Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 3, 2014

TIDBITS: Surviving the winter weather

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — I demand a recount, a do-over, a mulligan — something that will give that furry little weather forecaster up in Pennsylvania an opportunity to change his mind on his prediction. I just don't think I can handle another six weeks of the bitter cold winter weather and I'm sure he got it wrong.

I'm not pulling a Gov. Deal here. I'll pay attention to the weather forecasts and prepare accordingly by dutifully reporting to my local foodstuffs store and stocking up on milk, bread and eggs should more snow enter the forecast. I don't really use a lot of milk, bread or eggs in my regular diet, but apparently I should have these things on hand in the event of a blizzard the likes of which we haven't seen since 1993.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, in case you missed it last week, blamed the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia's horrific traffic debacle on faulty forecasts. He called it an "unexpected storm" that dumped ice and about two inches of the white stuff on metro Atlanta, the country's ninth-largest metro area.

Sadly, that poor attempt at a scapegoat only gave those smug TV folks more fodder for jokes and finger pointing. You see, it turns out that meteorologists had warned the city would see one to two inches of snow nearly 24 hours earlier. The EMA director has been taking a lot of criticism for the non-response to a freak weather event that left thousands stuck in traffic, kept children at school overnight and shut the city down.

Atlanta's Mayor Kasim Reed fanned the flames when he seemed to blame businesses and schools for turning everyone out at the same time, creating havoc on the Atlanta roads. I suppose Mayor Reed doesn't drive in Atlanta often. I have yet to travel through this city without some level of havoc going on with its roadways.

There were more than 1,460 crashes in Atlanta between last Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening. Two involved fatalities and there were more than 175 injuries. Motorists spent hours idling on the interstate. A friend of mine spent about ten hours idling to go the two miles he needed to get to his exit. Those who were unable to get out of the city (only to be stuck on the roadway) spent the night sleeping on loungers in home improvement stores and other 24-hour businesses.

Of course, all of this was just too easy for our dear friends north of the Mason Dixon, who deal with snow much worse than this on a regular basis. The jokes were plentiful, and they kept on coming.

It's similar to when we get a snow here. Many will wonder why schools are closed when there doesn't seem to be all that much snow. I don't envy the director of schools. When it comes to calling a snow day, you're going to make people mad no matter what decision you make. But what many fail to consider is that many of our roads are small, curvy roads in rural areas. The topography is different than the prairie states. So the school officials, working with transportation and road department officials, have to decide what is best for the safety of our children. Consider the bitter cold we've had. Would you want a child standing out in -4 degree weather waiting on a bus that is not going to be all that warm, either? I don't think anyone believes that would be a good idea. That's why I support calling school off for those ridiculously cold days, even if the roads were clear.

But, just because one road is clear doesn't mean they all are. We don't have an army of snow plows and salt trucks to clear every road in the county. Nor would we want to spend the kind of money it would take to equip our transportation departments with that army of snow plows. The amount of snow we get on a typical year does not justify it, at all.

So, let's look to our Southern neighbors and ask ourselves, just how often does Atlanta get any snow or ice? It's a rare event, to say the least. There are only about 30 or 40 snow plows in all of Atlanta. Why should they buy more? It snows once a decade, if that.

Of course, the traffic debacle just brought to light what is always a problem in Atlanta, that traffic. Gas isn't going to get cheaper, and the city can't keep building bigger interstates. A better transportation plan is needed so that everyone can move about the city with at least a little ease. Maybe they'll look into that now.

Another silver lining? This happened in the South, where we are hospitable. It's in the handbook. No, not everyone lives up to it on a daily basis, but it's a pretty hospitable place, especially when folks need help. There were stories of people going out of their way to help stranded motorists or those unable to get home. A hotel opened its lobby to those with no place to go. The staff got them bedding and phone chargers (the most left-behind item at a hotel, by the way) and tried to make them comfortable. The manager even walked three miles to a nearby hospital to get heart medication for a man who was unable to fill his prescription before the snow hit as pharmacies closed early.

Up the road a ways, a man spent his birthday shuttling children and staff home from school a few at a time in his pickup truck. This is also a bit of a "Southern" joke. If you run off the road in the South, don't worry. Some guys will be by in a pickup truck before long to pull you out. I've been the recipient of this kindness myself. And it is always so very appreciated. We can't all have four-wheel drive, but we can be thankful for those who do.

And though it was a bit chilly to hand out glasses of iced tea to those sitting for hours and going nowhere fast on I-285, two friends living near the intersection of I-75 and I-285 did what they could to warm the hearts and the tummys of those stuck in gridlock, handing out hot chocolate and doing what they could to help.

If we've got another round of winter weather on its way, let's all do what we can to help those we see in need of a little warmth and kindness.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.