Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter
ozma914

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next week's column: Southern Storms Reveal Regional Weather Woes

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


I’ve been noticing how differently people treat winter weather across the country. Pretty much everyone hates it to a degree; oh, there are a few who really love winter, and I would suggest not turning your back on those people. Sooner or later some other aspect of their mental disorder is bound to show itself, and do you want to be looking away when they decide to stab you with an icicle?

In late January for the last two years, several southern states have been hit with unusually cold weather: an ice storm last year, and a snow and ice storm this year.

(I just had a sudden vision of Al Gore’s Tennessee mansion, buried under a snow drift. It made me smile.)

We all know what can happen when a place that’s not used to it gets hit. As I write this it’s February 1st, and Texas is under a freezing fog warning. (Update: It’s February 5, and much of the south is getting hit by another snowstorm. How ya’ll doing, Al?) When black ice forms on a highway pretty much everyone is in trouble, but there are those other times when southern areas come to a standstill because of, oh, one inch of snow.

“Wha – Myrtle, look out the window! What is that?”

“Why … I think it’s snow, Jacob! Let’s send a picture to Cousin Edward in Minnesota, he’ll know.”

Of course, Cousin Edward’s reply is: “You think that’s snow? I’ll show you snow.”

Edward then sends his southern relatives a picture of him using a snow blower on two feet of fresh powder – on his roof – which sends Myrtle into a catatonic state until May.

The other day we in northern Indiana got five inches of snow, and nobody noticed. It didn’t even make the evening news, until the weather forecaster mentioned scattered snow showers, which is code for bring in the cat, but the bigger dogs are probably okay. Five inches of snow in Washington, D.C. forces the federal government to a standstill faster than you can say “filibuster”.

I can hear the news now: “The storm has completely closed all of Washington, and nothing is being accomplished at all. In other news, Congress was completely normal.”

Down where my girlfriend’s family lives, in southeast Missouri, they got eight inches of snow in that January storm, which is pretty respectable by anyone’s standards. She was actually happy about it; she can be weird that way. She enjoyed looking at the fresh snow, playing in it, and making something called snow cream … which is like ice cream, only cheaper
and way more common after arctic cold fronts.

This is a sure sign of someone who isn’t used to being in a true snow belt. A late January snowstorm, and you’re happy? By the time January arrives in, say, Minnesota or Iowa, the average local reacts with something akin to “Another %#&^*@% blizzard?” and goes off to assassinate the weatherman.

On a related note, that rotten Pennsylvania groundhog saw its shadow. I purchased a sniper rifle and gassed up the car, but arrived to discover there was a six week waiting list of Midwesterners wanting their shot. Ground groundhog – the other dark meat.

Where was I? Oh, yes, driving – there’s another one. Southern highways become a skating rink when one flake of snow lands half a mile away. Icy bridges and overpasses? They can’t even make it out of their driveway, and these are the same people who refer to a Category 5 hurricane as a “minor inconvenience”.

To some Hoosiers, blowing and drifting snow is nothing more than a fun challenge. “Hey, we’re under a snow emergency – warm up the Tahoe! The speed limit? Why, we can’t see the signs, so there must not be one! Grab that case of beer, we’ll make a day of it.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been tailgated or passed by SUV’s while driving in icy weather, only to discover they’ve slid into a ditch five miles further ahead. Being a friendly sort, I wave as I go by. Sometimes I use all my fingers.

The moral of that tale is that just because someone’s used to winter doesn’t make them a smart driver, and just because someone panics and stays home at the first hint of sleet doesn’t make them wrong. Here in the Midwest, a large segment of the population totally forgets how to drive in snow over summer – at least the people in Texas have the excuse that snowstorms
are rare for them.

While they were getting snow down there, we were in the deep freeze up here in the Midwest, and that’s another example of how things are different. I was driving down the road the other day when a teenager walked by wearing a t-shirt and those ridiculous three-quarter length pants, which were almost full length because he was wearing the waistline around his hips. People can’t afford belts anymore?

He was in imminent danger of a frostbit behind – frostcrack? It’s not that uncommon to see people around here violating the primary mom rule (“put your coat on, you’ll catch cold and die and fall and break your leg and put somebody’s eye out and then don’t come running to me!”)

If the temperature here hits forty degrees in January – and I’ve heard it’s happened – we’d be stripping off all our layers and dancing in the streets like pale, doughy kids. If the temperature hits forty degrees in south Florida, they put out dire weather alerts, start covering the strawberry crop, and have riots over the last pair of long underwear at Wal-Mart.

“Please, I need a snowsuit for my poor child – all he has in his closet are tank tops and flip-flops!”

“I told you, ma’am, we don’t stock snowsuits -- this is Miami.”

“Well, then, give me your entire stock of Hawaiian shirts and I’ll see what I can do with the sewing machine.”

There’s a kid who’ll grow up hating his parents.
Tags: column, new era, slightly off the mark
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