Holiday Punch Anniversary: What Did We Learn?

By: Melanie Niemann Email
By: Melanie Niemann Email

December 17, 2010

Who could forget the images of last December's 'Holiday Punch' snow storm. There were disabled cars on roadways and in ditches, shelters for people to escape the mess outside and over 20 inches of snow on the ground.

The storm transformed Charlottesville into an arctic ghost town.

Amidst all that chaos, Albemarle County Public Schools transportation director Josh Davis became the voice that students loved and parents dreaded. His phone messages made him a local legend overnight. “The good thing about December 19, 2009,” Davis explained, “was that it hit on a Friday right before the winter break.”

The Holiday Punch storm had many Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents scrambling for answers, including workers at the local emergency management center.

“We were not prepared for the storm. We were playing catch-up for the first 24 hours,” said Marge Thomas.

One year later, officials from all departments say several lessons were learned and several improvements made. Two points of emphasis heading into this year's snow season were anticipatory planning and increased communication.

“We learned that communication remains the key. We want to understand when storms may be coming and prepare our drivers and workforce for weather. So when the inevitable does occur, and we may be operating in not so ideal circumstances, we can operate safely,” said Davis.

Those new plans were put to the test during Thursday's storm. How would you grade the response of Charlottesville and Albemarle County crews? We welcome your comments.

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