Oh, Snow

It is a city-wide pastime when we get snow to either go to the stores and buy up all the bread and milk or make fun of all the people buying up all the bread and milk, with Southerners getting mad at Yankees who invariably are like, “Oh, ha ha, it’s just a little snow! I can still see grass in my yard and they’re closing school?! Ha ha ha ha ha.”

I will just say that, in defense of the natives, “snow” here means something a little different than “snow” in the Midwest. We have, for instance, today, what I would call a light snow. I can still see my grass poking up through it and make out a couple of the joints in my sidewalk. It’s not a snow you even bother to shovel for. Or at least, we didn’t. I mean, you figure, if the sun comes out today, all the snow will be gone off the places you need to walk.

This is my expert opinion, based on years of growing up in a place that gets a lot of snow every winter, for much of the winter.

Who gets worked up over snow that’s going to be gone by Monday?

Well, I’m here to tell you that all it takes is moving a little further out to be deeply humbled in your attitude towards southern snow.  Because here’s the thing–it’s not just that they don’t have the equipment to deal with it, it’s that the “snow” doesn’t behave like winter weather should.

It should be, since it’s winter, dry enough that, if, say, the snow on your sidewalk melts, the water gets sucked up into the air like a sponge. Not so much down here. The water melts, sits on that surface, and then, when it gets cold enough again, freezes. My poor porch, which didn’t get enough snow to worry me yesterday is now covered in a sheet of ice with a thin layer of snow.

As might all non-organic surfaces be.

It’s as if every Southern “snow” is actually an ice event. And once you realize that, you stop making fun of people who prepare to get stuck in their houses.


In other stupid news, the hose was still connected to the house as of the plumbers’ arrival yesterday. I can say with certainty that the last time anyone used the hose was when I hooked it back up to fill up the kiddie pool for the dog. In August. There is no one to blame but me. I can only hope that the fucking pipe hasn’t burst.

I’m so mad at myself.


24 thoughts on “Oh, Snow

  1. Right on. The streets in our neighborhood don’t look bad from my window, but when I see this on the Tennessean…

    …considering I take Rocky Fork to get to work, I’m staying home.

  2. The yard is more grass (and weeds) than snow, but our road is an ice skating rink. THREE school buses were in accidents yesterday. Yet, twitter and facebook are filled with people whining about how we are just too stupid to be driving.

  3. I opted for a way home last night that would avoid construction but would take me up long and curving inclines (Tyne Blvd between Granny White & Hillsboro Rd). Wrong answer.

    I mean, in my little front-wheel drive 6-speed, I know to gear down rather than to brake, etc. but the ride down was a little harrowing. There was a bowling-ball sheen of ice on the crest of a hill and a few cars off on the side that didn’t know to use their low gear.

    Still, I had to laugh yesterday when there wasn’t even dandruff for flurries, and it’d been declared a “snow day.”

    whining about how we are just too stupid to be driving.

    “Stupid” is reserved for the folks who don’t know how to drive in winter conditions who insist that since their cars are equipped with 4WD that they’ll be OK. Four wheels spin and skid on ice just as readily as two.

  4. We once drove from Bloomington, Illinois to Chicago in a terrible blizzard. A blizzard so bad that they were closing the interstate behind us. You couldn’t get off I-55 because none of the exits were clear. The only way out was forward. And we drove 35 miles an hour much of the way. At times (my college roommate was driving) I had to stick my head out the window into the blizzardy conditions to make sure we were still on the left side of the white line.

    It was perhaps one of the stupidest things I ever did in college.

    But what sticks with me to this day is that we were in a little Chevy Cavalier and we were passed by big old four wheel drive SUVs, hauling along like they had no a care in the world, and we passed every one of those fuckers later when they were off in the ditch.

    It was at that moment when I realized that good driving will do you more good than the “right” vehicle.

    And it is at this moment when I am learning all about ice. Not that we didn’t have ice in the midwest, but usually it was because of an ice storm or just a slick spot. You never ran the risk of the whole damn street system turning into a hockey rink every time it snows.

    And that is the case here. I’m much more nervous about hearing we’ll get 2″ of snow here than I would have been about 2′ of snow in Illinois.

