January 29, 2014

WHY THE SOUTH FELL APART IN THE SNOW.

There’s a simple explanation for that one, too. Birmingham is one of those cities that shuts down at the faintest hint of snow. Again, this isn’t because we are rubes who wonder why God’s tears have turned white and fall slower. It’s because the city does not have the infrastructure in place to handle snow, and is self-aware enough to realize it. If you don’t know how to swim, just stay out of the pool. Easy.

This time, though, the city did not shut down. Schools were open. Places of business kept businessing. That’s because as of Tuesday morning, we were being told that all that was coming was a light dusting.

That’s no disrespect to James Spann, who is a wonderful weatherperson and a bit of a local legend. But reports like that meant that when the snow actually started in earnest—and it became clear that it was going to stick—people were in offices and kids were at school, instead of being at home like they normally would.

That, in turn, meant that everyone was trying to get home at the same time, on snowy, icy roads that had not been treated, in cars that do not have four-wheel-drive (why would they?). These are, for the most part, people who do not drive in snow very often, which means that accidents like this one were common.

We got off much lighter here in Knoxville, but it was the same thing, basically: When I went into work, my weather app showed a 30% chance of light snow. By late morning it was already getting icy. I canceled my class and wound up being glad I did. Personally, I have four-wheel drive and snow-rated tires (they’re only all-seasons, but they’re good ones) and I know how to drive in the snow. I got home okay, but a lot of people had problems — and, of course, it doesn’t matter how good your car is, or your driving skills are, if you’re stuck behind jackknifed semi.