Monday, August 29, 2011

So This Whole Hurricane Thing...

All last week, I watched as the news networks and the Weather Channel all about had a collective fit because a hurricane was "headed straight towards New York." They warned the people of the Northeastern United States and feared the absolute worst for poor little old NYC.

Forget the fact that Hurricane Irene was gonna smack directly into a small, nearly unimportant area known as Eastern North Carolina.

And smack it did. I think the New Bern area took the worst of it, but Atlantic Beach, Nags Head, Wrightsville Beach, and a few other places definitely felt Irene.
And still, the entire day on Saturday, they still kept talking about New York. Even as the storm weakened and lost its status as an actual hurricane.

Even though North Carolina absorbed the brunt of it.

But you know, all this took be back a couple of years. Y'all know I went to Bob Jones University if you've read a couple of other posts. Inevitably, at some point during four-and-a-half years of college, it will snow/ice/freeze. Greenville is a close neighbor to Western North Carolina. Asheville North Carolina is an hour up the road. Greenville, however, is not in the mountains. It doesn't snow a whole lot, unless the winter is particularly freakish.

Big shock to y'all up in the Far Reaches, but we don't have a lot of snowplows down here. My town has maybe one or two. They're just not needed very much.Because ice is a smooth surface that greatly reduces friction and is a dangerous (sometimes deadly) surface to drive on, roads aren't exactly navigable. When it ices or snows, school closes for like a day, the town quiets, and people relax. (This rule generally applies throughout the entire Southern region.) Citizens play in the snow, or stay inside and read. They enjoy life. In a few hours, the ice/snow melts and life goes back to normal.

So all that time at college, I heard a lot of something that might have been good-natured ribbing, but sounded a lot like sour-faced griping. "Nobody knows how to drive down here." "I can't believe no one can drive on ice here." "We keep going to school in the snow, I can't believe it here." That's right folks, people actually complained about cancelled classes. (I can only imagine what their parents taught them about Santa Claus....) So, pretty much, for all of college (there's a whole lot of people from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that wind up at Bob Jones University, just saying...)* statements that should be considered merely factual observations often degrade into personal insults. Insinuations that only Neanderthals and similar primitive people not yet exposed to modern technology are unable to somehow overcome the laws of physics and drive with magical friction force-fields upon their tires abound. "Well, where I live, we know how to drive on ice." Good for you, buddy. Dream big.

See, this all came back to me when I observed that the Northeast was being all but coddled because *sniff* a hurricane's coming. I believe the words "disastrous" and "catastrophic" were thrown around some. Now, as I know hurricanes, catastrophic as a description doesn't usually apply unless you aren't prepared.

So let's put this into a fair perspective. If it never ices/snows in an area, there is little chance that one could learn to drive in those conditions. Southern winters are fairly mild, and unless it's a really cold year, we average about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Occasionally it will get down into the 20s.** I can remember one year when it was 9 degrees F the week before Christmas. Even with temperatures that drop below 32 F, you have to have perfect conditions and an already cold ground in order to keep the white stuff sticking around. We're not prepared because we really never have to be, and one snow day for schools won't kill our economy.

I'm not a geography expert, but I do have a good idea of what the East Coast looks like. The most obvious feature?

Hang on, 'cause I'ma blow y'alls minds...

It's coastal.

Yeah, all those panicky areas stick out in the ocean. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Maryland, Jersey, New York, Boston, and Bangor. Hurricanes should not be a surprise. Yeah, they're rare, but y'all have a heck of a higher chance of getting a hurricane than we do a whole winter's worth of snow.

I think yeah, y'all deserve a little bit of ridicule. Good times.

*And I cannot begin to describe to you how much I don't really care about the Ohio vs. Michigan thing. I pull for the University of North Carolina. Your mention of the rivalry is likely to earn you a blank face.

**Yep, and that was the time the theater's heater was broken. It was like 20 degrees F outside with a very lovely wind that just made it so fun and bone-chilling. I wore a coat for the whole movie (New Moon, by the way) and huddled together with my boyfriend for warmth. I was also wearing knee socks under my jeans. It was disappointing mostly because I had on a really cute outfit that my otherwise wonderful pea coat hid.

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