Friday, February 4, 2011

Troublesome enough

People from the north often ridicule us Southerners for the way winter weather paralyzes us.  A little snow and we panic; some slippery roads and we flail impotently behind the wheel.  They say that we just don't know how to drive in it.  They say that we're wimps.

What they don't understand is that winter weather is different down here.  We don't have fleets of snowplows and warehouses of salt, brine, and sand at the ready to clear the roads.  We can't; storms that justify such preparations don't occur every year, and what local government can stockpile equipment and supplies that go unused for years at a time?  It's not that we're incompetent drivers in slippery weather -- it's that the roads haven't been made fit to drive on.

And Northerners have little idea of the kind of winter weather we typically get.  It's not the snow that piles up that ruins our commutes.  It's ice.  We have ice storms.  Rain falls and freezes, coating everything.  You can't shovel it.  We aren't running around our houses unable to make our way through the drifts.  We're huddling in the dark because the ice knocked down our power lines, and spinning out because the roads are skating rinks.  Ice storms are as rare in Minnesota as snowstorms are here.  You folks just don't know what we're dealing with, any more than we know what it's like to use a snowblower.

Maybe the recent massive snowstorm that dumped nearly two feet of snow on Chicago and caused roads to close, drivers to abandon their cars on major roads, and public transit to grind to a halt will remind my friends to the north that they aren't quite immune from paralyzing winter weather themselves.  When events are within the normal range of variation, neither of us have any problems.  When things get out of hand, both of us end up stuck in a ditch and stockpiling bread.  Just because "out of hand" means something different here than there, doesn't mean we're not both vulnerable and competent in equal measure, depending on the circumstances.

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