Virginia’s first snow of the year

When it snows in the south, people notice.  Even a hint of snow sends everyone scrambling for the nearest grocer’s to clear the shelves of milk, bread, and the essential toilet paper.  Their fear would be funny if it weren’t based in reality.

Their fear is well-founded.  In the south, because snow is not a regular occurrence, communities do not own the same sort of effective snow-removal equipment, dedicated to continued street clearing and ice prevention.  Here, they slap a blade to the front of trash collection trucks and, after a one-day training, send out the troops.  The set the blade approximately 6″ above the pavement so as not to ruin the roads.  This effectively does nothing.  Like a barber’s trim, when the blade passes over the snow, skimming an inch or two off the top, the large tires and weight of the truck mash down the snow and creating ruts, ruts that refreeze overnight.  Daybreak comes, and the roads are suitable for ice skating, as long as you are fully prepared for the “speed bump” ruts that strike fear in the hearts of drivers whose vehicles have become bumper cars, sliding from one rut to the next, and hoping they don’t hit the nearest electric pole. And these are the major roads.

Of course only the ignorant actually drive on our snow and frozen rut-covered streets.  Nobody around here knows how, so the danger is that someone moves here from the north and assumes everyone has had on-the-road training to drive in snow.  No.  My Bean, who grew up in MN & WI, parks her vehicles in the garage and doesn’t budge until the snow and ice melt.  Most drivers in Central Virginia are crazy, acting as if there’s no problem out there, and simply zip down the roads because they foolishly believe that they are above it all, or that their 4-wheel drive makes them gods on ice.  Um…no.

Our little neighborhood streets are always promised a plowing, for whatever good that may do, once the main roads and side roads are cleared.  But neighborhood roads almost never see more than a dump truck dribbling some sand mixed with a chemical intended to melt the ice, once the temps rise above freezing.  We sit in our neighborhoods, unable to get to those main streets. Our most recent snow occurred on Saturday.  It was Wednesday when I typed this, and we had not seen a plow or a sand truck yet, though the eventual melt-down did reveal sand on the road’s edges.  On Wednesday, children were still home from schools that remain closed, and temps finally rose to the freezing mark for a high Tuesday afternoon.  Busses couldn’t get down many of the neighborhood roads, and so they closed the schools for all students, even the ones who live next door or for whom busses could get through.   Wednesday, the high temp went over 50 degrees, more typical of our winters, so we wait for the snow to simply melt in order that our lives can return to normal.  Thursday, the schools re-opened at last.

I was thinking that, had this same 7-10″ snow fallen on a Monday, students would have missed a full week of school. Because this happens only a couple of times each winter, I understand why the city and surrounding communities can’t afford to purchase and maintain major snow removal equipment and train its workers to use it properly, but I question whether having children sitting home for days on end waiting for a melt down is a smart trade-off.

Maybe one of those kids, sitting home with nothing to do for days except watch the grass slowly reappear from beneath the melting snow, will think up a good solution for the future.

Or maybe not.  Most kids are thrilled with their unplanned-for holiday.  No need to spoil it with solutions.

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