  5. It’s as if every Southern “snow” is actually an ice event. And once you realize that, you stop making fun of people who prepare to get stuck in their houses.


    I grew up in the south but mostly in the mountains so I know real snow and southern snow, and you’re absolutely right that it is an ice event, which is ridiculously treacherous.

  6. I was going to say you’d probably know by now if the pipe had burst, but it’s the thaw that will tell. Better keep an eye on that wall once we get a day above freezing. Might be worth your while to turn off the water main if no one is going to be home.

    How old is your house? You probably could stand to get a couple of those insulated valve covers from a hardware store if it’s too old to have frost free valves.

  7. The house was built in ’51, I think. Maybe ’52. It’s still got all its original piping (except for where we just put in pvc after taking out the old trap).

    I just feel like a dumbass because my other brother warned me about this when we bought the house–“Never leave the hose hooked up.”

    So, I can’t say I didn’t have fair warning.

  8. I’m much more nervous about hearing we’ll get 2″ of snow here than I would have been about 2′ of snow in Illinois.

    Growing up in Low Point, IL* I recall that there were entire months that the snow didn’t melt off, the rivers froze, and school didn’t get cancelled for less than 3″ (I think that 6″ was more of the minimum). You’d have shopping malls where the snow was piled up into banks around the light poles; it seemed like those would be about a story tall in some cases. The alleys behind our houses would have inch thick layers of ice with two ruts worn in them; if you encountered a car going the opposite direction, one of you would have to back out.

    I vividly recall a winter sojourn to the Paris hardwood lumber mill where it was so cold out that my sister and I had to wrap up our feet in a sleeping bag because the heat didn’t work on the floor (this was in an old VW van) and the chill was simply crippling.

    And I hear ya about the whiteout conditions. I remember one Xmas driving through about 10% visibility on I-57 between Champaign and Chicago.

    Strangely enough, I don’t know that winters are really like that there anymore.

    * Danville. If you know the area, you’ll understand the moniker.

  9. OK, so the thing is, I only make fun of Southerners when they are talking about “snow” or “ice” like it’s some magical thing no one has ever seen. Seriously, I went to college with a bunch of kids from Nashville and every winter, same thing. You get a horrible storm, it snows, melts, and turns the city into one big ice castle. Every. Damn. Year. And yet, Every. Damn. Year. the news cover this “uncommon” phenomenon and people complain about how no one knows how to drive in winter weather because it’s the “south.”

    I think it’s time Nashvillians realize that while it may be considered “southern” every damn year you get northern-winter effects and get over it and learn how to deal with winter weather.

    Obviously not talking about you and other cogent Nashvillians, Aunt B, but if I hear another story about how Nashville is taken “by surprise” at a freeze or even how St. Louis is shut-down because they don’t know how to deal with snow I’m going to hurl something at the TV.

  10. When did St. Louis forget how to deal with snow? I went through 12 years of school there, with 20 or so inches of snow every year, and we had one — one — snow day that whole time. When it snowed several inches one day in April, after the snow plows had been put away for the year. Now the city shuts down? This is becoming a nation of wimps, I tell ya.

  11. nm, I dated a guy from St. Louis for a while and every time it snowed, the news reports were always talking about how the city wasn’t “prepared” and all the businesses were closing, etc. This happened at least two winters in a row…

    Maybe they’ve gotten better?

  12. I doubt it; I’m oooooold. And I don’t mean that no schools in the city ever closed, since plenty of them did, but mine (public school, no buses) didn’t. I think they are quicker to close things now, everywhere. I’m not sure why.

  13. Um, why do you have to disconnect the hose? We’re going down to 22 tonight in Houston, so I disconnected mine because of what’s been said here, but… why? It’s an empty tube of plastic? How does a hose make a pipe burst?

  14. @O.C. *handing you a hot cup of your favorite beverage*

    Yes, it’s %$#@! COLD here in Johnson City, too. Way cold.

