Jan. 6, 2010: Southern style is a different world


To The Editor:
As the South braces for another snowstorm I thought my old Yankee friends would like to know how Virginians “handle” this winter weather. Firstly, when there is a threat of snow, there is a run on in the local grocery stores of bread, eggs and milk. The latter two are a puzzle since they can easily spoil if the power goes out, which it is most likely to since we get more ice than snow, which often takes down the trees or their parts.
Next when the storm starts all the local volunteer firefighters are then called “ten bravo” to their fire stations for the duration of the storm. They, along with their paid counterparts, cover their fire districts. A fire engine and brush truck are dispatched with the ambulance to all EMS calls. The theory is if the fire engine and ambulance can’t make it to the call the brush truck can.
Plowing roads is interesting down here since the State of Virginia is responsible for clearing all the roads including the small subdivisions streets. This is a taxing job on the state and its resources since most of the counties do little of the road maintenance. There aren’t any town governments in Virginia, so most of the clearing of nonstate highway roads during a storm is sub-contracted. It is funny to see a huge multi-wheeled construction dump truck with a dinky plow on its front. Almost all sub-division streets do not get plowed and if the snow is deep it leaves most people stuck in their homes. Even during a state of emergency so the roads can be cleared, this still doesn’t stop other people from going out which packs the snow down and eventually makes the side streets a sheet of rutted ice. This compounded with the fact that most intersections are not plowed correctly for they plow in and out but do not clear the center of the intersection out. Not to mention that these are plowed in again and again.
If there is a turn lane it most likely won’t be plowed out either. This causes problems for the drivers. Which, even on a good day they are horrible. In a rainy weather event the drivers down here go way too fast or way too slow. There is no sensible middle ground driving. So when there is snow on the roads down here on roads not properly plowed you can imagine what a nightmare it is to go anyplace down here. I can’t count on how many people that I have had to help dig out that do not know how to get their car unstuck by going back and forth keeping their wheels straight. One time near the fire station where I volunteer, I even saw a snowplow get stuck in two inches of snow which the driver said was a ditch which was actually just a little tire rut by the road. The funny thing is there are a lot of ex-northerners, Yankees as they are called, down here that seem to have never driven in snow. Either that or they have quickly forgotten how to drive in the white stuff. The last storm, it took about a week till all the streets were finally cleared.
Meanwhile, there is a run on snow shovels, ice melt and sleds at the local hardware stores a day or two before the storm and then during the storm. If any type of sled is not available people will buy trash can lids to go sledding in. Of course the handle is removed to make sliding easier.
Well that’s all the “sanity” that I could write about from down here in Virginia.

From a Damn Yankee down here in Virginia,
Robert E. Halpern,
Midlothian, Va.