Let It Snow

snowAfter the blizzards of 1993 and 1996 stormed through the South, salt trucks and snow plows hit the neighborhoods. I didn’t spend days waiting for sun and heat to clear roads.

I’ve lived in both the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic in the past 15 years. As with the Northeast, most cities there can handle winter weather. Eighty-plus inches of snow fall in some places each year, so they stock up on salt, shovels, and snow plows. Just like in the 90s, I never had to worry about driving down a secondary road a day or two after it snowed.

Now I’m back in the South. The snowstorm of January 2011 wasn’t like the 90s. This week was just as bad. My town received two inches of snow on Tuesday. Sun arrived on Wednesday and above-freezing temperatures on Thursday, but no salt trucks or snow plows appeared on the city street in front of my house – just two streets off a primary road that receives heavy traffic. I later learned that the city had performed triage, clearing only primary roads and the parking lots of businesses and shopping centers. Unable to reach a primary road, I spent days waiting for sun and heat to clear my street. Was the governor’s declaring a state of emergency in the 90s the difference? Did those precious salt and snow plow trucks arrive from other states?

atlanta snowInterstates and federal highways are the federal government’s responsibility, state highways that of states. All other city streets are the municipal government’s responsibility. Performing triage on snow days is criminal negligence. Besides, why should I pay city taxes when the city refuses to clear my street? Where does the money go?

At least I stayed home, where I had water, heat, electricity, and food. So I didn’t suffer like people in Atlanta and other cities. Not staggering school and business closings resulted in chaos, trauma, and pain for thousands. Atlanta said it had learned from the mistakes of 2011. After suffering this week, people realized too late that the city had learned nothing. Atlanta had no viable winter emergency plan, one that stocks up on salt, shovels, and snow plows – just in case.

snow plow salt truckEvery county in America should have at least one salt and/or snow plow truck. Bigger cities and towns should have five or six. Cities that can’t afford large trucks can easily place a shovel on the front, and a salt dispenser on the back, of a flatbed truck. This is what snow-prone cities do for little snows; they reserve large trucks for big storms. Taxpayer money would be better spent on prepping flatbed trucks than on making payrolls.

Until government workers in Southern cities visit snow-prone ones in winter, they will never learn how to prepare for the unexpected snow or ice storm. They will always fail the test. “Southern hospitality” cannot ease the pain. At the end of the day, I prefer competence.

The South is responsible for its response to this week’s storm. Still, I blame bad timing on the National Weather Service. Giving Atlanta and other cities a winter weather advisory at 9am on Tuesday, as flakes began to fall, was criminally irresponsible. Did President Obama want to avoid negative feedback on his State of the Union address? Or was this event a dry run?

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