Wednesday night’s icy mess reminded me a lot of Snowjam ’82.
Anyone who had to drive home in that particular winter nightmare, when Mother Nature dropped six inches of snow on Atlanta in the middle of rush hour, I’m sure will never forget it. (I wasn’t old enough to drive, but I’ll never forget it for another reason: I had the chicken pox. A whole week out of school and I spent it in the bed.)
The stories of Wednesday night were similar to 1982: Thousands of traffic accidents, hourslong commutes, abandoned vehicles, motel stays. (In 1982, a guy who worked with my dad, after hours of trying to get home, stopped and knocked on the door of a stranger, who let him spend the night at his house.)
It all made me wonder: Why don’t we prepare better for winter weather in the South?
Now I know the short answer is we don’t have enough of it. It doesn’t make any sense to spend money (especially nowadays) preparing for something that rarely happens. That may be true, but we do have winter storms, and some years more than others. Instead of being caught with our pants down — every time it’s like it’s the first time here — why haven’t we made the investment at some point to deal with the weather better? If we’d done that when times were better, wouldn’t it have paid for itself by now?
I’m not picking on the DOT, the power companies or any other agency. In fact, what I’m asking is why don’t we give them more tools to keep our roads clear, the power on and schools and businesses open? And more broadly, why don’t we Southerners take it upon ourselves to educate and prepare ourselves? If we emphasized that more, maybe we’d deal with it better.
Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. Maybe I’m so unfamiliar with the truths of winter weather that I’m pipe-dreaming. And underestimating the human ability to do stupid stuff, like trying to drive 70 miles per hour on sheets of ice.
But here’s the thing: Our counterparts to the north do not shut down every time it snows or ices over. Certain parts of the country would cease to function for the winter months if they hadn’t learned to adapt. It seems to me we could learn more than we have from their experience.
We could even hold a weather summit and return the favor. They could teach us to deal with snow and ice and we could teach the Yankees how not to die when the temperature gets above 90. I think it’s an idea whose time has come.
Let’s just make sure we hold it somewhere with nice weather.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays