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Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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yahoo winter
Well, as sure as I go on about it, it won't happen. BUT. We're being advised that Birmingham may be hit by an ice storm tonight. Right now, I'm less sure that we're going to really get some Laura Ingalls Wilder shit up in here because originally the weather forecast had a low of 10°F (-12 °C), and now the lowest low is... 30. We're going to have to do better than "just barely below freezing" to get the snow to really stick. Well, it's supposed to get down to 22 late next week, but it's only supposed to be sunny then. But that's the thing--the weather could just as easily get worse. And we've still got three days of snow and/or ice predicted. So obviously, there are riots in the streets. My parents went ahead and got the week's grocery shopping done Friday afternoon because, obviously, there will be neither a loaf of bread nor a jug of milk nor a single battery left on the shelves for a hundred miles once a good panic gets going.

I've tried to explain this before, but the South really does not get this kind of weather very often (although we've been getting more of it in the last few years. Thanks, Global Warming Trufax Climate Change!), so we are just not prepared to deal with it. We usually don't have to be prepared, so we can't afford to have a bunch of snow plows sitting around rusting. We don't have the equipment to deal with it, and we're not familiar with the necessary procedures because so much time passes between Emergency Weather Outbreaks that we just forget them. An inch of snow--a threat of ice--will shut down every school in town, let me tell you. And here's why: the roads and the trees. We don't know how to drive on ice--we don't have snow tires, either--so anything that could end up getting people killed on the roads (emphasis on "anything") will result in the whole city sitting at home in frosty terror. Or perhaps "terror," as everyone gleefully calls in to work: "No, no, I couldn't possibly come in today, there might be... ICE." "NOT **ICE!**"

The really serious issue, though, is the trees. I can't speak for the more urban areas, but every Birmingham suburb I've ever stepped foot in is stuffed with trees (which I love). Oaks are "massively planted" in the South, for example, by developers. We also have tons of towering--but spindly--pines. A lot of them are really, really old; some of them are mostly dead. So when you get heavy rain or more than an inch or two of snow--whether the snow melts on contact with the ground or not--you have branches break like matchsticks. These, in turn, fall on power lines, which could kill the electricity for an entire neighborhood. Worse, larger branches--sometimes entire trees--fall onto roofs or across roads. One of my middle school math teachers had about half her house taken out by a tree during one particularly heavy snow. Another year, during a rare four-inch snow, a tree three feet thick just keeled over. I mean, roots just sticking up in the air, pulled clean out of the earth by the sheer weight of the oak. I can't remember if it hit the house directly across or not, but that road was completely blocked until a department of something or other could bring out chainsaws and haul the thing away in pieces. Actually, I think it did take out a car in a driveway but (mercifully) fell between two houses. I mean, that car was totaled--crushed. And right now, I'm looking through my bedroom window at a particularly tall, spindly pine--I can't eyeball these things very well; it might be anywhere between 100 and 200 feet tall--that sways like a reed in a strong wind. If it fell diagonally, it would hit the roof over my room, and if I were really lucky, crush through and take out both my desk and the printerbook tableshelf. Do you have $500 to have someone come out and cut it down? Because that's the estimate we got. Now imagine dozens of $500 trees in every neighborhood. Yeah. We freak out a bit about storms. 

