Snowgate: just who’s to blame?
by Jon Gillooly
February 01, 2014 12:09 AM | 3743 views | 8 8 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Pileups — such as this one Tuesday on Sandy Plains Road in Marietta — and abandoned cars were common sights in Cobb after traffic was paralyzed Tuesday and most the day Wednesday by the winter snowstorm.<br>Staff/Todd Hull
Pileups — such as this one Tuesday on Sandy Plains Road in Marietta — and abandoned cars were common sights in Cobb after traffic was paralyzed Tuesday and most the day Wednesday by the winter snowstorm.
Staff/Todd Hull
MARIETTA — The county’s transportation director, Faye DiMassimo, has been facing a blizzard of criticism from residents unhappy with the way the county handled this week’s snow storm.

Some testy email exchanges reveal that residents had the director back on her heels, defending her crews against accusations that their actions were too little, too late.

Lance Lamberton of Austell, a member of the county’s SPLOST 2011 Oversight Committee, emailed DiMassimo Thursday morning, copying dozens of others from Commissioner Bob Ott to citizen activist Rich Pellegrino.

In his email, Lamberton told DiMassimo it appeared the county did not adequately respond with pre-treatment of south Cobb roads despite confirmation from the weather service at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday that Cobb would be facing a major weather event.

“I hope this is not a precursor to the kind of traffic issues we may face if an(d) when Boondoggle Stadium is built,” Lamberton wrote, referring to the new Braves stadium planned for a site near the Cumberland Mall at Interstates 75 and 285.

DiMassimo responded Thursday evening saying her department “initiated” the placement of salt and sand on county roadways by about 11 a.m. Tuesday. By the time the county’s crews and equipment were loaded and fully active, DiMassimo said traffic congestion made the treatment of the roads difficult and in some cases, impossible. Since then, the county treated many of the roads multiple times, putting down about 450 tons of a salt/sand mix.

“The freezing temperatures have caused the ice to refreeze very quickly after the treatment, however,” she wrote.

Yet, the county continued to work on the major thoroughfares and intersections, with the rescue of any stranded citizens being the highest priority. DiMassimo said pre-treatment of roads in Southern states is usually not done for several reasons.

“Chemical solutions used have a shelf life that often would expire due to the length of time between such events and typical advance notice of weather events does not allow for procuring it on the spot,” she said. “Brine mixtures have certain equipment and preparation requirements that also may prevent timely pre-treatment, especially for broad application.”

And if the weather event begins with precipitation such as rain or sleet, she said the solution is washed away and rendered ineffective.

“Nonetheless, as described above we did initiate road treatment in a timely manner based upon our protocols,” she told Lamberton.

Since the storm began, DiMassimo said the county answered 843 calls.

“As always, we will seek to learn from this experience and improve our future performance,” she said.

Weighing in on the email chain, Keli Gambrill of west Cobb raised questions about where the county chose to place the salt/sand mix.

Gambrill pointed to the intersection of Dallas Highway and Old Dallas Highway where she said sand was placed on the flat intersection between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. But about 50 feet from there was where the problem was with drivers either sliding down the hill or unable to get up the hill past West Sandtown Road.

“So — yes, Faye is correct, however the application in my opinion, was not,” Gambrill said.

Lamberton answered DiMassimo by saying roads should have been pre-treated at 6 a.m. Tuesday, not 11 a.m.

“And what is the expiration date on rock salt and gravel?” he asked her. “The salt that has been sitting in my garage for three years worked just fine on my driveway. Instead of making excuses for your failures, we would be better served by you admitting that you messed up big time. But in my years of experience with Cobb County government, that is not ever likely to happen under its current leadership. I just hope Lee enjoyed his lunch.”

Lamberton’s lunch comment is a reference to the Georgia Trend “100 Most Influential Georgians” awards ceremony that county chairman Tim Lee was attending Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead when the storm hit. Lee himself was stranded in his truck on I-75 for the rest of the day as he tried to drive back to Cobb from Buckhead.

“Of all the public servants I have ever encountered in Cobb County, none is more talented in the art of obfuscation than Faye DiMassimo,” Lamberton said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 04, 2014
There is plenty of blame to go around and obviously things could have been handled better.

Live and learn.

Although I do have to agree with Mr. Lamberton on one thing and that is his description of Di"Mess"imo as being very talented at obfuscation and slight of hand when it comes to transportation issues in Cobb County.

