Does anyone really know how to handle weather?

Lots of people around the country seemed to take perverse pleasure in the snow and ice storm that paralyzed much of the Pacific Northwest recently.  From Boulder to Boston, northern residents that deal with snowstorms on a regular basis chortled at video clips of cars and buses slip-sliding away in western Washington.  Perhaps it’s just the Northwesterner in me getting a little defensive, but I’ve never understood why people feel the need to gloat over other people’s inability to cope with weather.  At the end of the day we’re all in the same boat.

I’ve lived in the Northwest, the Plains, the South and the Midwest.  And guess what?  Nobody can handle weather they’re not used to or equipped for.  On NPR the other day I heard a former Chicago resident now living in Seattle bragging how his former city dealt with snow and couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a big deal about a little snow.  I used to live in Georgia and people there were similarly perplexed when a few days of 100 degree heat killed hundreds of people in Chicago.  Likewise, I can remember my amazement shortly after I moved to Michigan and saw a scroll at the bottom of the morning TV news announcing 2-hour school delays for fog.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  If we had fog delays in Olympia, we’d have started half our school days at 10:30.

On the eve of the recent Northwest snowstorm I saw an interview on the Weather Channel with Seattle’s transportation manager, who said they had 30 snow plows standing by.  Custer had better odds.  To put things in perspective it would be like the city of Lansing having 6 plows (it has more than 60).  Seattle and western Washington are not equipped for snow, nor does it make any financial sense for them to do so.  Just like it doesn’t make sense for everyone in the Midwest to have central air or to equip every Michigan school bus with fog lamps.  Just remember, when you get ready to gloat over someone else’s weather misfortune, Mother Nature will always have the last laugh. 

5 thoughts on “Does anyone really know how to handle weather?”

  1. Thanks for this Bert ! I’m always perplexed by this, too. It extends to all sorts of local event though, like earthquakes & wildfires, etc. My home town in Alabama gets rain all the time (weekly, at least), but noticeable earthquakes about once every 50 years. Yet the same people in my adopted state (California) who crow about Easterners & Southerners all aflutter about tremors are the same who can’t handle a car in a little drizzle. As for fog delays for school, we have those a few times a year because the fog gets so thick in certain areas that drivers can’t see the hood of the car clearly, never mind the pavement. Not acceptable for driving a bus full of children down a levee road.

  2. A similar behavior is hoping everyone at home is having miserable weather while one is on vacation in a warm climate. I’ve never under stood that attitude.

  3. As a Seattlite, I appreciate this post. I have spent a lot of time in Northeastern Montana in the winter and can tell you that there is one big difference(among many) between the two – topography! Seattle is built on so many hills that even if there is a small slope between your house and a main plowed road, you can be stuck for days, regardless of your driving capabilities. The narrow streets with cars parked on both sides d
    on’t help the matter, either.

  4. As a former Minnesotan, I’ve done my share of snickering. But I also remember the freak Halloween snowstorm of 1991 that dumped 28 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. And guess what? The snowplows weren’t ready. They’re used as trucks in the summer, and the plows hadn’t been reattached yet. No one had ordered the sand and salt for spreading on the roads yet. And that snow lasted all winter. Pretty funny, eh? (Actually, it was kind of fun.)

    And that first snowfall of any year? Everyone drives like they’ve never seen snow before. Never fails. Ditto the first rainfall of the winter season in California. Humans, so predictable sometimes.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Karen S. I agree about the first snowfall. Here in Michigan and in Nebraska, where I used to live, the first snow was always an adventure. Always have to slip a few times before you get your winter driving edge back…

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