The good, the bad, the puzzling

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 05:55 PM

Enough, already.

We’re not supposed to have day after day of snow/sleet/wintry mix misery here. Our snowfalls, when they come, are supposed to be one-shot events that slink away quickly under the blade of the solar snowplow.

That’s not always true, of course, and if a few mild winters in a row had us believing that, nature has a way of reminding us that snow here can be nasty and tenacious. This week, it has been just that.

As often happens, a weather onslaught can bring out the good, the bad and the puzzling in human nature and institutional processes.

As if trapped in some endlessly repeating video loop, thousands of us Wednesday did what we watched thousands do in Atlanta two weeks ago, thousands in the Triangle do nine years ago, and that probably thousands of us will do again. When the snow started, we panicked. Who knew? Weather forecasters had only sounded the alarm in increasingly apocalyptic tones for days.

So when the first flakes came at midday, our roads filled within what seemed like mere moments with cars as people rushed to get home. Except, the rush turned into a crawl as roads – becoming slick quickly with the storm’s early punch – became virtual parking lots.

Many drivers, sadly, demonstrated a disregard for the realities of ice-covered streets. Others reacted with an impatient urge to cut off other motorists, a self-centered determination to pass dangerously, a penchant for swearing loudly at others – or at times all three.

But many others displayed patience and stoicism, even as their gas tanks emptied and their bladders filled in endless traffic jams. And all across the city surfaced tales of Good Samaritans carrying snacks to stymied motorists, offering a place to be warm or even spend the night and pushing cars up hills and out of ditches.

Sharon Grimes Knox, for example, tells in a Letter to Editor on this page of being taken in – and taken home – by strangers after being forced to abandon her car. “I want the good people of Durham to know that southern hospitality is alive and well,” she wrote.

Then, there was the puzzling. Many people, as they told The Herald-Sun’s Cliff Bellamy Thursday, were frustrated and often angry that “The Book of Mormon” went on at Durham Performing Arts Center despite the almost impassable roads.

And if it was baffling that throughout the afternoon officials insisted the Duke-UNC basketball game would on – even as the governor told us to stay off the roads – it was exasperating to fans making their way to the arena that it was called at virtually the last minute. Exasperation aside, it was a prudent if belated call.
In the end, we came through the storm with gridlock far short of what it might have been; far fewer power outages, at least through Thursday evening, than we feared; few if any serious injuries – and a renewed appreciation for the havoc winter can wreak in the Piedmont Carolinas.