Snow fooling

Jan. 29, 2014 @ 04:19 PM

Once again, those of us who are native to this region or at least have lived here a while must endure the trash talk from our thousands of new neighbors from the north.

“A couple of inches of snow and everything shuts down?” they’ll exclaim in the same snarkily surprised tone they used last winter and the winter before.

But that, as Walter Cronkite might have put it, is just the way it is.

We have, as is our custom, played out the usual drama of a winter event this week. For days, forecasters sound increasingly excited alarms about the coming snowfall. Long lines snake back from grocery check-out aisles as we prepare for the worst. The cancellation announcements begin – hours before the first flake hits the ground. And, to be fair, newspaper photographers anxiously look for the first shot that can document yes, we’ve having snow.

A couple of points come to mind.

First, give us a break, those of you who want to recall being unfazed by winters in Buffalo or Bismarck. We’re not prepared for this. If you get 100 inches of snowfall a year, you invest in heavy-duty snow removal equipment and keep in practice. If in many winters two inches is a big snowfall, you strap a blade on any available truck and do your best.

Second, remember what can happen here, even with an inch or two of snow. The great one-inch snowstorm debacle of January  2005 haunts everyone in the Triangle – and helps explain all those early calls to close schools, cancel events and send employees scurrying home – or telling them to stay home to begin with.

Here’s how the National Weather Service summed up what happened in Raleigh that day:

“While an exaggeration, there is nevertheless a ‘knee jerk’ response to snow that is indeed engrained in southern culture. This response may well be founded upon the relative infrequency of snow in the South. …

“Perhaps then, it should come with no surprise that there were so many early releases of schools and businesses during the early afternoon of Jan. 19th. What was a surprise is how quickly and efficiently a light coating of snow on roads became so icy and slick. The mass exodus of many vehicles at nearly the same time clogged the primary roads.”

If the memory of that day doesn’t help explain why we greet impending snowstorms of any size with an excess of prudence, look 375 miles south to Atlanta. A one-inch snowfall Tuesday-- a record for Jan. 29 there, by the way -- recreated the Raleigh scene of nine years ago.

As WSB radio put it in a report around 5 a.m. Wednesday: “1-to-3 inches of snow, mixed in with an afternoon drive that still hasn't ended, has brought Atlanta to its knees again.”

Tease us all you want. We’ll continue to hyperventilate about and take excessive precautions before and during the mildest of snow events. We know what they can do here.