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Southerners are better at dealing with snow than you think
A winter storm is in the forecast for the weekend. You know who can handle it? That's right. You.
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Gird your loins, North Carolina. WINTER IS COMING.
And you know what happens here when we get snow!
Seriously, it looks like the mountains will definitely get snow, the coast will get rain, and here up in Greensboro we’ll get somethin’ sloppy on Sunday. Hence, this gives me an excuse to roll out a newsletter that I’ve had in the can for a long time, but is finally useful once again. So come close.
I want to tell you something.
[lowers voice to a gentle whisper]
Southerners actually deal with the snow better than Northerners.
Tell me, good sir, how you came to this conclusion
My first experience with a Southern snowstorm was in 2004, when I was making the drive back from Charleston, South Carolina to Charleston, West Virginia. (Side note: Whenever you start a road trip in one city, and then end in another city with the same name, I call it a “Simon & Simon.”) The first snowflakes started falling as we pulled on to I-77 in Columbia. By the time we hit Charlotte, it was coming down thick, and the snow was piled up so high on the highway that it was scraping up against the bottom of my car. For 100 miles, I white-knuckled it on slippery roads that I could barely see. I don’t think we ever got above 35 miles per hour in the entire state of North Carolina. I really started to worry — it was already late, and we still had 180 miles to go. I thought about finding a hotel for the night.
Then we hit the Virginia state line, and the road was instantly clear. It had been plowed. Salted. It might as well have been dry. I had my car on cruise control for the rest of the way home.
I say this all because, as an Ohioan who had never lived further south than West Virginia, this was my first time being smug over how southerners deal with snow. I got even more unbearable after I moved to Charlotte, laughing as the entire city shut down after a light dusting. “That ain’t the way they do it in Cleveland,” I’d say, as if anyone in Charlotte was interested in the way anyone did anything in Cleveland.
Over time, though, I became soft. “Brr,” I’d say, walking outside to get the mail on a 40 degree day. I’d complain about having to shovel my driveway after an inch of snow ONCE A YEAR. And, of course, I completely pulled a 180 on how I felt about Northern vs. Southern drivers in the snow. I used to laugh at how timid Southerners were on roads that had only been slightly dampened in the wintertime. Then I realized that being timid was a good thing, because most every Northerner I knew who didn’t have a paralyzing fear of slick roads had also wrecked a car many, many times. My dad slid into a ditch more than once. My homecoming date totaled THREE Camaros on I-90. My buddy’s brother got rear ended at a stop light BY A POLICE OFFICER, who then proceeded to give him a DUI.
So yes, the person who is often laughing at you, telling you to steer into the skid, has probably skidded many times and, at least once, forgotten to steer into it.
And now, to your wise insights
With this in mind last winter, I asked you all to name an incident where a southerner handled winter weather better than a northerner.
Ha! Good point here from local Uranus enthusiast and David Gettis fan Darin Gantt. Northeast Ohio gets almost 48 inches of snow a year. North Carolina sees far less on the whole, between maybe 2 and 10 inches for most places, although Boone gets about 35 inches each winter.
But, there is a winter weather problem that North Carolina, specifically the Piedmont, has to deal with fairly consistently: freezing rain. We talked about this.
Sure, we used to laugh whenever the threat of a dusting show would shut down every school, church, and business, but after an entire pandemic year of schools, churches and businesses being shut down for another reason, that apprehension feels … quaint? Also, unless there’s a power outage, snow days are now, largely, “remote days,” since most of us now have the ability to log on from home. In many cases, the number of reasons why you’d have to drive during winter weather has gone way down.
I do understand that, up north, nothing ever seems to shut down unless the weather is cataclysmic. For example: My school shut down only one time that I can remember for extreme cold temperatures: At -22 degrees Fahrenheit. But when the weather was bad, a weekday was usually still… a weekday, and folks carried on like nothing was happening. But! People still drove for dumb reasons. I remember taking a Chevy S10 to the mall during a blizzard on several occasions, and a foot of snow never stopped anyone I knew from going to the bar.
Scarcity leads to innovation, so I admire anyone who had to improvise because they decided buying dedicated winter weather gear wasn’t worth it. On the flip side, I also admired the Ohio kid who rode my bus who decided that the best way to stay warm was to wear a t-shirt and shorts and smoke a cigarette during sub-zero temperatures. I never heard him complain.
HELL YEAH SNOW CREAM. Only way it gets more southern is to add Cheerwine to it.
This is a very specific gripe, but one that explains a lot of what you see on TV whenever the weather gets bad. Every television consultant puts weather at the top of its coverage pyramid, which explains why every promo uses language like “KEEPING YOUR FAMILY SAFE FROM METEOROLOGICAL DEATH,” while showing floods carrying away burning houses during a snowstorm. When things get really bad, that coverage really is vital, but many times, it also leads folks to go over the top when the temperature is hovering right at freezing.
Hence, during my TV reporter days, I was once sent to Boone to cover a snowstorm that never came, since the temperature stayed above 37 degrees. A week later, I went to Boone to cover a non-weather story. I got caught in a snowstorm and had to use an Alan Jackson CD as a scraper.
Another time, as a producer, I was called in on a Saturday to create a sweeping, hour-long news special detailing the fallout from a massive snowstorm that, also, never arrived. When I called my boss to ask her whether we should cancel the show because there was, um, no snow, I was told to make it a half-hour instead. I featured six reporters, standing in the rain, talking about how lucky we were. A NEAR MISS! One mentioned that he’d used the time to be productive, and went and got a haircut while he was on duty. (It was a multi-layered joke. He was bald.)
Anyway, if you’re bored on Sunday, feel free to use a local version of this old winter weather bingo card, and cross out a square every time you hear one of these phrases on TV:
I can’t remember ever stepping on a sheet of ice over a pond or lake in North Carolina and thinking hey, this is safe!
Man, if you think transplanted Ohioans are annoying in the wintertime here, then you haven’t met transplanted Ohioans in Florida. They act hard, but get knocked down by a stiff breeze in 60 degree weather.
Again with the innovation! I grew up in a city of 6,000, which meant that there wasn’t room for a snowmobile, so we used to take a golf cart out on the icy roads with two sleds tied behind. Nothing is more fun than whipping around the corner, miscalculating the length of the rope, and sliding sideways into a mailbox.
I have to say, there’s some truth to this. When you live in an area that’s cold and cloudy and dark from November through February, you complain. You still have to work! You still have to get groceries! It sucks! But down here, usually, a storm lasts long enough for wonderment in the morning, and snow-melting sun in the afternoon. If you look at it that way, you really don’t have anything to whine about. Except for, maybe, the thing that happened when you TRIED TO RAKE THE SNOW:
Not all innovations are good ones.
Have an opinion on how you might rationally deal with an impending snowpocalypse better than our friends up north? Leave a comment.