In Defense of our Southern Friends

Digging Out, WV, 2010. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning to this page is okay).

In our old neighborhood after the blizzard of ’10.

Okay, time for a rare rant, though I’ll compensate with a couple of snowy Ben photos.

Much has been made over the past few days of the nightmare suffered by our Southern friends due to the frigid front (“cold front” just doesn’t cut it) blasting them, particularly the poor folks in Atlanta and Birmingham; many residents of the former were stuck in their cars overnight due to a few inches of snow. In some cases, school buses full of crumb-crunchers were stranded on the roads; quite a few people slept in their offices or staggered off the roads into 24-hour drugstores to doze in the aisles.

Part of the reason for all of this madness is apparently that the snow hit mid-afternoon, after everyone was already at work and school; it sounds like cities such as Atlanta flat out shut down when threatened with snow. Moreover (and unsurprisingly), officials handled the situation horribly, almost shoving the citizenry into the lurch. Screwing up seems to be what bureaucrats do best, and this was no exception.

Final Snow, Sewickley, PA. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning to this page is okay).

Now, as a native Michigander, half of whose family hails from the UP’s Sault Ste. Marie, I assure you: Winter weather, while hardly beloved in my mind, is something I and my kin know how to deal with. That goes for most of us in the northern and midwestern US as well as our friends in Canada. Therefore, shutting down businesses and schools because of a little bit of snow does make me laugh—you should see my reaction when my Southern pals (I’m blessed with many) kvetch about “freezing” when it is 30-40 degrees. Really, it’s kind of adorable, and I do adore Southerners and the South, so my teasing is truly warm and affectionate.

However, over the past several days I have seen a lot of people ripping on the South—such bigotry is an ugly hobby amongst those who know no Southrons and have generally never been further South than Washington, DC (which does not count as Southern to any sane person)—over what happened there this week in reaction to the winter weather. And I have this to say to the mockers:

Knock it off.

Mmmmm...Hot Brown! Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved (pinning to this page is okay).

The people who gave us this fantastic dish cannot possibly deserve the ridicule they must bear up under!

Unlike Michigan or North Dakota or Saskatchewan, the South is not prepared for this kind of weather because they don’t often get it. Of course, 2-3″ of snow in Atlanta and Nashville isn’t unheard of, but it does not often snow more than that in these areas (Birmingham, AL has only gotten more than an inch of snow FOUR TIMES in the past 30 years!); therefore, they’re not prepared for it because they generally do not need to be, and really, it’s not in the budget. Not many plows, not much salt, certainly no snow tires, even on emergency vehicles.

Also, ice is a completely different animal than snow, even heavy snow. Even this Michigan gal does not want to be on an icy road/sidewalk/anything, and Atlanta found itself with ice as well as snow.

Furry Snow

The South’s infrastructure is not built for the wintry weather Northerners and Midwesterners are accustomed to, especially considering the very hilly terrain of many Southern cities (and I say that having lived through many winters in the very hilly and even mountainous cities of Pennsylvania and West Virginia…where, believe me, everyone is prepared for the weather). Their roadways are different from ours because unlike Pittsburgh, Hattiesburg doesn’t see too many blizzards.

Finally, as you have guessed, most Southerners don’t drive in wintry weather very often because other than flurries and dustings, they don’t get a much in the way of real winter. Put thousands upon thousands of such folks on snowy, icy roads at the same time in a panic to get the kids & get home before the roads are even salted with the paltry amount of salt in their municipality’s coffers and you’re going to have all kinds of trouble, and it’s not their fault. I’d also bet not many of them have snow tires like yours truly. 

Need an example of the havoc wreaked by actual winter in Southern climes? A resident of Austin, Texas told me that in six hours Monday, the city had nearly 300 weather-related car accidents—that is a lot of potentially injured people, destroyed cars, and first responders ALSO on the road to deal with the aftermath of an accident.