Wow, I didn't expect that train of thought to get so grim. Anyway. Mostly storms just drop branches on power lines, which is fun enough. So we've had to think about what could be eaten if we lose the electricity this time. Things requiring a range, oven, toaster or microwave, for example, are right out. Canned soup is not helpful; canned fruit could be. We do have a gas grill, so, oddly, fresh meat actually works. We also have a gas fireplace, having lived through one snowstorm where we had only a wood fire for heat. For three days. And yes, you can cook in a fireplace--you can even get creative with pots and pans on a grill--but it's a pain in the ass. We're generally talking about a day or two, maybe three; we don't get all Boy Scout about it unless we absolutely have to.
Cheese and cold cuts for sandwiches, chips, crackers, cookies, and cereal are good (maybe this is why bread and milk are so popular), because not having a fridge really isn't a problem if it's that cold outside. At worst, you get an ice chest to make sure the milk doesn't go bad. Anything we want cooked or baked, we have to go ahead and do it now (pizza's pretty good cold, for example). You have to think about other things, too--any dishes you need washed, any laundry you need done, anything you need charged up (phone, laptop, Kindle, Nook, iPad--anything you could use to get to your email and, therefore, the outside world), you have to get on that. We usually have hot water even when we don't have power, but if you'd like to wash your hair and get a good blow-dry in, go ahead and do it now. Round up your batteries and your candles and your emergency lamps. And all of this, mind you, is for perhaps an inch of ice, perhaps a couple of inches of snow. But, stupidly, you have to be prepared because we as Southerners are not prepared on a larger level. 

Basically, I'm outlining all this because, as sure as I do, none of it will happen. However, if I disappear for a few days, this will be why. I'm going to try to conserve battery power on my phone and laptop, since I won't know how long the power might be out if it does go, so I'll probably check in on Twitter, since it's quicker. If for some reason I can't post anything myself, I'll probably call foresthouse, who (as my Literary Representative and Internet Lawyer) can then update people on Twitter. But this is an "Oh my God, it's been three days, where is Cleo?!" scenario. I'm hoping it's just going to be all of us snowed in with lots of electricity and internet and, apparently, football. Because if people can't watch Auburn tomorrow night, I am pretty sure there will be civil unrest.

Oh, and now my friend David reports,

@griner: Birmingham: Winter storm update from @abc3340: http://bit.ly/fUsKqG Going to be a craaazy night.


ETA: State of emergency declared in Alabama; up to 10" of snow predicted in some areas.


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As long as the military doesn't have to be dispatched to dig you out, you'll be fine. /1998 ice storm

Ooh, I remember that one.

As a fellow Southerner, a few weeks ago we got something like 8 inches of snow in eastern NC.


We made the French Revolution look BORING. People were FLIPPING RIGHT THE FUCK ON OUT, and it was scary as hell. Somehow, strangely, my work didn't shut down, so of COURSE I had to go in, but I didn't make it there til almost noon, because of how bad the snows were. And EVERYWHERE, people were spinning out or slamming into trees or just sitting in the snow, SOBBING.

It was probably one of the scariest things I've ever seen, and I have been through my fair share of hurricanes (Floyd, I'm looking at you). Plus, I come from up North, so at first I didn't understand why there was mad panic in the streets.

But yes. The South will make the Civil War look ordinary when it comes to snow.

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I'm in a northern suburb of Atlanta. I have 5 days of food in the fridge, I can cobble together another week of meals together out of the pantry, and I hope this is just a drive-by of a storm because Atlanta cannot cope with a real storm.

My husband tells me tales of the "blizzard of 93" where things were bad for a week.

Yep. I'm here in middle Georgia surrounded by oaks and pines, so I know exactly what you mean. I remember once a long time ago when we were living in a small garage apartment, an ice laden tree branch brought down a power line that fell right across the steps that were our only exit. There was nothing to do but sit there and pray the place didn't catch on fire before somebody came from GA Power. (Obviously we survived).




Hoping everything turns out alright for you. I'm in Connecticut, so people not knowing how to deal with snow was always weird to me - until I got stuck in Heathrow on my way back from school right before Christmas. England, like most of the South, is just not prepared to deal with it, and for me it gets incredibly frustrating. Hopefully mass transit stays open and too many people don't get stranded. Keep warm and hope for the best is all I can say.

We actually don't have a whole lot of mass transit down here. It's a car kind of town. So yeah. Lots of getting stranded. When I was about three and there was a big snow, my mother had to walk miles home from her office in high heels to get home.

I live in Michigan, we get snow all the time. You'd think that we'd a) know how to deal with it and b) not shut things down that much. But, no. Where I grew up (mid-Michigan), we often didn't have school because it was shut due to an impending storm that never came. And even where I live now (Southeast Michigan), they occasionally shut things down for an inch of snow. Granted, we have snow plows and everything, but we also have cities that refuse to use them (as revenge) or can't afford to.

