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.
ETA 3:30 PM CST: THE SLEET HAS BEGUN.