In Defense of Southern Snow.
When snow hits the South, it is often accompanied by condescending remarks about the South’s seeming overreaction to “just a little bit of snow.” I don’t argue that we don’t see much snow in the South, or that we take conservative measures with it, but I do think the patronizing commentary on our plight is unwarranted.
The South is generally unprepared for wintry weather1, and I don’t deny it, but our unpreparedness is rational. Here in Atlanta, we’ve seen snow accumulate twice in the past four years. We are inexperienced with snow, and there’s no shame in that. There’s no reason for the people of the South to be more prepared, and, more importantly, there’s no reason for the municipalities to be more prepared. We lack the infrastructure to deal with snow, and that’s just as it should be. Why should we invest in large numbers of salting trucks and snow plows for less-than-annual snowfalls? I certainly don’t want my tax money going towards that. The result being cities and schools that shut down for a few days until everything thaws out. And that’s okay; it’s a lower cost than maintaining the infrastructure to effectively deal with the rare snow when it happens.
Things thawing is actually the most overlooked issue with a southern snowfall. In colder climates that see snow regularly, the snow falls and builds and perhaps creates snow drifts or gets packed down and can become unwieldy snow. The infrastructure is ready and quick to work on the main roads and then the secondary roads. Here in the South, however, we do not have the infrastructure, as I mentioned, and we do not keep steadily cool temperatures. Our snow falls, melts during the day, and then freezes at night. Depending on how much snow falls and over how long of a period, we might see the melting/freezing cycle over several days. Our roads get crusty with frozen and refrozen ice, or, worse, they are deadly slick with thin, translucent patches of ice known as “black ice.”2 Our two or three inches of snow turns into dangerously icy roadways. We aren’t freaking out about a few inches of snow; we’re legitimately concerned because we know that roads the next morning may be impossibly dangerous to travel. The overconfident accusing the rest of overreacting quickly find themselves in gullies along the roads.
Winter weather in the South is not the same as it is elsewhere. We do not have the need to invest in the public infrastructure necessary to handle snow and other winter weather in a timely manner, and our warmer climate transforms our insignificant amounts of snow into dangerous ice literally overnight. Don’t talk down to us when we react strongly and conservatively. Let us enjoy our few inches of snow and understand that we will soon be isolated by roadways of ice, waiting for either the few salt trucks to make it into our neighborhoods or for more sensible weather to arrive.