As I mentioned, we have been dealing with aftermath of a significant ice storm here. It is sleeting again right now. (Well it was last night when I started typing. Now it's just raining. Hard. Yay flood watch!) We don't get snow every year and we only get significant snow a few times a decade. As a result our governmental response to snow events is not what you would find in, say, Michigan. This seems obvious and reasonable to me, but this bit of knowledge seems to elude others.
There are two things you need to understand about snow in the South. The first is that most of the time our snow comes with a hefty serving of ice. A typical Southern snowstorm goes something like this: the temperatures are in the mid-30s when it starts raining, the temperatures drop and the rain turns to freezing rain which turns to sleet which turns to snow. We almost always have ice accumulation underneath whatever snow we get. Driving on ice is always much trickier than driving on snow no matter where you are.
The second thing about snow in the South is that the vast majority of the time snow today is gone by lunch tomorrow and years can pass without significant accumulation. Since this is true, we do not invest a lot of money into making our world functional with snow. The standard response is to brine the roads, hope the rain doesn't wash it all way, hope the temperature doesn't drop below the freezing point of the brine, and wait it out. Most of the time, this approach works just fine. Then there are weeks like this one. Weeks where it would be really useful to have snowplows and snow chains. Nashville has some plows and the state has some plows, but most smaller cities and towns do not. Even the plows that are available cannot cover the streets affected. The state and the city work to clear the interstates and that is about it.
My town is a slightly odd kind of place. There are a ton of people who come from other places. In fact I would be willing to say that the population of non-native Tennesseans is significantly higher than natives. Why is this? Twenty something years ago, GM built a plant here and brought with them huge numbers of people from Michigan. This has been a mixed blessing. It's great to have the plant in town, but when the deal was struck all those years ago, GM promised to hire a certain percentage of locals into their workforce and then, mostly, didn't. The locals felt like GM had been given a sweetheart deal on land and taxes and in exchange, the locals received a large influx of people from a different area of the country with different cultural habits making wages they could only dream about at jobs they were locked out of. The stated reason the plant never got around to hiring the locals had something to do with the UAW contract. The price of real estate skyrocketed while the newly-moved Michiganers clucked about how cheap the housing was. The locals, understandably, were very resentful. The new arrivals didn't understand why their arrival was met with such frigidity. The reason they didn't understand was because the imported UAW workers mostly had no idea the plant was built on the assumption that the locals would be hired to work in it. While this is a bit of old history, it is the basis of an undercurrent of hostility that runs through here. After twenty-something years I suppose it is safe to say that the transplants are now locals and the promised economic development eventually came, but the way it all unfolded is not the way it was anticipated. And you would be surprised how many GM workers still consider themselves on a temporary assignment in an exotic locale.
So we had an ice storm this week. It was forecast well in advance so people had time to stock up and prepare. We knew that once it started it would likely be several days before we could leave the house again.
Our neighbors from the North lost few opportunities to tell how we were doing it all wrong. It was staggering the number of people who complained about the lack of snow plows and the fact that the local governments didn't do a whole lot to clear the roads.
"Up North, they would have had this cleared in an afternoon."
You aren't up North.
"You know, if you plowed the streets in the afternoon when the ice is slushier, it wouldn't refreeze overnight."
Really? Who would have thought plowing the streets would clear them?
"If you had snow chains, you'd have better traction."
What an interesting idea that is. Why, I never would have thought of that if you hadn't told me.
Why should municipalities spend the money for all the required equipment to clear a storm such as this when they only come our way about twice a decade? It's folly and a misappropriation of funds. We do not have snow tires or chains. I am not sure I have ever seen chains on a car in real life. Why should we buy them for the once-off chance to use them?
It's not that we don't know that plows and chains would make dealing with snow and ice easier. We know. It is the assumption that they need to bestow this knowledge on our poor benighted souls that is so grating. Contrary to popular belief, we aren't all stupid. It isn't that we have never thought of these grand ideas. It's that it is silly to spend the money on it around here.
Then there were boasts where people would claim, "I'm from the North, I know how to drive in this weather," as if being from a certain location magically gives you the ability to navigate on ice. Guess what? If all four of your tires are on a solid sheet of ice, it doesn't matter where you are from, you are going nowhere unless you are driving a Zamboni. Not to mention our hills. Is it even possible to drive up and down hills with no road traction?
And there are the condescending reassurances. "I'm from the North and if I say the roads are bad, they're bad!" Like the stupid Southerners could not figure out it is impossible to drive on ice. Or more likely signalling to fellow Northerners that it's not just the panicky Southerners who are having trouble.
But most annoying of all is the blase tut-tutting of the excitement snow generates around here. They roll their eyes and yuk it up at how the locals get excited over the snow. As if snow is a big deal or something. "You know up North, we got this much snow every week and nobody cared, nothing closed over it, and we went to work and school on a regular schedule." Whoopie for you.
Yes. Southerners get excited over snow. It is an event here. It isn't something we can count on seeing every year. We cancel school and close offices and go play in the snow while we wait for it to melt. I'm glad to live in a place where snow is exciting and not a daily drudgery. No, we don't remove it very effectively or efficiently. We also *know* the removal is not very efficient. It would be silly to spend our money in that way.
So if you live in the North and someday decide to move to the South, please do not regale your new neighbors with tales of how the North handles their snow. And I promise if I ever move to the North, I will not roll my eyes when my new neighbors start telling me that 80 degrees is hot.