Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow Days

We had a snow day on Friday, so the kids stayed home from school-- the third snow day in two weeks. Thursday evening, about 2 inches of accumulation fell, and it basically closed down our town.

One of my midwestern friends (who is attending school in the south) pondered recently on Facebook, "why does a light snow close down the city?" Let me offer a few reasons.

First, it's due to a lack of equipment and supplies. Most parts of the southeastern U.S. simply don't get enough snow to make the purchase and maintenance of trucks, plows, and de-icing supplies economically responsible. It costs tens of thousands of dollars (hundreds of thousands, in larger cities) annually to buy snow plows, "salt" trucks, and de-icing chemicals. When they would only be in-use once or twice a year, tops, this is poor stewardship of tax dollars.

In the midwest and other regions, these expenses are justified and necessary-- but my hometown of Columbia, SC has gotten more snow in the past year than I can remember throughout the 27 years that I lived there. Most years, we saw NO snow. It's far more economically responsible just to close schools and businesses once or twice every couple of years than it is to treat the roads.

Second, it's true that southerners don't know how to drive in snow. Without much frequency, how could they be expected to? (It's also true that most city folk don't know how to drive in mud, but I seldom hear that thrown out as a derogatory comment!)

But I'll let you in on a secret: most midwesterners don't know how to drive in snow, either; the few times that I saw St. Louis receive a "surprise" snow (i.e., there wasn't time to adequately treat the roads before the snow arrived), the roads were filled with accidents and abandoned cars that slid out of the lanes and got stuck. The fact is, NO ONE can drive safely on untreated roads without special equipment. Those who live in climates that regularly require them to drive on snowy roads own snow tires and 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles.

Finally, what's the fun in not calling off work and school? When it only snows in great quantities every now and then, even the adults want to enjoy it. When we had a snow day last week, all 6 of us got out and enjoyed the snow. A friend of mine in Oxford, MS posted a bunch of photos of his family playing with their friends and neighbors; there weren't many "proper" snow toys (sleds, discs, etc.) but they made do with tupperware, garbage can lids, and even a mattress!

Snow is part of life in some parts of the country, and an annoyance at times. But it is a novelty in the south, and most of the time a pleasant diversion.

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