department of transportation. and they will be able to give individuals appropriate answers in the event after the 9:00 deadline in the event their vehicle has been removed as to where they can go and where those vehicles will be located. now, there will be those areas outside of the area that the colonel has indicated where local jurisdictions will also probably be exercising their authority to clear some of the
roadways. so it would be appropriate for individuals who know if they are left their vehicle inside the jurisdiction of a municipality probably to check with that municipality. we will, however, at the 511 number have people who can tell them if they can describe where their vehicle was left, tell them where to go or who to contact if it has been removed by someone other than the state authorities. now, let me conclude with this before i open it up for your questions. i know your questions have been have i been satisfied with the response that was made. and my answer is an unequivocal, no, i am not satisfied with the response that was made. i have asked for an internal review by all of the agencies that are involved in this process. we've had a preliminary meeting on that already today. we have had offers of external review from other outside
agencies who we will accept their input. and the result of all of that is we will be compiling a new plan of action for similar events in the future. i think we did not respond fast enough. we did not respond in the magnitude at an earlier enough time to be able to avoid some of these consequences. we can make excuses about the fact that this happened in the middle of the day during a workweek. that did of course complicate the situation. but nevertheless we will be much more cautious and much more aggressive in terms of taking action in advance of future situations. what that will mean is there may be situations in which the public may be offended by what appears to be preparatory action when looking at the skies does not seem to indicate that anything is going to happen. and there will be some situations in which we will take
preparatory action in which there very well might not be anything that occurs. but it is necessary if we're going to prepare our roadways that we have the ability to do so without the ordinary traffic that is sometimes found, as you know, around the donut of atlanta. we will be taking those actions, but i will keep you informed of that. we will have a press conference once we have compiled all of that information. now, having said that i'm not satisfied, i'm not going to look for a scapegoat. i'm the governor. the buck stops with me. i accept the responsibility for it. but i also accept the responsibility of being able to make corrective actions as they come in the future. and that's what the public can expect from our office. and once again commending all of
those private citizens and our schools on the roadways for their help of their fellow citizens as this disaster unfolded here in the metro atlanta area. with that let me stop and i'll take your questions. yes, sir. [ inaudible question ] >> i would say that our preparation was not adequate. and in that extent, yes, it was not adequate. yes, i accept responsibility for that. >> and something we have to accept in the future that when we get two inches of snow the city will be dysfunctional? >> well, i certainly hope not. but i think we have to understand that we did not have all of our resources concentrating here in the metro area, because we had been led to believe that it was going to be south of here, in areas of our state that are less prepare and had municipal areas that are less prepared than the metro
atlanta area. when we realized that that did not occur, at least to the extent that it had been originally predicted, we began to shift those resources and personnel back to the metro area. and that took a little longer than perhaps some people would think that it should. but it did involve moving equipment and personnel. so we adjusted to it, but we did not have it in place because we did not fully anticipate the magnitude of what was going to happen here. yes? >> what would you like to have seen happen tuesday that did not happen tuesday? realizing getting out faster. >> well, i would have liked to have seen us have more preparation on the roadways in terms of treatment on the roadways. d.o.t. did take that action earlier in the day of treating the bridges and some of the overpass areas, but there again, the treatment itself has a limited life span. and in some areas that were treated, by the time the snow
actually did start coming it was beginning to freeze over at that point in time. i would have liked for us to have done a better job in that regard. i would have liked for us to have been able to tell the people of the city of atlanta and those who had anticipations of coming here that this is going to be a very dangerous situation and we ask you not to come inside of our perimeter. now, that would have caused some real consternation with people hearing that warning at a time in the morning when they didn't see anything happening. and i'm not sure that they would have totally abided by that warning, but i think it would have been good had we been able to do that and to say that. >> the trucks started too early? >> i'm sorry. >> are you saying d.o.t. trucks started too early? >> no, not at all. i'm saying we did not do it to the magnitude we would have liked to have them do. maybe earlier and maybe being able to stop some of the traffic
as it was coming in on what appeared to be a still clear morning and be able to put greater treatments down on the roadways. that would have caused an inconvenience and backup, but in hindsight that would have been preferable. >> a sign to listen to the weather forecast of the winter storm warning at 3:39 in the morning that somebody in the state would have responded quicker? >> well, that is what our emergency management agency does. i have charlie english, the head of the agency, here if y'all want to direct questions. >> yesterday you seemed to not be necessarily in touch with the conditions of the roads when gridlock started. mr. english, could you address what seemed to be maybe a lack of information about the condition of roads on tuesday afternoon? >> first, i'd like to say i made a terrible error in judgment
earlier -- late on monday afternoon and early tuesday. and i further as you mentioned made a -- some inaccurate and regretful statements at the press conference yesterday. in the future you can rest assured that when forecasts change there will be a much more aggressive response on the -- not just gema, but the state team we're responsible for coordinating. i really don't want to get into the necessarily the reasons i said what i did yesterday. but sure, it was bad. there was terrible traffic out there. but it was my fault at that time that it was a terrible traffic jam being exacerbated by the
onset of snow. but we did not have at that point in time other than traffic remediation issues to deal with at 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. now, now, now -- but i should have declared the state operation center open sooner, six hours sooner. and also with regard to the state employees i should have recommended that sooner. >> when is the first time you communicated with the governor about just how serious this emergency might be? >> it was mid-morning on tuesday. >> what's mid-morning? >> 9:00, 9:30. >> warning came in at 3:40 in the morning. the storm warning came in at 3:40 in the morning.