First Big One of The Season

Of course I wouldn’t write about snow without some Ben In The Snow Pr0n. 😉

Southern friends adamantly refuse to visit between October (when it’s still rather summery!) and mid-May “because of the snow”. Again, this is where the “that’s kinda cute” factor come in, because I get the feeling they’re picturing the Midwest as a menacing snow-covered wonderland for the entire season, but…okay. I tease affectionately, and wish they’d visit anyhow, but despite my joking, I do get it.

So, yes, it is somewhat amusing when Memphis and Birmingham and Raleigh shut down at the threat of a handful of snowflakes—it is, sorry Southrons!—but then again, look at what happened in Southern cities this week. It’s not pretty. Though I’ll forever giggle at the reaction Southerners have to snowy weather…At least they’re smart enough to know they really can’t handle this sort of weather and stay the heck home. And, again, ice is ice. Not a fan. (Other than hockey.)

Frankly, having driven to work in my coupe, snow tires or no, the morning after twelve inches of snow fell overnight—overnight!—I do occasionally wish Northern and Midwestern employers had at least the sense to tell staff to come in late or even not at all and work from home.

Leave Southerners alone. I’ve been all over the country and they’re some of the warmest people I’ve ever met, and they don’t deserve this sort of snark. Their unfamiliarity with snow and their infrastructure’s inability to handle it the way Boston’s and Wisconsin’s can is not their fault, and if you’re a Northerner ripping on them over what happened down South this week, I’d better never, EVER hear you whine about heat and humidity again.

How I felt all week

A handsome dog, but not a Southern dog. (That’s what happens when you are born with a sweater already on.)

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5 thoughts on “In Defense of our Southern Friends

  1. THANK YOU!!! I grew up in Texas but have lived as far north as Collingwood, Ontario and all up and down the East Coast. I remember all too well when we lived in Canada how many Canadian friends I worked with would flock down to Myrtle Beach, SC, for a week of sun and surf in February or March – usually 4-5 in a car and take turns driving straight through. Most dressed in shorts, flip flops and t-shirts for the ride. One winter, a blizzard was predicted in the Mid-Atlantic area about the time everyone was going down and I warned them that snow removal there was not down to an art form like it was in Canada. In fact, think almost “zilch”. I got the standard “We’re Canadians, we know how to drive in the snow”. Well, my friends got stranded somewhere in West Virginia on I-77 for 5 days, long enough for things to thaw out and for them to turn around and drive back to Canada, still in their t-shirts, shorts and flip flops. A lot of Northerners don’t realize that many of our Southern roadways in cities are elevated, some with four levels. Yikes, some of those are bad enough to drive on in good weather! Quick icing, people not used to driving in snow and ice . . . I truly feel for everyone who has had a bad winter this year, both North and South. Heck, a problem we have to deal with here in El Paso are crazy people not knowing how to drive when we get the occasional rain! It’s always something . . .

  2. Thank you, love, for standing up for us folk down here! We don’t get much experience with that kind of thing, but we do the best we can. A number of years ago (about 10, I think), we had an unexpected snow on Christmas Eve. I told my daughter, “This is a Christmas miracle, because I’m 40 years old and I can count on three fingers the times I’ve seen snow here and NEVER on Christmas Eve.” We were in Galveston to attend Christmas Eve services at midnight, but when it dawned on us how many bridges there were between the island and home (including the causeway connecting the island and mainland), we decided to head home.

    A 60 mile drive that usually takes an hour took us THREE. My husband drove very carefully (20 mph) and we made it safely, but we saw many cars and trucks in the ditches alongside the roads. It was almost 2:00 a.m. Christmas Day and we decided to stay up and play in the snow because we weren’t sure how long it would “stick”! 🙂

  3. Yes!!! Leave us alone! Wait until we all die in a big snow and then you can come down and take over our land of milk and honey and magnolias and sweet Southern whiskey! 🙂

    Super well written, my friend! P.S. Brrrrrrrrrrr…..

  4. You are all welcome. I really do love Southerners and the South, and though I tease y’all, it comes from that love and not the attitude some folks seem to have. A customer and the gal behind the counter at the deli got dressed down yesterday morning over the same thing. They must not travel much…AHEM… 😉

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