Georgia Governor Nathan Deal threw the National Weather Service under the bus — but his statement shows a complete misunderstanding of the role of the NWS forecasters and the role of emergency decision-makers, including himself. The meteorologists make the weather forecasts, the emergency managers and decision-makers at cities, counties, states, and school boards are supposed to understand the impact of the weather, direct the government response, and communicate recommended actions to the public. Shockingly, the governor and the Atlanta mayor didn’t see that as their responsibility. This is distressingly similar to Hurricane Sandy, of course. A major city, along with the state in this case, in spite of direct communications with the National Weather Service, is unable to put the pieces together to understand the RISK to their citizens.
With all due respect to those of you who suffered in Georgia this week, in my book the undisputed king of this blame-shifting, evasive genre is Michael Chertoff. In 2005, the Secretary of Homeland Security actually implied with a straight face on live TV, multiple times across major networks, that one reason his department dropped the ball during Katrina was due to a purported, never identified newspaper headline he read the next morning saying NOLA may have dodged a bullet.
In another interview that same day, a reporter must have asked him what paper he had read that in. That’s when pre-claiming he couldn’t remember the name of the paper became an instant part of his spiel thus sealing in the verdict of intentional mendacity, even as thousands of people fought for their lives in the ravaged city, and many were losing that battle.