I know that the state of North Carolina is a mystery to the North every winter. My friends that live up north in New York, New Jersey, or any place that sees snow on a regular basis might not understand the state of panic that grips the hearts of the southern citizens when they hear that we might be getting snow. Unless you’ve lived among us, you might not understand. And even then, it still might baffle you. So let me clarify what goes on.
Snow is a novelty down here. Sure, we usually see a snowfall that sticks about once a year. But we usually see it fall, take pictures of our tenth of an inch on our immediate surroundings, then go back inside where it’s warm. By the next day, our snow is gone. Three days later, we’re out in flip flops and halfway forget that the calendar still insists it’s winter.
Two weeks ago, my area received a significant amount of snowfall. We got 6-8″ of snow. Snow fell late Wednesday night, and kids went back to school (with a delay) the following Wednesday. It snowed, it stayed cold, and we had to wait for it to melt away. We waited for the back roads to be clear, since the back roads never see snow plows.
My city has a total of six snow plows. They do salt the main roads when winter weather is expected. But the back roads, where half the residents reside, are left untreated. Half the time, though, the city shuts down when snowflakes stick to the ground.
Let’s not forget the other part of the snow equation that still baffles outsiders – the run on break and milk. Once snow is predicted, the masses run to the grocery store and grab a loaf of bread and some milk. They get other things, but those are always high in demand.
Why, you ask? I’ve lived here most of my life, and I’m only halfway sure of the answer. I’m guessing it’s this area’s occupation with snow cream (though you need condensed milk for that) as well as materials to make sandwiches. Why do you need to make sandwiches when it snows outside? Well, that leads to the main point of this entry: we’re bracing ourselves for disaster.
Okay, I’ll wait while you stop laughing. Snow on the ground does not equate disaster to you. But in this area, it does. Why? I’m so glad you asked.
In my opinion, it all goes back to the Great Snow Storm of ‘89. Granted, it could have been the big snow of 1980 or even before, but I’ll use the one in ‘89 because I actually remember that one.
Remember back in the olden days, when our phones didn’t tell us what the weather was going to do? Back before the internet, when research meant using library books? Back then, people relied heavily on the TV weathermen.
My grandmother, every winter, would tell us the same story. The weatherman, one particular day, put his arms in front of him in an X and motioned outward as he declared, “It’s NOT going to snow!” We got snow up to my grandmother’s waist.
From that encounter, my grandmother learned to never trust the weatherman. Never mind that predictions change, technology has improved, and forecasting accuracy has gotten much better in recent years. My grandmother would warn us every time they predicted snow, ice, or wintery mix that the weathermen didn’t know what they were talking about. She would tell us the story. I’m certain that all across the region, people learned the same lesson from their elders. Never completely trust the weatherman. Always prepare for the worst.
“Oh, they’re only calling for a dusting.”
But the weatherman could be vastly wrong, like they were that one time. Let’s go prepare for three days without power and being stuck inside the house.
“Okay, we might get an inch. School will be cancelled again.”
But we could get more. Prepare for five days inside. Get sandwich materials, just in case.
“They’re predicting three inches. We can make a snowman!”
You will not be able to leave your home for a week. Hit the stores now!
The weathermen have gotten it wrong more times than I care to remember. When I was dating my husband, the weathermen on every channel told us with certainty that not only were we going to get snow, but we were going to get A LOT of snow. 6″+ was originally forecast. We got two inches, since the weather patterns shifted and Alabama got all the snow that was forecast for us.
Several times, snow has been predicted and we have gotten nothing but ice. Our region is more familiar with sleet, freezing rain, and the dangers of black ice.
Sure, we get snow that sticks about once a year. But snow that accumulates only happens every few years. The last snowfall of significance was eight years ago, the day after Christmas. We got about six inches.
I have a friend who has a five year old. Our snow two weeks ago was the first time the child had been able to make a snow angel.
Yes, we call off school and shut down the town over snow. Yes, we tend to panic when it’s predicted. Blame it on the Great Snow Storm of ‘89 and the weatherman who got it wrong. We’ve been trained since that time to prepare for more. Just in case it happens again.