The “S” Word

I stopped by the grocery store on Tuesday afternoon to pick up some juice for my youngest kid. I’m not one to watch the news and keep track of the weather, but when I reached the back of the store and saw the bare shelves, it hit me. The weather guy must have used the “S” word in his forecast, because there was no bread and no milk on the store shelves.

Lest you wonder what I’m talking about, I am not speaking of the big, bad “S” word that you got your mouth washed out with soap for using. No, I’m talking about the “S” word that is much, much worse than that. This word is (voice falling to a hushed whisper) snow.

(As a side note, one of my daughters was reading over my shoulder, and she just asked me what the bad “S” word is. I tried to explain that it was an ugly word for poop. She thought a minute and asked, “Stool?”)

Here in the South, things get pretty crazy the instant the word “snow” comes up. Whole towns r100_7394_zpsbf09e9d9ush to the store to buy bread and milk in vast quantities. I’m not sure why bread and milk are the two staples of snow days, but maybe it’s just tradition.

So, why do things get so hairy when Southerners hear that snow is on the way? I’ve heard the Western and Northeastern folks sniffing, “Huh. If we cancelled school every time there was snow on the ground, we’d never have school!” and they’ll say things like, “What a bunch of whiners! They don’t know what cold is!”

Yeah, when it comes to winter weather, Southerners are pretty wimpy. However, there are some very practical concerns to severe winter weather in the South.

First, equipment is quite a problem here. Places that see lots of snow have the plows and salt trucks to keep the roads clear. However, in the South, many places don’t have an army of heavy equipment to clear all the roads. The reason is that there’s not as much need to buy all that stuff when it’s only needed for 10-14 days per year. We do get our roads clear, or at least the main roads, but it may take a couple of days for the county to get it done.  And in some rural areas, the roads just don’t get scraped or salted.

Second, in the South, it’s not unusual for the temperature to rise above freezing during the day and then drop below freezing after darkness. This means that several inches of snow, ice, water, and slush on the roads can compress and freeze into a sheet of solid ice overnight.

Third, Southern people don’t own snow tires or chains. We just don’t. As I said, it’s only a few weeks that this is needed, so we don’t do it. And, people don’t know how to drive in ice and snow very well. There’s always those bozos who think that owning 4 wheel drive vehicle means that you can go 70 on an icy interstate, and those people are scary. Most of us just handle driving on icy roads by avoiding it altogether.

Fourth, few closets are fully equipped for snowy weather. I mean, with four kids I’m not buying snowsuits, boots, and long underwear that’ll be worn for a few weeks before it’s going to be outgrown. It would be different if they’d actually get a lot of use out of it, but I don’t see the point, and most Southern mamas look at things the same way. So our kids aren’t up to standing out at the bus stop for more than a few minutes.

So yes, you Northern people go ahead and mock us. Go ahead and talk about how wimpy we are, and “one-up” us when we complain about how miserable winter time is. That’s okay.

Because you just wait. Summer will come again. And we’ll be mocking you guys when the mercury begins to rise. We’re set up for hot and humid, and we are tough…in our own way.

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