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Opinion Blogs
One Man's Opinion: Better Safe Than Sorry
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One Man's Opinion: Better Safe Than Sorry

One Man's Opinion: Better Safe Than Sorry

One Man's Opinion: Better Safe Than Sorry

"This is not one to play around with," said Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, during a September 2nd press conference ordering the partial evacuation of 6-coastal counties during the approach of then Hurricane Dorian.

With the heat of summer still baking our great state, it's hard to believe that a week ago thousands were battening the hatches, boarding up doors and windows and preparing for Mother Nature's worst, before heading north on Interstate 16 and evacuating the region. Thankfully, unlike the Bahamas and large swaths of North Carolina, the South Carolina low-country and coast -- Georgia's coast and Golden Isles largely dodged this once maelstrom storm bullet unscathed. However hurricane season is far from over, and indications are that with this summer heat lingering, in the atmosphere and across the Carribean, there may be a few more like Dorian yet to come. 

Thousands of home, business and property owners did choose to ignore the evacuation orders, stay and ride out the storm. Though evacuations were only mandated for residents and property owners east of I-95, most everyone took precautions and prepared for the storm. Signs of that were everywhere, from boats moved to dry dock, to grocery shelves emptied of staple items and bottled water. 

The primary evacuation route also functioned as it should have, I-16 traffic became one-way heading north and traffic flow north surged overnight by 30 percent. Some admittedly grousing that the National Weather Service and Georgia Emergency Management (GEMA) were being overly cautious, would certainly be kicking themselves if Dorian had made a decisive left-hand turn. 

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One Man's Opinion: Better Safe Than Sorry

Kemp's predecessor, Governor Nathan Deal, and Atlanta's then Mayor Kasim Reed, each learned the downside of not listening in full earnest to dangerous weather forecasts. The two were both being honored at a Georgia Trend magazine luncheon recognizing Outstanding Georgians on the morning of January 28, 2014, an unusually strong snow and ice storm was looming for most all of north Georgia, and as far south as Macon. Deal and Reed were having their photos taken and enjoying the company of many of Georgia's community and business leaders, as the first sleet and frost started landing and sticking on Georgia streets and highways outside around noontime. 

Before the salt trucks could be mobilized, the ice froze and was then joined by 2-6 inches of snow, as the onset of metro Atlanta's infamous rush hour became the now historic Snowmaggedon. Thousands were trapped on metro interstates which had become practically solid sheets of ice, and many simply abandoned their vehicles and walked home. School buses were similarly delayed 8-10 hours, many idling on the roadside until they ran out of fuel. No significant injuries or loss of life were attributed to the snow, sleet and ice storm, but the north side of the state was practically paralyzed for several days. 

Deal and north Georgia Mayors, county commissions, school boards and superintendents became decidedly more cautious after that. Snow days were added to the state school calendar of 180 school days. Even the hint of an inch of frozen precipitation would cause full school system closures. Erring to the side of caution since 2014 has become our rightful norm. Yes, meteorology is a science, but so is geology and the prediction of earthquakes. Both include a margin of error, as well as the very real change in temperament of winds, rain and the occasionally mercurial shift of storm fronts. Dorian stalling and sitting atop the Bahamas for several days was also something quite difficult to pre-forecast. 

Having been on Jekyll Island a few times in my childhood and teen years during tropical storms, a downed tree on a home, car or family pet is a quite significant challenge moving forward just the same. Perhaps the happiest folks in reaction to the evacuation call were hoteliers, restaurant and gas station owners in points north like Dublin, Macon and Atlanta. Reports of price-gouging were thankfully minimal and multiple Georgia cities and households welcomed the evacuees into their homes and shelters with open arms. Our state and coastal citizenry have their lives largely returned to normal and thankfully, a few million are largely none the worse off after taking a course and path of taking heed, playing it safe and being better safe than sorry. 

And perhaps most thankful of all are our neighbors in lower Alabama and along the Gulf coast, hammered hard a year ago by Hurricane Michael, but now also spared, thanks to the magical power of a Presidential Sharpie, from any injury or further harm.