And, you know, people in the Detroit metro area are the worst drivers I have ever seen -- no matter the weather.

I wish you good luck, Cleo.

Ditto for Northern Virginia.

Sending prayers your way and hoping for the best, Cleo!

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An actual national forest extends right down into the city of Atlanta. So yeah, trees, we got 'em. Lots of 'em. And no underground utilities. Ice storms are not of the good.

I've been trying to figure out where I put the one shovel I (thought I) kept when I moved back here from New Jersey. I'm beginning to think I hallucinated it. :-/

Snow actually sticks and accumulates faster the closer it is to freezing, so 30º might actually do more damage.

Is the soil down there really sandy/loamy? It sounds like the trees will topple over if you look at them hard enough, and that just doesn't happen up here (Chicago) unless there is severe icing or wind. I wonder if it's because of the type of soil you have (we have a hard clay up here), or because the ground probably never really freezes before the storms, which would help anchor them to the ground.

Yeah, this particular area doesn't have much clay. We can't ever get the ground to freeze enough to get the snow to stick in a milder storm, so that seems to corroborate what you're saying, yeah. Nothing gets anchored.

I'd like another three-day ice storm in Austin. UT actually shut down for three whole days. Ah, memories. And mimosas.

See, all of that makes a certain amount of sense. I don't understand why people in CT still freak out about storms/snow/ice in general. I mean, it's kind of nice coming from Ohio where there are actual legal levels of weather emergency that determine a lot of closings and being out on roads and stuff (most businesses will only close for a level 3 weather emergency, which means that people are not legally allowed to be on the roads). But in CT it's like "getting surprised by winter since 1620." News flash - it's not just God punishing you the one time, it doesn't matter how good you are, winter will be here next year also.

Heeeeee. Yeah, I can understand people in the north (apart from CT, it seems) expressing no surprise or panic at their own weather. They're used to it (or should be), and generally are prepared for it on an institutional level.

(Atlanta here)

Fill up your bathtub with water to flush the toilet in case the pipes burst.

Why yes, my father DOES come up with worst-case scenarios.

I used to do that when I lived in NC because when we lost power, we lost water. All we had was what was in the pipes.

I hear you about the trees. We have a massive willow tree in our backyard that, given one good chance to topple over, could take out the left side of our house. Luckily, when we had a mircoburst about ten years ago, only a tree branch fell. It took out our power lines and crushed part of our fence, but it could've been a lot worse.

Hope you guys stay safe!

Ah, ice storms. We get them here (Prince Edward Island, Canada) from time to time. They always take down trees and power lines. They make for nice photo ops, though! This one happened a few years ago:


It sounds like you're more prepared than most people here (we tend to underestimate how bad ice storms, hurricanes and the like will be around here because we get "bad" weather so often, heh). I hope everything goes well, that no trees fall on you, and that you get some nice pictures afterwards!

Another person who lives in PEI!! I moved up here two years ago from Pennsylvania to go to school. I've yet to see a really bad ice storm, but there's more snow here than I'm used to. I'm from southern PA where we don't get snow until January/February. The fact that there's been snow showers every day for the last week still weirds me out a bit.

My best friend is from Virginia who went to school with me in PA. She didn't know that windshield washer fluid came with deicer and was always wondering why her washer fluid was constantly freezing. That's not to say we in PA are effective in dealing with snow...I'm talking to you, Boro who doesn't plow the alleys for FOUR DAYS.

I do think it's funny when people from other parts of the country brag about how much worse their weather is than the South's. Yeah, congratulations.

Pretty much, yeah. I KNOW it's worse. The point is that y'all up there can handle it. An inch of ice could cause massive injury and property damage down here.

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Uh, well, I shall send you a bunch of well wishes from Los Angeles, where a week of rain makes everyone think The End Is Nigh.

Hee, yeah. Also: appropriate icon is appropriate.