Ten months since moving to Myrtle Beach I am still learning ways in which the south is different from out west. I love observing and experiencing the ways in which the two cultures differ, it is very interesting and fun to me. This week I have come across another major contrast.
Growing up in the northwest, getting around and dealing with the snow was just a fact of life. From at least October through March we knew that snow would fall and driving would become a little more hazardous. Sometimes, when the white stuff would come in accumulations of a foot or two, maneuvering a motor vehicle would get especially tricky.
Another part of growing up was hearing stories about far off lands that rarely had the blessing of snow or ice. You would hear about towns shutting down, motorists abandoning vehicles, and people freaking out. Because these measures seemed so drastic and so over the top, the question of whether these things actually occurred always went through our heads.
I can now say that they do…to a degree.
On Monday, the threat of a winter storm loomed over the Grand Strand area. The local media ran with it and forecasted snow and ice! The major school district in our area raised the white flag immediately. At 6 p.m. on Monday the district’s leadership cancelled school for the next day. This decision came before even one snowflake could fall, let alone one raindrop. The technical college in the area followed suit. We here at Coastal decided to wait until 6 a.m. on Tuesday to make a final decision.
Oh, I guess I wasn’t very specific when I noted that the forecast called for snow and ice. Let me fill you in on what was expected: The weather service warned of up to a HALF INCH of snow accumulation with periods of possible freezing rain. Armageddon.
Come Tuesday morning the forecast had not materialized. However, because the threat still loomed for later in the day, Coastal made the move to cancel classes. However, campus was still open and employees were required to come to work. As someone who hates snow days (or “threat of snow” days in this case), I was very happy that campus was still left open.
The snow never came. The dangerous road ice never made an appearance either, although icicles did form on cars which looked kind of cool. For people not from the South and even for those native to it, it seemed a little strange to walk around in mild temperatures and just rain while knowing that schools and services were closed. Perhaps the weirdest moment for many came this morning. As another precautionary measure to miss the threat of a storm, most of the Myrtle Beach/Conway area didn’t start classes/work/life until 10 a.m. today. With the temperatures pleasant and no precipitation at all, the delay seemed rather wacky to some.
But don’t count me as one of them! Although I do admit that I was a little shocked at first with the reaction to what constitutes June weather in Montana, I did come to realize why such decisions are made.
People in this area of the country are not used to snow and ice. Not only are folks not used to it, but necessary equipment for the removal of such hazards are not readily available either. Thus, even with the threat of a snow dusting, closures can be necessary because if it does materialize, there would not be an efficient way to remove it. Even a miniscule amount of snow can make roads dangerous. For those not accustomed to driving in it, the chance for accidents increase.
So it is not about being brave or macho. It is about being safe. Different areas of the country are accustomed to different climates and patterns. I am sure my hometown of Spokane would freak out and collapse if a hurricane warning came. A little perspective and background can go a long way when understanding why different areas respond to weather situations like they do. Don’t Blink.