It appears nothing warms the hearts of those plagued by a subarctic cold snap quite like a warm fuzzy feeling of superiority. The media — broadcast, print, and social — has been alight with people from a number of northern states poking fun at our southern neighbors for being left gridlocked and stranded by unprecedented wintry weather blanketing their region.
I am a Midwestern native. I’ve been driving in snow my entire driving life. I learned “pump your brakes” and “steer into the skid” as a matter of course. I still fear black ice and give snow a healthy caution.
For those breaking their arms patting themselves with a gloved hand on a thermal clad back, I’ve passed enough four-wheel-drive vehicles in ditches to believe the mantra of “four-wheel-drive means go, not whoa” is going unheeded.
This to say that we cold weather veterans hardly have a lock on staying the course — and between the lines — on wintry roads.
Nonetheless, when a cold snap and resultant ice storm snarled Atlanta in the most brutal of ways a few days ago, the response of many northerners was, in a word, smug.
“They can’t drive on ice” it was said. “They call that a storm?” people preened. “They’d never make it up here” we read.
It may make us feel better about our otherwise frigid existence but the truth is that none of that was true — or even remotely fair. I don’t think we always appreciate the sheer amount of planning that goes into making sure we can feel fairly confident if we venture out onto the roads during inclement weather.
Snow removal, plows and ice treatment are all common in the snowy regions. We have grown accustomed to the flashing glow of massive plow trucks as they wait on the interstate for the next flake to fall.
We know that dreaming of a white Christmas means our neighbors and friends — if they are road workers — will climb into a plow truck day or night (or both), even on a holiday, to do their best to assure safe passage for the rest of us.
Witness the social media rage of people complaining “the roads weren’t even touched” to understand how completely we depend on others for our safe passage.
In the South they simply do not have the equipment, or the preparation, to stay ahead of weather they rarely experience. The powers that be tried to send people home midday and unwittingly complicated the issue.
Once the cars were gridlocked on the roads, the salt trucks they did have couldn’t get through.
The truth is the design of many of our major cities — and the access in and out of them — gridlocked Atlanta. What shut down Atlanta was a scary layer of pure black ice combined with a mass exodus of too many vehicles on too little road in a compressed period of time.
Watching our neighbors to the south struggle when essentially evacuating a city shouldn’t make us feel superior, it should make us feel very afraid. Don’t kid yourself snowbound friends, it could happen here. It’s not the weather — it’s the infrastructure.
To be fair to our Southern neighbors, it’s unfair to hold our norms and what our region prepares for as the standard for others. We are able to cope because cold and ice is stock winter issue for us. Our local governments stand at the ready.
My little township alone has a handful of snow plows and 100 ton of salt on hand. I would not expect a southern town to have that.
I make my way through wintry weather because systems have been put in place to make that possible. Not because I am a superior human being. Not about the weather anyway. Of all the things to be insufferable about, I would think snow tolerance would be low on the list.
Meanwhile, should you want to see the karmic flip side of weather bravado, watch the northern U.S. brave a heat wave. Talk about hot air. If it hits 100 degrees in Ohio we are fixing to melt. Many homes simply do not have air conditioning, our power grid flickers and groans when those who do use it, and we all carry on like it’s the end times because we simply cannot stand the heat.
Meanwhile, our brethren in those steamy states are wondering why we are freaking out when we can’t even fry an egg on the sidewalk yet.
Life happens, the weather is unpredictable and a little prayerful understanding goes a long way. Ideally we would all brave the storm, enjoy safe travels and chill out, whether things heat up or cool down.