Fair weather drivers

2014-01-28 15.14.37 Southerners are fair weather drivers. They get timid when it rains, and snow? Forget it.

As a northerner, it took me a while to understand why everyone gets very excited leading up to winter storms. Grocery stores are cleared out of bread, eggs and milk. Batteries? Good luck. And getting your hands on salt, sand, snow melters or traction aids? You won’t find them Here’s why.

The region doesn’t have snow clearing equipment.

No municipality is equipped to deal with winter. City staff aren’t trained to deal with winter weather, nor do municipalities have the extra man power to keep things rolling.

You’ve noticed during your drives around the city that some roads are… kind of steep. With hairpin curves. And others slope sideways with the road crown (highest part) on one side of the road instead of in the center. Driveways are also somewhat…. creative. Historically, the city gets, maybe, one icy-ish storm per year, with snow falls every couple of years. Not much falls (less than an inch) and most years, you’ll be lucky if it sticks around a day. So, most Alabama municipalities, outside of the ones at higher elevations in the Appalachians, haven’t invested in snow clearing equipment. There is no engineering requirement for maintaining vehicular control on on slick surfaces, and thus, there is less attention paid to road grade. They also don’t buy the type of sand used for traction, and while they purchase some salt, they keep a minimal supply on hand and use most of that for pre-emptive liquid brine.

Most suburban children are also bused to school – or their parents drive them. (Hello – what happened to walking? See neighborhood design and the big American “I don’t want my kid going to school with your kid” issue.) Getting everyone home early when a winter storm is expected can be a logistical nightmare. So, when a storm is expected, the region shuts down early pre-emptively.

How can you, as a northerner, be a good neighbor?

  1. Stop laughing.
  2. Be gracious. Show folks how to scrape their windshield and windows when they don’t have an ice scraper. Show them the super sekrit northerner’s trick of using an old credit card, or any stiff edged plastic..
  3. Tell them about alternate traction and ice-melting materials (if they don’t have salt on hand), such as fireplace ash and cinders, garden dirt, fertilizers and old-fashioned kitty litter.
  4. Give them a boost when they need it. Southern batteries aren’t designed to handle cold temperatures the way northern ones are,
  5. Yes, you can whip out your emergency tow cable to pull them out of a ditch.
  6. Try not to gloat and show off your winter coping skills too much.

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