Mini-rant time! I grew up in the North (of these fair United States), then moved to the South, and now I’m in the North again, and it’s been a snowy winter. It has been the tradition since time immemorial for Northerners to make fun of Southerners for not being able to handle snow.
I don’t think the average Northerner appreciates just how much of a natural disaster snow really is, and how much work and money goes into keeping the North functioning as a matter of routine infrastructure. When it starts snowing here on the north side of Boston, I can go to sleep secure in the knowledge that when I wake up, all of the roads for miles and miles around me will be (reasonably) safe to use. There is an entire army of plow trucks, sand trucks, and salt trucks that work throughout the night. All that equipment costs a lot of money. All the people operating it cost a lot of money. We have invested in all of this cleanup infrastructure, because we live in the North.
I own a shovel and an ice scraper and keep them by the front door, because I live in the North.
I own good, waterproof boots and a heavy quilted jacket and a knit hat and gloves, because I live in the North.
I know how to walk on solid ice without slipping, because I live in the North.
My grandfather owns his own plow that attaches to his own pickup truck, because he lives in the rural North.
It baffles me that so many Northerners think it’s totally hilarious and pathetic that the South shuts down when they get plastered with freak snow. Yes, it’s only two inches! Two inches of WHITE POWDER THAT COMES FROM THE SKY AND CONSUMES EVERYTHING. They have almost no snow recovery infrastructure, and why would they? They have almost no experience in dealing with it, and why would they? It simply doesn’t happen often enough.
In the most recent freak southern snow storm, kids were stuck on busses or at schools overnight, which is pretty terrible. Think about it, though - how many of these kids would just so happen to be dressed appropriately to be going any distance in freezing weather? You can’t ask a child to walk more than a few hundred yards in the snow in sneakers and jeans, even if it is only two inches. You’ll have a thousand cases of hypothermia on your hands. You can’t send school buses with no snow tires and inexperienced drivers down unplowed roads, or you’ll have a school bus full of injuries on your hands. (The response was to deploy the National Guard with blankets and food, and to get busses unjammed where they could.)
Don’t forget, by the way, that buying a whole set of snow clothes for growing kids every year is expensive. Northerners do it because we live in the North. It’s not optional. How many kids in Atlanta even own snow boots that remotely fit?
All of this is not to say that the people in charge of managing Southern cities can’t learn from mistakes and implement better procedures for future freak snowstorms. Of course they can. It’s just utterly unsurprising that the South would treat literally tons of cold, heavy stuff covering everything they own as some sort of disaster. Because it is.
Now if only our pathetically poor educational system could find a way to explain that the idea of “global warming” does not mean all snow goes away forever. A casual survey of social networking will reveal that people fundamentally do not understand what causes snow. Hence, every time there is snow in a southern clime, they jump to the conclusion that everyone who studies climate simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Sigh.