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  • Two Atlanta police officers have been fired for using a stun gun on two college students during this weekend’s protests in Atlanta. A video of officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter using the stun gun on the students as they sat in a vehicle led to action by Atlanta’s mayor and police chief. The Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he’s investigating and looking at criminal charges against the officers. Still shaken, the Morehouse and Spelman students spoke for the first time Monday about what happened Saturday night. “We felt like we were going to die in that car,” said Taniyah Pilgrim, a student at Spelman College. The Atlanta Police Department provided WSB-TV with body camera video from seven different officers showing Messiah Young, a senior from Morehouse College, and Pilgrim, his girlfriend, tased and dragged from their car. “I’m sorry you guys had to even see something like that occur. It’s disgusting,” Pilgrim said Monday. Moments before they were tased, the video shows Young taking a video of the police and protesters from his car. The couple said they were not part of the protests, but were going out to eat and got stuck in the traffic. “At the end of the day, it’s a blessing that I’m alive and here to talk with you,” Young said. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Ericka Shields said the videos left them no choice but to terminate officers Streeter and Gardner. “I knew that I had only one option, and that was to terminate the employees,” Shields said. WSB-TV dug into the history of the two men. Both were longtime veterans of the force and investigators in APD’s fugitive unit. Both men, according to state peace officer records, had just gone through use-of-force and de-escalation training in the last two months. Streeter completed his de-escalation training just last week. Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told WSB-TV that he thinks the officers should have been placed on leave while they were investigated. “We just don’t know the facts. Making an arrest on video as a police officer, almost all of them are going to be ugly,” Champion said. Young has a fractured arm and 20 stitches from the incident. He also spent the night in jail. The couple and their attorneys want more disciplinary action taken against the officers involved. “This is a long, long fight. This isn’t just about me. This is an entire generation that has to deal with brutality and injustice and wrongdoing for nothing because of the color of their skin,” Young said. WSB-TV remained in contact with Howard’s office throughout Monday. Howard was said to be speaking with the families, the police chief, and then will make a determination on any possible criminal charges against the officers.
  • More than 6.2 million people worldwide -- including more than 1.8 million in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun to shift their focus toward reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Tuesday, June 2, continue below: US coronavirus cases eclipse 1.8M, deaths top 105K Published 12:41 a.m. EDT June 2: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States climbed past 1.8 million early Tuesday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, there are at least 1,811,357 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 105,160 deaths.  The hardest-hit states remain New York with 371,711 cases and 29,917 deaths and New Jersey with 160,918 cases and 11,723 deaths. Massachusetts, with 100,805 cases, has the third-highest number of deaths with 7,035, while Illinois has the third-highest number of cases with 121,234. Only 15 states and territories have confirmed fewer than 5,000 cases each. Six other states have now confirmed at least 53,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: · California: 114,733 cases, resulting in 4,217 deaths · Pennsylvania: 76,646 cases, resulting in 5,567 deaths · Texas: 65,593 cases, resulting in 1,683 deaths · Michigan: 57,532 cases, resulting in 5,516 deaths · Florida: 56,830 cases, resulting in 2,460 deaths · Maryland: 53,327 cases, resulting in 2,552 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut and Louisiana each has confirmed at least 40,000 cases; Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 34,000 cases; North Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington and Arizona each has confirmed at least 20,000 cases, followed by Iowa with 19,699; Alabama and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 18,000 cases, followed by Mississippi with 15,752; Rhode Island and Nebraska each has confirmed at least 14,000 cases, followed by Missouri with 13,724, South Carolina with 12,148 and Kentucky with 10,046; Utah, Kansas and Delaware each has confirmed at least 9,000 cases; the District of Columbia and Nevada each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases; New Mexico and Arkansas each has confirmed at least 7,000 cases, followed by Oklahoma with 6,913 and South Dakota with 5,034.. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • President Donald Trump said Monday night that he will invoke an 1807 federal law that would allow him to deploy active-duty U.S. troops in response to protests in the wake of the death of a black man by a white police officer in Minnesota. “I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Trump said in an address from the White House Rose Garden. 'We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,' he said. 