I refuse to believe that I am captive in a hotel room here in South Carolina. I know I can fire up Henry, my car, and get to town on the roads that are described as slippery and dangerous.
After all, I am from Michigan and Ohio, and we know what to do when winter turns a cold shoulder and dumps snow followed by ice on the highways. Winter driving is a necessary skill that northerners have to master to get to work, the grocery store, and other destinations.
But in the southern states just the prediction of snow sends out an alarm to get prepared for the worst. The worst here in South Carolina and northeast Georgia was a prediction of two to five inches of snow due to arrive late Tuesday afternoon and get increasingly worse overnight and through Wednesday.
Even before the first snowflake was spotted, businesses began telling employees not to come to work those two days and to call in Thursday morning to learn if they could come back or stay home another day. Announcements of school closings also were made in advance of the storm.
Warnings were repeated nonstop by TV newscasters and in newspaper headlines. Strangers advised me to take shelter and stay off the roads. Just stay inside where it will be warm and safe, they said, until it’s over.
I innocently stopped at Kroger’s Tuesday to pick up a few things, but the crowd was so overwhelming I decided I didn’t really need more fresh fruit and yogurt for my room. Storm or no storm, I won’t starve to death with my jar of peanut butter always handy and crackers “borrowed” from restaurants. But the locals were in a panic mode, filling carts with bread and milk to a point that the supplies had to be replenished three times.
Are they kidding? Two to five inches of snow is no big deal, we northerners first thought. Just put on your heavy coat and hat, button up, and get on with your life was my advice. That’s what we do in the cold North.
While the extreme reaction here to the forecast of a deep freeze with snow and ice might amuse transplants or visitors from the North, it truly is no laughing matter. Once you have experienced a winter storm in the South, you understand. These people are hesitant to walk in snow, let alone drive on icy roads. It is an unfamiliar twist of Mother Nature they don’t know how to deal with. Accidents, traffic jams, and road closings were common Tuesday night and Wednesday. A woman gave birth to her baby in the car because of traffic complications.
Even worse, the cities are not as prepared with snow and ice removal equipment as we are in the northern states.
I heard an Augusta, Ga. news report that two sand trucks had been deployed. Two trucks — that’s nothing.
Children used their snow break as an opportunity to play outdoors sliding down hills and having snowball fights. But they had to move quickly. In the South the sunshine may be the most reliable tool for snow and ice removal.
After a month in downtown Aiken, I moved just before the storm hit Tuesday to the Guest House at Houndslake, a few miles from the city.
The panoramic view through the large picture window in my room is better than any photo I could capture of the snow ground cover and the bare tree branches outlined with snow. Henry too is crusted with frozen snow.
I have to admit it’s a scene that makes me homesick.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org