ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Record-setting cold temperatures are paralyzing parts of the Midwest while other parts of the country are bracing for bad weather that never came. That's welcome news in Atlanta. The city is gearing up to host the Super Bowl this week and the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come with it. As WABE's Emma Hurt reports, after some high-profile missteps, the city is still coping with winter weather paranoia.
EMMA HURT: Atlanta seems ready for the Super Bowl. Downtown workers have been told to work from home to make way for visitors. The state legislature isn't in session either. The weather is looking pretty clear and mild until the game, too. But earlier this week...
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BRIAN KEMP: Well, good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here on short notice.
HURT: New Governor Brian Kemp and other top officials wanted to talk about the couple inches of precipitation in the forecast. Everyone was worried about ice and past winter weather scars. Here's Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
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KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: And because we don't want a repeat of 2014, we have already begun to pre-treat our streets.
HURT: What happened in 2014? Two inches of snow fell in an hour and paralyzed the city. Offices and schools let out early. Everyone rushed to get home at once, clogging iced-over roadways. It's been called the snowpocalypse and the ice jam. And the country noticed. "Saturday Night Live" even did a skit featuring a now-iconic at Atlantan, Buford Calloway.
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TARAN KILLAM: (As Buford Calloway) I told you, Sethery, we don't know how to handle snow. I'm not one of those - from one of those Northern states like Vermont or South Carolina.
SETH MEYERS: (Laughter) OK.
HURT: But it wasn't a joking matter in Georgia. Thousands were stuck in cars for nearly 20 hours. Some slept in their offices. Brian Robinson worked for then-Governor Nathan Deal during the storm.
BRIAN ROBINSON: We cannot afford to have what we had happen on that day in 2014 where children were trapped on buses, unable to go to the bathroom, second graders with no food and no heat. We can't have that again.
HURT: So now he says the pendulum has swung towards caution. Better to have a few fake snow days than another disaster. Rebecca Burns is a longtime Atlanta journalist.
REBECCA BURNS: We're not idiots in Atlanta. We know how to drive. We can get around.
HURT: In 2014, she wrote about how Atlanta's lack of cohesive urban planning and transit laid the groundwork for the chaos.
BURNS: When you have a place that is designed solely around all the cars of the millions of people in a metro area funneling in and out of one small area downtown and you release all those cars at once and then you throw some snow into it, that's where the disaster comes from.
HURT: It scarred the city's psyche, she says. And let's not forget one other embarrassing winter weather event in 2000.
BURNS: The last time the Super Bowl was in Atlanta, there was an ice storm, and everything was a disaster.
HURT: So this year, a risk of ice the week of the Super Bowl - Atlanta overcorrected, and then it kind of drizzled, and the sun came out. Patriots fans in town are laughing. But to Atlantans who remember 2014, better safe than sorry. Caleb Torres is from Atlanta and is a Super Bowl volunteer working downtown.
CALEB TORRES: Who needs snow to have a snow day, right? We can have our snow days whenever we want a snow day. Cold rain - that sounds like a snow day.
HURT: And another bonus - unlike a normal Atlanta weekday, traffic wasn't miserable. For NPR News, I'm Emma Hurt in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.