Georgia road officials apologize for overreacting to snow risk

ATLANTA Thu Feb 6, 2014 1:19pm EST

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ATLANTA Feb 6 (Reuters) - Georgia state transportation officials, reeling from the snow and ice that paralyzed Atlanta highways last week, said they "overreacted" on Thursday by warning motorists of a winter storm watch that had not in fact been issued.

After weather forecasts mentioned a chance of more snow, officials posted winter storm watch and warning messages on electronic roadway signs in Atlanta late on Wednesday and early Thursday.

But the National Weather Service had predicted only light snow, possibly mixing with rain. "The term 'winter storm' was never used," weather service meteorologist Kent Frantz said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation subsequently removed the more dire warnings and apologized for the error.

"In our desire to proactively inform the traveling public of potential hazardous road conditions, we overreacted to a weather statement from the National Weather Service," transportation officials said in a statement. "We apologize for any confusion this may have caused."

Atlanta highways came to a complete standstill last week after about two inches of snow fell around the city. Hundreds of thousands of commuters hit the roads at the same time to get home from work and pick up their children from school.

Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican up for re-election this year, admitted the state responded too slowly to the storm. He announced a new severe weather warning notification system on Monday and named a state task force that will explore ways to improve the government response to storms. (Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Gunna Dickson)

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