are you saying the governor didn't know about that until 9:00 in the morning? >> right. >> were you sleeping when the alert came in or when the warning was announced? >> if it came in at 3:30, i was. if it came in at 4:30, i was not. keeping an eye on things yourself as the emergency management director? >> at that particular time, there is one other thing i have to say before i answer your question there. although i made a terrible mistake and i put the government in an awful position, i probably make 50 decisions a year on whether or not to activate the state operation sooner. maybe not sending people home, but bring in extra forces. i have done that for 16 years. i hate that it happened in this
instance and i hate that that led to a less than stellar response, had we started earlier. but the fact of the matter is, we get punched with weather information. i have to make decisions based on that, whether it's warnings, whether it's watching, whether it's special statements, whether regardless of the situation and i got this one wrong. i got it wrong by at least six hours. >> why would you not be there. >> i made the decision not to do anything until later this morning. >> we talked to them and they got the warning and by 4:00, they made the decision to shut down the school system.
they were on top of it and reading the warnings and communicating with the leaders. why wouldn't that be going on here with the state of georgia? >> i think that's great on their part, but just to give you another example, we had a similar situation coming in not to the same magnitude, but schools closed for two days. we didn't do anything then. not saying i got that call right, but that was another call. >> were you pressured by the governor not to declare a state of emergency? >> absolutely not. that's not my call. we are in the middle of an operation. >> you didn't know about the winter storm warning until 9:00 in the morning? >> i didn't know it had been changed from what i had heard late on the monday evening.
upgraded and a more serious warning had been issued. >> they got phone messages that update us when a winter storm warning is announced. >> we do. just because i didn't necessarily get those does not mean i did not have major staff involved in that. we have a connectivity with my chief of staff, with several of our other advisers on the staff here. they are tied directly to the e-mails that come out of there. >> who on your staff was getting this information formulating the decision. the empty agencies that you heard had taken action on their own. they had already taken action on their own.
let me clear up the issue on school systems. let me tell you about the school systems. we don't have authority to tell local systems whether they should be open on a day or not be open on a day. the judgment calls are made by those based on the information they have. one of the areas i think they can strengthen is to make sure they have as good of information as possible. as early as possible. because as you know in the more rural areas where buses start running very early in the morning, school superintendents have to make those calls extremely early in the morning. i think we can improve that. that would be an area we are exploring. we will be talking with school superintendents about what would help them to make those independent judgment calls and if we have information, can we share it to you and under what circumstance.
>> had you declared a state of emergency earlier, they would have gotten that message much, much earlier. >> i don't have a guarantee of that. >> do you think the school district would have started the process sooner to close the schools and tell kids not to come at all? >> i'm not sure. we started before they declared a state of emergency. they operated on their own initiative thankfully. that was not early enough. >> those of you who had not already would have heeded your leadership in that moment. >> i think we can strengthen that relationship between the systems and our office of emergency management. we will do everything we can to make sure you can make it as seamless as possible. they can make the best calls available to them. >> after 2011, they were specifically given the
responsibility to coordinate action between state and local officials and the school districts. why didn't that happen? why didn't you do that? >> as you heard, the determination was made that it did not justify us declaring a state of emergency. that was the basis on which the decision was made there. as a result it did not activate those other activities. maybe charlie can elaborate. >> i will say that on monday there was a lot of coordination going on as early as 10:30 in the morning, the weather services office and the local units of government and then again at 1:00 in the afternoon. there was dialogue with local emergency management organizations and other state entities that there were predictions at hand. i didn't think -- the
coordination was going on. i have not raise the level of alert soon enough to activate the state operations center to get everybody in the room to do that. >> it sounds like the headliner, the state officials swapped the first five hours of the winter stormwatch. is that fair? >> no, that's not fair. >> the storm warning, what happened during the five hours? >> we had previously -- >> it doesn't sound like anything happened. you didn't alert anybody. >> right. >> is this the second time you
were told that the winter storm warning was issued? >> my staff was in constant contact. about me? i was not a quake at 3:15 in the morning, no, certainly not. i became aware of it as soon as i got to the office early that morning probably somewhere around 7:30 to 8:00 in the morning. i don't know that it was too late. certainly things could have been done earlier than that. i think you need to understand we were prodding on this issue as you will notice from the e-mails that i think you have seen from my chief of staff. we were concerned about it. we kept asking the questions about is there something else we need to be doing? unfortunately we did not get the right answer. >> [inaudible]. .
>> i hold him accountability for his mistake, but he has given 16 years of adequate and above adequate public service. i do not look at it as i said earlier, he is now prepared to make remedial action and tell us what it's going to be. i hope we don't have an opportunity to understand whether or not that remedial action may prevent something like this in the future. in the back. >> that doesn't seem to help. >> we will hold people accountable and hold people accountable for what they will be doing to prevent it in the future. i don't believe that's the way to operate.
>> i will answer your question. let me get hers. >> [inaudible]. >> obviously that's always ongoing in the entire network. the thing that a lot of people drive our interstate system know this very well. we have a lot of truck traffic coming up and down and out 285. 75, 85, and i-20. we have probably an excessive amount of truck traffic. there will be things that are going to be i think addressed in a better fashion with regard to how do we keep the truck traffic out in a