Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow in Athens and Atlanta, 2014: still on the grid

(Athens, GA, January 10 2011)

Here in the south people don't take to snow particularly well. That's why we live where we do, even northern transplants like myself (I've lived in Georgia since 1976). When friends from Oxford, Mississippi report snow in Faulkner country, that's real weather news. 

In the metro areas of Atlanta, two inches of snow and roads topped with black ice are reason enough for days of Atlanta TV station instilled panic (with advertising breaks). Each southern snow emergency is different, according to when people begin to panic: when the snow hit in mid-afternoon, on a workday, the blame game began early. The traffic pile-up was either GDOTs fault, or the governor's, or whoever-is-in-charge-of-the-road salt.  

In cold and snowy reality, on radio talk shows the southern folk who like to picture themselves as hardy and self-sufficient Dan'l Boones weren't prepared for the eventuality .... of not getting home in time for dinner. Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed found himself on the Today show pointing out the video that was showing more that 2,000 stranded vehicles (and many drivers) on the interstates was from outside the city limits -- a case of the snowstorm's political NIMBY effect. Later, Governor Deal bit the bullet and accepted partial blame for the lack of preparation, in hopes the backlash wouldn't bite into his re-election hopes next fall.

To be fair, the interstates were indeed a mess, without much surface preparation, and school kids spent the night in buses or on gym floors. Some motorists actually braved WALKING in the cold and snow, which must have been a novel experience. And the miles and miles of the interstates' gently-sloping roadbeds created a roller coaster for motorists, creating real gridlock of seemingly unending endurance. 

Still: for two days and counting I have yet to hear anyone admit they shoulda stayed home on Tuesday, or made any alternate plans for "a light dusting and more south of the city." In 1981 the Snowjam that ground the city to a halt for days -- stranded suburban motorists, downtown commuters, and included massive power loss throughout the city -- was a truly unexpected event that, as it happened, struck on a workday afternoon. By 5 o'clock that afternoon, people bedded down in the Trust Company Bank lobby in Five Points with no hope of getting home.

Apparently every generation of middle-managers and junior executives and SUV moms has to find out for itself what a southern snowfall can bring. 

Until the lights go out in Athens due to snow, I'm sucking on the power grid with no pretense of hardihood or self-sufficiency except the ability to read a book until the light fails, and with tuna-fish sandwiches to sustain me. After that, there's a leftover long winter's nap from the holiday season around here somewhere. There's beer in the fridge for later. I think I'll put "A Charlie Brown Christmas" back on the box for a spin and enjoy warm thoughts, until the temperature (projected: mid-50s today) melts the last of the snow.

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