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Emails reveal failure with GEMA director on snow mobilization.

1:50 AM, Jan 31, 2014   |    comments
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A contrite Governor Nathan Deal fell on the sword and took blame for the traffic/snow debacle this week. But a cursory look Thursday night at more than a hundred state agency emails exchanged on the matter show that it was actually the Governor's office that took the lead on dealing with the crisis.

Why?

Because while thousands of motorists were stranded, the head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency was asleep at the wheel.

"I got this one wrong," GEMA head Charley English told reporters at a press conference this afternoon. "I got it wrong by six hours."

English is also the president of the National Emergency Management Association, with a masters in Homeland Defense and Security, according to the agency's website.

But the emails showed even regular state employees knew it was time to act.

From Commissioner Clyde Reese:

"A bunch of folks over here are asking me about whether we are letting folks go early for inclement weather."

From Deal's Chief of Staff Chris Riley to English:

"Everyone keeps trying to tell me how bad the weather is going to be but I keep saying if the weather was going to be bad, Charlie would have called and he hasn't called me."

"I really don't want to get into necessarily the reasons I said what I said yesterday," English said, talking about a previous press conference where he downplayed the problem. "But sure it was bad out there. It was terrible traffic out there."

Without a clear directive on what to do from GEMA, the agency that handles these kinds of disasters, state employees were getting nervous by mid-morning. With good reason.

By 11am, heavy snow was falling.

12:15, schools were letting out

1pm, Atlanta city government closes

2pm, Gridlock

5pm, GEMA finally goes online.

By 9pm, Deal's Chief of Staff communicates to English that "The Governor would like to close the state tomorrow out of an abundance of caution and thus allow gdot to clear and treat the roads."

Governor Deal would not discuss whether English would keep his job.

"I think we did not respond fast enough," Deal said. "We did not respond in the magnitude and at an early enough time to be able to avoid some of these consequences."

The governor added that the state will create a new action plan to be aggressively cautious in the future. That would entail closing schools and government offices for potential bad weather, even if there are blue skies at the time.

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