The Southern Snow Phenomenon
I’ve lived in the south my whole life, so yeah, I’ve heard all the jokes about Southerners when it comes to snow. What I haven’t seen is someone really lay out why it’s so difficult for us. I thought I’d take a moment and try to explain the Southern Snow Phenomenon. It really isn’t because we’re all a bunch of stupid hicks.
- Simple Economics
In the South, our temperatures are rarely below freezing. Most days in the Winter, our temperatures are around 50 degrees (at least that’s how it has been so far this Winter). Winter’s are, for the most part, relatively mild; therefore, we don’t use our tax dollars on big equipment like snow plows and large amounts of salt because, for the most part, it would be wasted money. The equipment would take up space somewhere and rarely get used. It would age, break down and rust from lack of care because even if the money was spent to get the equipment, it’s unlikely that more money would be earmarked to keep the equipment in tip-top shape. It’s just not economically feasible for us to earmark that much money for something that we would use only a couple of times a year.
I don’t know a single person who owns chains for their tires. I’ve never seen any and I have no idea how you’d use them if I did. Ditto slow plows and snow shovels. In fact, I’d never seen a snowmobile until one skirted out in front of us in Wisconsin one very cold and snowy night. The roaring thing with a huge light came at us from across a field and pulled right up to an all night (unattended) gas station. I was speechless.
We are flat-out not prepared for cold temperatures when it comes to clothing. I don’t know of anyone, aside from a few people who ski, who own feather-filed parkas. It’s rare to see stocking caps except on the coldest of days. We use them so rarely that I imagine most of us have to go to the store and get them when bad weather is predicted because we haven’t used them since that one time last year when we had a snow day. None of us know where those went.
The first year that The Dane and I were going the Wisconsin during the Winter, I went to look for a real Winter coat. I couldn’t find a single one. When I finally asked about this, the manager told me, “You should probably try to find one in Wisconsin when you get there because you’re not going to find one around here anywhere.” He was right, I didn’t.
By the same token, it is HIGHLY unlikely that anyone in the South (other than preppers and those lucky enough to have married a Northerner) will actually have anything in their car that resembles a winter survival kit. Until I married The Dane, I never thought to have hats/gloves/flashlights and the like in the truck of my car. Now that I have one, there have been times when it’s sort of gotten on my nerves because we haven’t had to use it, but every year, I have to check and rotate things out because they have expired. I must admit though, it sure did come in handy that one New Year’s Eve that the The Dane and I were stuck in Indiana and the electricity shut down at the stroke of midnight. (Incidentally, the weather was so freakishly bad that night, that the next afternoon post snowplows [which I didn’t see from the hotel and desperately wanted to] we counted five jack-knifed rigs and 8 wrecked cars on the first mile of the highway. One rig had run up the side of an overpass embankment, so don’t tell me that this stuff doesn’t happen up North.)
3. It’s damned dangerous
I’ve set the stage now. We don’t have the proper equipment and we don’t have the proper clothing. Then, what really happens is this…during the first part of the storm we don’t really get snow, we get an icy mix or plain out sleet. That’s what happened this time too. So, on the bottom is a layer of ice. This can vary. From this storm, we got about an inch and a half to two inches of ice and then about an inch of the powered stuff. So on top, it looks like snow, but underneath it’s all ice. It’s hard as heck to walk in. Now, add to that, during the day, it’s going to get above freezing, so we are going to have a lot of melting. Then the temperatures dropped again (for us it was 17 degrees) and all that water froze again. In our area, the melting occurred on the road where the sun hit the most. Then that night it froze over to black ice.
We live at the foothills of the mountains, so the areas here are very curvy with huge hills. Lots of real smart folks listen to all the hype about how silly stupid we Southerners are and they get out in their little pickup trucks (not the big ones, the little ones with absolutely nothing in the bed to weigh it down) trying to take the hills. Then they slide right back down, unable to stop and take out anything that gets in their path. Add to that the idiots that get out there on the ice and do donuts. I’ve yet to see one do this that didn’t lose control and wreck.
Some money does get spent on equipment and salt. Typically it gets used on the main roads. That means it’s passable enough for ambulances. These ambulances spend a goodly amount of time hauling the donut drivers to the hospital. I know because I use to have to pack my bags and sleep in the hospital during any snowstorms. I tell my kids, “when they tell you to stay off the roads, it means stay off the damn roads.” As far as I know, every single one of them breaks the rules.
Because the money gets spent for the main roads, most side roads end up with the icy mess having to melt. That means most kids are not going to make it to school. If the school district is smart, they close the schools so that parents don’t attempt to get out causing accidents or worse.
Rarely, rarely, rarely do we get real snow. It’s usually really an ice storm. This freezes to the power lines and the tree branches. I can recall one year that my dad would not let us go outside. We sat in the dark beside the fireplace listening to the branches popping off the trees like popcorn. To this day, I can recall my dad telling us, “You’re not going outside. Those are widow makers and they’ll kill you graveyard dead.” He wasn’t kidding.
When the power lines freeze, there are some people who are not prepared. They don’t have a fireplace or some form of heat. In 17 degree weather, even indoors you need something extra to help keep you warm. You can imagine how difficult that would be if you had to go without for too many days in a row. Especially if you were already sick. And it’s especially tough on the very young and the elderly.
5. Why Milk and Bread?
Well, without power, we need the bread for sandwiches. The milk? Well, that’s in case we get real snow so we can make snow cream.
And there you have it. That’s why we Southerners freak out over a little bit of snow.
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