By Bob Ciminel
January 28, 2006
The denizens who inhabit metropolitan Atlanta panic at the mere mention of snow, which is surprising because many of them - and all the ones who drive - came down here from the North, including places where "winter" means nine months of snow and ice followed by three months of poor sledding.
A winter storm warning results in news flashes and radio updates at about the same frequency as the rush hour traffic reports - every six minutes. The highways and byways become jammed with people rushing out to buy bread, milk, beer, and gas. The order of priority for those purchases being determined primarily by age, marital status, and family size. If any of those four items are unavailable, beer immediately moves to the top of the list. Those seen topping off their gas tanks typically drive four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles, heavily weighted toward large SUVs.
A single flake of snow or an icicle observed anywhere within a 500-mile radius of Atlanta is the signal to initiate 24-hour coverage of the impending storm. Reporters and remote broadcast trucks are dispatched to strategic overpasses and hills where previous storms have resulted in lots of video of cars, trucks and buses uncontrollably sliding into guard rails or other objects. As they wait for the snow, the cameras focus on the ground to detect the slightest glimmer of ice or freezing rain. The reporters make small talk encouraging people not to drive in ice or snow, all the while praying that two or three hundred idiots will ignore them - which is a given - and hit that slick spot on the overpass doing about 70 miles an hour, which is only 20 miles an hour slower than they normally drive, unless it's raining, in which case they speed up.
When, and if, the storm finally arrives, most people are totally fatigued from the coverage. The snow usually comes late at night or early in the morning, timing its arrival for the morning rush hour. People are surprised. There has been so much coverage of the coming storm that many forgot when it was actually supposed to snow.
The schools close and most people stay home and watch the news. The smart ones wait until 11 o'clock and give the inevitable sunshine that follows every storm time to melt it away. Then they cautiously drive to work, remarking at all the four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive SUVs that have slid into ditches, trees, or each other.
Ah, winter in Atlanta. One
of the few places where else can you watch the Keystone Cops,
Three Stooges, and your favorite cartoon characters all at the
On the Web:
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.