The BRT, if it ever comes to pass, will be an ongoing financial disaster.
February 01, 2014
I blame the school superintendents for not calling school for the day. Just close the schools! You knew this was coming; you may have not know the severity but you knew we would be getting something. The safety & well being to all of our children should have been a no brainier. It was insane for me to go 5 miles in 3 1/2 hours. My sister was on the road for 13 hours from Buckhead to Sandy Springs. If you ask anyone on the school PTA, board office they will tell you they stayed open til 11 to get the federal $$ for the day then by law they had to feed the kids before releasing school. The rest is a nightmare. Lets all hope that the supers get their act together & if we are faced with any type of snow/ice they should put the children first & close the schools. The teachers that stayed with all those kids that were stranded need to be commanded for for doing just that. I do not ever want to know how it would feel knowing I am here & my child is stuck @ school because the higher ups cant get their act together.
DOT Sucks
February 01, 2014
Cobb DOT is the laziest bunch of people I have ever seen. Perhaps its just a product of Hank's cheapness, but they rarely respond to any requests for service in a timely basis. Telephone pole down across the road and barricades are needed, well you are waiting until someone wakes up in the morning to bring them out. There were no sand trucks on Sandy Plains Road Tuesday Night before 10pm, nor on Roswell Rd at the 120 loop where traffic was tied up for 4 or 5 hours. I know that for a fact. I'm sure they were all staged out on County Services Pkwy and they did all they could in that immediate area but that is either poor execution or very poor planning.
For Students
February 01, 2014
EVERYTHING "Total Failure" has said is true. The domino affect started when the metro area superintendents did NOT cancel schools altogether. Here is what I want answered & as a parent & taxpayer, super Hinojosa should answer them:

1) Did supers in ALL the metro counties have a conference call and decide to ignore the warnings during the Jan. 27th 11:00 PM weather forecasts on WSB-TV & WXIA-TV, which I personally watched?

2)On that conference call did they ALL decide, let's roll the dice on the safety of the students and make sure we get our state funds for Tuesday's school attendance?

3)Why did the CCSD cancel school on Jan. 7th & 8th because of very cold weather and deem that dangerous, but the chance of students stranded on buses and in schools was not dangerous?

4)Why has the CCSD & other metro school districts in the past (Jan. 7th & 8th, 2014) made decisions based on their quote, "we had rather err on the side of safety for the students", but on Jan. 28th decided they had never heard that quote & threw caution & common sense to the wind? What is the definition of safety? A 3 inch knife in a high school students car truck?

5) How much money EXTRA did the decision of NOT cancelling schools in the metro area cost as compared to the loss of state funds for missing Jan. 28-31? Did the burning of at least 4 days of diesel fuel by buses that were stuck in the traffic for up to 12 hrs cost more than not even starting the buses on Jan. 28th?

6)Are the Metro supers going to finally give the school bus drivers the recognition & pay they have been due for EVER? Never mind, I know that answer.

7)Is the CCSD super going to give the teachers the pay they deserve instead of giving the money to himself, his top cabinet & wasteful surveys & seminars? I know that answer also.

8) CCSD Board-Do y'all have the b__lls to question & reprimand super Hinojosa in a public Board meeting?

9) Finally, Super Hinojosa are you going to resign, pack your bags & move back to TX?

We ALL deserve answers to these questions. I will be waiting.
Just Wait
February 01, 2014
Isn't it great that we have someone with the knowledge and expertise of Mr. Lamberton to advise us on the proper way to prepare for events such as the snow? Not defending Cobb DOT and Cobb leadership, but armchair quarterbacking by "experts" is worthless.

@Total Failure...of course the police were not at intersections directing traffic. Read the MDJ, there aren't that many police to begin with and you want them standing in intersections instead of aiding the injured in wrecks and clearing the mess that others have already made. You use your resources for the best interest of the majority, not the convenience of the few.
Govt Not Babysitters
February 01, 2014
Whine, whine, whine.

Do you want some cheese with that??

Ask yourself ONE question.

If it was SOOOOOO obvious that disaster was upon us, WHY did you people send your kids to school and then go to work?????????

Why didn't you STAY HOME because we ALL know what happens when it snows in Atlanta.

If it was SOOOO obvious that the govt should have babysat us like was also easy enough for US to realize what was going to happen and take care of ourselves.
Total failure
February 01, 2014
We can begin with the DOT from all angles because treating roads at 11:00 am when you have limited trucks certainly won't help. The fact that the CCSD superintendent felt it more important to feed the children and get credit for a full day of school, instead of sending them home at 9:00 am, was a HUGE problem. He said he wouldn't have done anything differently. I guess you can say that when your rear end was warm at home while teachers and children were stranded. There were NO POLICE present at intersections and helping guide traffic and that did not help the situation at all! I give all the so called LEADERS a big fat F! I will take a sick day next time I know snow is coming. Hopefully parents will keep their children at home as well. Better to be safe than stuck at school over night or in traffic for 10 hours risking my life due to the failure of others!
Wx happens
February 01, 2014
Why blame happens. Blame the superintendent, Seriously, every worker in Atlanta saw the warnings and chose to go to work regardless. Cobb was suppose to get 1/4 inch by 4 pm...turned out worse, earlier and heavier. You would have been able to drive on the snow but the city of Atlanta emptied out earlier than anyone expected and all roads were gridlocked after that. We just need to learn from the experience.

MPD did all they could. They can't be everywhere for everyone.
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