Why The South Uses THAT Winter As An Example


Why The South Uses THAT Winter As An ExampleIf you’ve lived in Chattanooga — or anywhere in the surrounding 50-100 miles — for any time during the winter, you’ve heard it referenced, remembered, and reflected upon at least 20 times.

You may even have just visited, nipping north to feel a delicate breath of cold or escaping a snow apocalypse from somewhere up north and have ended up here, in the strange land where cold can be biting, bitter, and quite dangerous…if it ever comes.

And where you will hear about that one time that everything turned white…

On the rare occasion that we get any hint of freezing temperatures, you’ll watch as we retreat into our shells like particularly grumpy hermit crabs as the threat plays out in fractal splendor. If you are pure of heart, you will be baffled by the sight of pickup trucks driving past and spreading salt, the nearly tearful relief of the teachers who have been called off duty, and the frenzied excitement and hopes of an entire generation that has rarely ever seen snow.

If you are more the glass is half empty sort, then you’ll laugh at the silly ways of us Southern yokels. You’ll understand that you have driven on roads in worse conditions just to get down South for your current trip and on your regular Tuesday commute to work. You’ll remember the many times that you had to dig your car out of your driveway and heat your handles so that you could open your doors. Then you’ll grin, shake your head, and think, “What a funny place this is.”

But, as one who has survived 39 winters in this wonderfully unique place, let me tell you about the many reasons we respect the little bits of cold weather and precipitation we get each year.

Firstly, individually or as towns, cities, or counties, we don’t have the infrastructure (plows, salt trucks, etc.) to make any true ice and snowy weather safe for driving outside the main roads. And the definition of a main road depends on how far out in the county you live, by the way. As someone who grew up at the edge of the county, I know that our roads were always the last to be salted and only if there was enough left, which there rarely was.

Also, getting to the main road was often difficult or impossible, especially as 98% of us drive on paved (or often unpaved) driveways as long as some city streets to even reach a road. And those driveways are often angled, so you would have to salt them yourself just to consider trying. My father had a four-wheel drive truck that often could not get up our driveway, even with the help of one tire on the side. We couldn’t afford that much salt, so my parents, who worked at hospitals and had to try to get to work, simply parked at the bottom of the driveway and walked/slid down the driveway in the dark to attempt to get from there to the main road.

Usually, that first road is a tiny two-lane (that should really be one-lane) road with more potholes than clear patches of pavement and a culvert on one side that can swallow the average Honda should one haplessly slide into it. A second, slightly larger road may get one side salted occasionally. Then you have the main road that has been salted and allows traffic to spin tires uneasily up and over hills before sliding into the next dale on a prayer.

We could go into further explanations of the infrastructure of homes, heating units, electricity, and many reasons beyond travel that freezing weather is rather a big deal here, but suffice it to say that the road argument translates well to most Southern homes, which simply aren’t designed to function in frozen temperatures.

When we try to help our Northern brethren understand why we are the way we are when snow has been forecast and schools canceled, we all tend to fall back to a time, an example that even you could understand. We talk about that one freak storm. That one winter when the South became the North, and the Blizzard of ’93 became a legend to beat all legends. We tell of weeks surviving by drinking coke floats made with snow, grandmothers stranded with little ones on hill-top homes without electricity for heating or cooking, daring rescues by 911 and fire personnel, and 10 days living in one room with aunts, uncles, and grandparents, making memories that would last a lifetime. At least, that’s my story and what I share.

So, if you are here or plan to come, don’t laugh or snicker when you see us shy from the cold. We have our reasons. We have our memories. We will do just fine until everything thaws back out. Be patient, be kind, and be prepared to wait because you never know when one snow could become the next legend.

This is my hope,

This is my prayer,

Please, Dear Lord, let us see snow this year…just not too much.