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April 16, 2014

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Atlanta area slowly rebounding from winter storm

Updated Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 | noon

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Friday outlined steps he said he plans to take to improve the city's emergency preparedness after a winter storm brought the metro area to a halt.

Reed said he has ordered a comprehensive review of the city's response to Tuesday's snowfall to see what worked and what didn't. He also will convene a working group to come up with best practices for emergency preparedness, including a protocol for dismissals during severe weather.

He also plans to recruit and hire an emergency management executive for the city to implement the working group's recommendations and to be responsible for the city's readiness in any kind of emergency situation. That person will help coordinate with other regional leaders, he said. Reed will also request that the city council appropriate funds to expand Atlanta's pretreating and deicing capabilities, he said.

The mayor has also reached out to the Weather Channel, which is headquartered in neighboring Cobb County, to participate in his working group and help Atlanta become a model for how to create a "weather-ready city," he said. And he plans to collaborate more closely with officials at the airport who are constantly gathering detailed weather information.

Reed made the comments at a long-planned speech at the Atlanta Press Club.

Snow began falling in Atlanta around midday Tuesday and, within hours, the metropolitan area was in gridlock with tens of thousands of people stranded on icy roads. Reed and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal have come under fire for the way the city and state handled the situation.

The governor offered his clearest apology in a news conference Thursday, saying his administration didn't plan well enough and pledging a full review of the state's emergency planning.

Reed said there are things the city should have done differently but said his administration was not sitting idly by.

"The notion that we were standing still is just patently not the case," Reed said.

Many of the wrecks and much of the gridlock highlighted by national media were outside of his jurisdiction. City vehicles began pretreating roads at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and most major arteries within the city limits were passable by 6 p.m. that day, he said.

He stopped short, though, of criticizing other political leaders in the region, saying that would be counterproductive because they all need to come together now to prepare better for the future.

As temperatures climbed above 50 degrees Friday, the remaining ice accumulation on roads and sidewalks was melting and a lot of people who'd stayed home much of the week returned to work. Many school districts throughout the metro area, however, were closed to students Friday, and a state of emergency remained in effect through Sunday night.