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Storm fears don't add up to much

Really now, y'all. Is that the best we can do? I hate to sound like one of those Northern transplants who come down here and mock us because we get all excited over a little ice and snow, but has it come to this?

Has global warming gotten so bad that what happened Wednesday and Thursday has to pass for a winter weather frenzy?

Holy Snow-Jam! I'll bet Guy Sharpe is rolling over in his grave.

Snow-Jam. Now there was a winter storm!

How many of y'all remember? I guarantee you do if you were living here in 1982.

Nineteen eighty-two? That was 25 years ago. Where does time go?

If you recall, we had had a pretty frigid cold snap and the ground was already frozen. Let's put it this way. It had not been 73 degrees three days earlier.

I heard around lunch time that it was snowing to beat all in Birmingham and that the storm was coming our way - in a hurry. We all did. But I didn't think twice about it. Nobody did.

We were in Atlanta, where snowstorms come in the middle of the night - after we've had time to strip the grocery store shelves of every available loaf of bread, gallon of milk and roll of toilet paper.

Not this time, though. This storm hit in the middle of the day and every single flake that fell stuck. Thousands upon thousands of Georgians were trapped downtown or, worse yet, on the highways and byways of the region, trying to get home.

The legends surrounding Snow Jam took a life of their own and every year, for a long, long time, the snow drifts got higher, the traffic jams more severe and the going-ons more raucous.

And next September there will be an inordinate number of metro Atlanta residents celebrating 25th birthdays.

Snow Jam was really something. It may have been the mother of all Atlanta winter storms, so feel free to use this column as an excuse to tell your friends and family about your experience - again.

But let's get back to this week's non-event. I first heard the "S" word - sleet - on Tuesday evening's weather forecast, but didn't pay much attention because the previous day I had worked in my yard without my shirt on, for crying out loud. But by the time I got to work on Wednesday morning, everyone was in a tizzy - convinced that there would be no school for the rest of the week.

The impending winter storm was front-page news on the big city newspaper and the lead story on every television newscast. All the reporters were called in. They went to the mattresses early, hunkering down in their storm centers.

WSB's David Chandley appeared inside a computer-generated icicle graphic. 11 Alive's Paul Ossman broke into the Buck and Kincaid sports talk show. Ken Cook - well, he's no Guy Sharpe, but even Ken Cook was pretty excited.

The two main Atlanta airlines, Delta and Air Tran, took the bait, cancelling dozens and dozens of commercial flights. The salt trucks were ready to roll and sleds and de-icers were flying off hardware store shelves. School kids all over northeastern Georgia were neglecting their homework, betting on the weatherman - and National Weather Service advisories were superimposed over the faces of sitcom characters, gameshow hosts, dramatic actors, basketball players and some really bad singers, if you were watching "American Idol."

We couldn't track this storm from the west because it was going to sneak up on us, with cold air coming in from the east and moisture provided by a low pressure area in the Atlantic Ocean instead of the Gulf of Mexico.

Sure it was.

Sleet started falling on my deck around 9:45 p.m. - causing some of my original skepticism to give way to the hope which springs eternal. I'll admit it. I like a snow day every now and then.

By the time the late night newscasts came on, however, I knew we had been had. Ken Cook was wondering out loud where the moisture would come from. Paul Ossman actually announced at 11:16 that "the worst was over."

The worst was over? What worst? Thirty-four and drizzle was our winter storm?

Actually, it was. When we woke up Thursday morning, there was some cold rain and a few traces of ice on a windshield here and a porch rail there, but that was that. Just another close call. A typical Atlanta scare.

All that was left to do was to turn on the radio and listen to Kirk Mellish claim that the weather had turned out just like he predicted it would three days earlier.

That's the beauty of giving a different forecast every five minutes. One of them will eventually turn out to be just right.

But take heart. The season is early. We may still get a half-inch of snow, sleet or ice before St. Patrick's Day.

And to all you Yankees out there - just because I'm making fun of the way we reacted this week doesn't mean that you can. Some things we just keep in the family. We still don't care how well you think you can drive on ice and snow, or when it is 34 and raining, for that matter.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.

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