Why Snow in the South is No Joke.

You know how you can joke about your family, internally, but no one is allowed to make the SAME joke if they’re NOT part of the circle? Let me invite you into the circle for a moment.

Those of us in the south know what we’re seen as. There are parts of our history that are incredibly dirty – rotten to the core, no doubt – and we know that. We know that parts of that history still bubble up to the surface from time to time. We know that we’re a deeply religious region, one aptly named The Bible Belt. We know that you are surprised to hear that we have running water, indoor plumbing, and dental services.

We know that you laugh at how we “overreact” to snow and inclement winter weather.

It’s okay. We laugh a lot too, internally. Inside our circle, it’s not uncommon to hear “The schools are closing” announced across a room full of people and hear groans and moans, normally two or three days prior to any snow ever touches the ground. We smile and laugh at how predictions of ice prompt the grocery stores to empty their shelves of bread and milk. (Why bread and milk?)

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Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, one time I made Bryan go to the store before an inclement storm hit (I think this was tornado season, not cold weather), and he literally ONLY bought bread and milk. So we sat there and stared at each other, wondering how we would feed ourselves and our children should the unspeakable happen.

But here’s what you need to know about the south: we have had some terrible, terrible weather things happen. I’ve lived in the true south since I was nine years old, and I can’t tell you how many tornado warnings I’ve huddled through, how many blizzards we’ve suffered, and how many floods we’ve endured. We have gorgeous weather too, no doubt, but we have some terrible weather.

We are largely unprepared for cold weather. It’s true. You can laugh at how each town may have one salt truck, because we laugh at that too. We cancel schools in advance of potential ice storms or abnormally cold temperatures. We do that because the south is largely underprivileged. A large – startlingly large – percent of our population lies below the poverty line. Even children that are not considered poverty or below may not have proper cold weather gear. Our power lines run above ground. Our power grids are not meant to sustain our population at temperatures below freezing for any length of time.

Here’s the backstory you don’t know about that: our weather forecast for the last two days predicted cold temperatures and a light dusting of snow. That was it. There was no mention of ice, and even our most trustworthy and seasoned meteorologists admitted that no accumulation of snow was expected. The chance of precipitation was 0%.

As a result, we sent all of our salt trucks/utility trucks/help south of us, where the majority of the storm was supposed to it. The coast line was bracing for the brunt of the wintry mix, so we sent all of our resources down there.

To help them. That’s what we do in the south.

When a surprise blizzard hit, it wasn’t that we were ignorant in preparing. The storm was sudden and without warning. No one realized it was coming. When the severity of the storm became apparent, folks did what we normally do in weather situations – they headed out to pick up their kids. The storm’s intensity was so strong and so fast-moving that people were literally iced in their cars as they drove. The pictures you see out of Birmingham, AL or Atlanta, GA are not reasons to mock. They are your neighbors, stuck in their cars without food, water, or life-saving medications. They are your parents, landlocked in their vehicle with not enough gas to keep them warm. They are your children, terrified on school buses that had no chance of getting them home.

It is not a joke. It is my community.

Many – HUNDREDS – of drivers in the south slept in their cars last night, unable to make it to any meaningful shelter. Children slept on school buses while parents prayed that their child was safe, warm, and accounted for. Fervent pleas for help flew across my many social media circles – the circles I joined after we were left helpless from the tornadoes of 2011 – for supplies of insulin, bottled water, and blankets.

So before you consider cracking a joke about rednecks not being able to handle the winter weather, remember that the south sent a good amount of aid and supplies and resources north when Hurricane Sandy hit. See, we aren’t prepared for winter weather because we don’t get it all that often down here. But we know that not everyone is as tornado-ready as we are, so we’re happy to lend a hand. Our local Red Cross and utilities companies dispatch en masse whenever there’s a disaster that we’re too familiar with. We know how terrifying it is to find yourself helpless against the elements, so we are always quick to offer a warm blanket and a hug along with whatever else we have to share.

There are times that I’m not proud of how some of my Southern family may hold themselves, but they are still my family. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find your way into the circle too – you look like you could use some sweet tea, bless your heart.

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7 Responses to Why Snow in the South is No Joke.

  1. Wendy January 29, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    I am seriously shocked at some of the genuine unkindess people seemed to have about the situation. People DIED in car accidents, little kids couldn’t get home, people were hungry and cold…I just can’t see how that is a joking situation.

  2. Pammi January 29, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Very well said! I felt helpless watching from 1,000 miles away and knowing there was nothing I could do to help.
    Pammi

  3. Chelsea January 29, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Not laughing at all here – we had a similar situation happen here in Seattle a fewyears ago. It didn’t snow – it just ICED. What’s even better is it happened on a Thursday night where the Seahawks had a home game. No announcement was made at the game of what was happening outside of the stadium – so 60k+ people went and got on the road and stayed ON the road until 5am the next morning. Horrible. Hope you guys are doing okay and everything melts soon.

  4. Susan January 29, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Love the way you said it! It is so true that in the South we aren’t prepared and can’t drive in the snow but this type of weather occurs so rarely that we don’t get the practice. When my daughter was in college in Auburn, she would chuckle at the panic some out-of-state students would have when there was a tornado watch.They didn’t understand about watches and warnings and were terrified since they had never dealt with that type of weather. The Southerners would assure and assist those students until they became experts themselves!

  5. Leigh January 29, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    I think what many don’t understand is that it’s not that we don’t know how to drive in snow; the problem is that we don’t get snow–we get ICE. All the snow-driving practice in the world is meaningless when you hit a patch of black ice on a bridge.

    And I so appreciate what you said about the lack of cold weather gear–even the more privileged of us don’t necessarily have thick gloves or parkas, because it normally doesn’t get cold enough to warrant buying them.

    Very well said, and thank you on behalf of your fellow Southerners!

  6. Erica January 30, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    I don’t consume any news so your blog is the first I’ve heard of all this. I’m so sad for the kids that were stranded in the bus and everyone else. How awful. I don’t see anything funny about it. But then again, I’m in California and people say the same thing about us and the rain.
    Erica wants you to read ..Initial thoughts on cry it out

  7. -Jen January 30, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    I loved this! I am always shocked by the lack of empathy that some of my fellow Coloradoans (?) have for weather events in other parts of the country.

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