'If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,' Trump said. He said he had already dispatched 'thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers' to Washington D.C. following a night that saw riots, the defacing of the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial and a fire in the church across the street from the White House. The law – called the Insurrection Act – would allow the president to send active-duty troops to a state where he believes it is necessary to quell an “insurrection” that threatens the state or its residents. Here’s what we know about the Insurrection Act: What does the act say? “If there is an insurrection in a State, the President, at the request of the State’s legislature, or Governor if the legislature cannot be convened, may call National Guards of other States into Federal service as well as use the Federal military to suppress the insurrection.” The act goes on to authorize the president to deploy the military (federal or state) whenever he believes it necessary “to suppress an insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy.” “Whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages or rebellion against authority of the United States makes it impracticable to enforce the law of the United States in any State or territory by judicial proceedings, the President may call into Federal service the militia of any State and use the Federal military to enforce the laws or suppress the rebellion,” the act reads. The law also states the president can use the armed forces when there is an interference with federal or state law. The law may be used when an “insurrection:” “(a) … so hinders the execution of law of that State and of the United States and it deprives citizens of constitutional rights (e.g. due process); or (b) it opposes or obstructs the execution of laws or impedes the course of justice. In the event of the deprivation of rights, the State is deemed to have denied its citizens equal protection of laws.” Prior to invoking the Insurrection Act, the attorney general crafts and the president must issue a “proclamation to disperse.” The proclamation to disperse will “immediately order the insurgents to disperse and retire peaceably to their abodes within a limited time,” according to the legislation. What does that mean? The Insurrection Act allows the president, at the request of the governor of a state or a state legislature, to federalize that state’s National Guard and to use the active-duty military in order to suppress an “insurrection” against that state's government. The act also allows a president to federalize the National Guard and send in active-duty troops, even if the governor or legislature does not ask for help, if it becomes impracticable to enforce federal laws through ordinary proceedings or if states are unable to safeguard its citizens’ civil rights. Has it been used before? Yes, but not very often, according to the Congressional Research Service. Some examples of when it was used include: Several times during the 1960s civil rights era by both President Dwight Eisenhower and President John Kennedy. By President George H.W. Bush following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, as business and homes were looted and during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
  • Police are investigating after the body of a man who had been shot was found in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.  Officers were sent to the Baker-Highland Connector at Piedmont Avenue about 1:40 p.m. Monday, according to Atlanta police spokesman Officer Steve Avery. There, they found the man dead, he said.  When police moved the man’s body, they discovered that he had been shot.  Witnesses told police the man occasionally sleeps under the overpass near the area. It is not clear what led to the man’s death.  An investigation is ongoing.  You may find this story and more at AJC.com. In other news: 
  • A man was killed Monday afternoon after gunfire erupted inside a DeKalb County Walmart, officials said.  The victim, a man in his late to mid-60s, died on the way to a hospital, according to DeKalb police spokeswoman Michaela Vincent. His name was not released.  DeKalb police detained a man in his late 50s in connection with the incident, which happened at the store on Gresham Road. Officers were sent to the shopping center about 2 p.m. after someone reported gunshots, Vincent said. Investigators determined the incident began as a dispute between two men, she said. It is not clear what led to the dispute.  An investigation is ongoing.  Please return to AJC.com for updates. You may find this story and more at AJC.com. In other news: 
  • Protesters caused an estimated $10 million to $15 million in property damage in Buckhead this weekend, a community group said Monday. Property damage was assessed for a four-mile stretch of Peachtree Road between Wieuca Road and Peachtree Battle Avenue, said Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell. The estimate did not include losses sustained from looting. City officials on Monday could not provide an estimate for damages downtown. Marches against police violence turned chaotic when some demonstrators began smashing windows, setting fires and looting businesses. The damage was primarily sustained by businesses with storefronts directly on Peachtree Road, but some businesses located inside Phipps Plaza were also targeted, Massell said. “They did break into the Gucci store in Phipps and took some merchandise, but it was limited to the display area and was not inside the store,” Massell said. Central Atlanta Progress has not completed an estimate for downtown, said president A.J. Robinson. City officials declined to provide a cost estimate. The Atlanta Police Department did not respond to a request for an estimate. The state Department of Insurance won’t have a cost estimate for riot damage for several weeks, after insurance companies report the number and total value of claims, said spokesman Weston Burleson. Most standard business owners policies include coverage for events related to civil unrest, riots and vandalism, said Bill Davis, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade association. These policies typically come with special riders for riot coverage, even if the applicant does not specifically request it, he said. They can also include business interruption coverage for a business’s downtime caused by vandals. Some policies require policyholders to buy additional coverage for plate glass windows, Davis said. Stolen goods and other items, like furniture, liquor, glassware and office supplies should be covered by a business owner’s personal property policy, Davis said. You may find this story and more at AJC.com.