An unexpected snowstorm hits the city in the middle of a workday. The roads get hopelessly clogged and I'm lucky to get home--many others just abandoned their cars, or slept in them. I'm talking about Valentine's Day, February 14, 1990 in Chicago. But the same story hit Atlanta yesterday. One big difference--Georgia Tech is closed today and tomorrow because the city can't handle the ice. The University of Chicago was open on February 15th.
When these events happen, people wonder about the planning. Was it wise for all schools and businesses to shut down about the same time, early yesterday afternoon? Lots of blame to go around (and having CNN based in Atlanta guarantees coverage) but it is not clear that any plan would have done much better--how do you get millions of people safely home with dangerous roads and a limited public transit system? One of these times you wish P = NP and you can just find the right algorithm. One of the issues is that freak mid-day snowstorms don't happen that often, the last major one in Atlanta was 1982.
Meanwhile back in Chicago, schools were closed earlier this week, not for snow but for cold. But it was that cold on a regular basis back in the 90's. Global warming has changed expectations, as so brilliantly illustrated in this xkcd.