Southern snowphobia

Around here, it’s like this. There is the slightest hint of snow or frozen precipitation in the news. Panic spreads. Grocery stores sell out of bread and milk. People anxiously start wondering how, or if, they will make it to work the next day. Closing listings appear on your TV shows with startling beeps and scrolling marquees across the bottom of the screen. And we wait. For the end of the world.nc_snow

In Winston Salem these events could happen less than twice a year. Sometimes not at all. It is not unheard of for me to be washing the car in my short pants in the middle of February. Our weather jumps around alot especially in the winter. But getting back to the call for snow, one of three things will result.

1. The event will turn out to be sleet or frozen rain and it will honestly be dreadful. Tree limbs will break and take down power lines. Vehicles on the road will be as helpless as in free fall and plenty of property damage and injury will take place. The anxiety seemed justified. And this outcome is often the case for our area. It’s the one steadfast retort we can use to the Northerners who belittle us. In truth, Northern transplants here will often confess that they do have less of the ice that we encounter.

2. The event will turn out to be a few inches of wonderful, fluffy soft snow. To this we awaken like children on Christmas day. We walk about outdoors greeting neighbors as though we had a death sentence pardoned. People are smiling, taking pictures of the winter wonderland in their back yard, waving to cars that easily plow through the avenues. Now, to be sure, twenty-four hours is the maximum we can maintain this euphoria. Then we’re done with snow and longing for spring.

3. The event will turn out to be a dud. No precipitation at all. Now the schools are closed for nothing. Meetings were cancelled and rescheduled for nothing. All of being worried sick for nothing. Of course there is always the scourge of Black Ice so that our worry was not all for naught. Southerners speak of black ice often with the same forboding as of terrorism or the Ebola virus.

But Southerners, it may be time to “Yankee up” and come to grips with this relatively mild and short lived phenomenon. As Daniel Schere wrote in his Yes! Weekly column North Carolina has never figured out snow, regaining the lost productivity both for us and our school children is probably worth the effort. It has been quaint to excuse our fear of winter weather as just a Southern thing. But “quaint” is only a marketing angle for the New South these days. We are becoming a desireable place to live and do business. People outside of the South are realizing as well.

And it may be happening. We have used the low frequency and severity of our “winter storms” as a valid reason to not keep enough resources to clear the roads as quickly and efficiently as they do in colder climes. However I don’t think it’s my imagination that our city and state DOT is doing a heck of a lot better job than in years past. Much to the chagrin of sled riding kids who pretty much expect the streets to belong to them on snow days, salting and scraping is way more proactive.

Southern culture can rise to the challenge. We can deal with it. But we will stay quaint and make sure our recipe for snow cream is always handy.