    In answer to your question- This is a potential hazard for so-called “frost-free” sillcocks. I should know, because it happened to me when I lived in NY. These kinds of sillcocks have their washer and seat located far inside the wall- the outside handle turns a long shaft (inside a long copper tube) that moves the washer on or off the seat. If installed properly, when the valve is turned off, the water will be cut off inside the house, and whatever remains inside the tube will drain out of the spout. If that doesn’t happen (due to an offending garden hose, for example), the water can freeze inside the tube, inside the wall, and then you’ll have a mess the next time you turn on the faucet.

    That’s probably more information than you’ll ever need, but it was fun to write!

  15. EasternStarGeek, that was very helpful. Now I wonder if my heated crawl space will save me – I just checked outside, and both my hoses are attached to the house. Yes, I know…

  16. Thanks, EasternStarGeek!

    I’m betting that I don’t have “frost-free” ANYTHING in or on my house, but the hose is disconnected all the same.

  17. @O.C., you can get away with the hose if you don’t leave the nozzle on, but the hose itself can be damaged from being out in the cold. If the water has somewhere to expand, it shouldn’t take out your faucets, but cold and rubber don’t particularly like each other.

    @Peach, in New York when it snows every garbage truck turns into a snowplow, and the whole city is plowed within a few hours. They can afford to do that because it snows often during most winters. In the south, we aren’t prepared for snow because it makes no sense to pay to prepare for the maybe once or twice a year snow. Instead we do the minimum, salt the main highways, and if the snow sticks around get to the suburbs of the big cities around the third day (and forget it if you’re in a rural area).

  18. B., maybe I’m just stupid (always a good possibility) but… this house was built around 1961-62 and is probably all or mostly original pipes on my side, and in the almost 22 years I’ve lived here, the only time there has NOT been a hose connected to the wall outside was for about two minutes when I replaced the old hose with a new one about 12-13 years ago.

    Last year and this year there’s been one of those styrofoam-ish covers over the faucet (not my doing but my neighbor’s) but still – 20 years without even that, and always connected.

    I never knew you were supposed to disconnect them. Then again obviously that hasn’t made any difference in 22 years.

    So, I dunno, eh. *shrug*

  19. mjw, I get that for cities that don’t regularly see bad winter weather. My point was that Nashville sees bad winter weather every year but still never seem “prepared.” I’d think after a few years, they’d realize it’s now “common” and plan for it, “south” or no “south.”

  20. John Lamb, I feel better knowing I’m in such esteemed company!

    Peach, under normal circumstances, I would agree with you, but they actually have taken some measures to be “prepared” this year. Measures that include… And I am not even kidding you… spreading beet juice on the roadways.

    Yes, to prepare for an ice event, we spread a freezable liquid on the roadways.

    It’s as if we heard “prepare for” and thought that meant “insure there will be.”

    W. may know the reasoning behind the beet juice, but at this point, I’d rather they stop trying to help, if that’s the help.

  21. Beet juice (a mildly sugary stuff) works with the road salt to lower the freezing point of the brine solution. According to the company that pushes one of the beet juice products, road brine starts freezing up at 18 degrees. The beet-brine solution (marketed as Geomelt) freezes at 20 below zero.

  22. Peach, it’s still a cost benefit thing. Yes, there will be bad weather in Nashville most winters, but how much? 3 days out of 365? Maybe 6 days? How much are you willing to pay in taxes to prepare for that?

  23. I was originally impressed with the response to the 16″ of snow we got here in VA, where we don’t usually get more than an inch or so tops. That was until the city announced that they blew so much of their budget taking care of keeping the streets clear that they are having to lay some of it’s workers off for the rest of the fiscal year!

  24. bridgett hit it on the beet juice. It lowers the freezing temperature of the salt mix. They’re also saying it helps the salt stick to the road instead of bouncing and rolling off when it drops off the truck.

    I’m not sure having a hose makes any difference on a non ‘frost free’ hose spigot. EasternStarGeek explained it pretty similar to how the plumber explained it to me. On a frost free spigot the valve is deeper in the wall so as to insulate it a little. If you don’t have a hose attached, the 18 or so inches between the valve and the end of the spigot drain out and are dry. If you have a hose attached, the water can’t drain.

    Your plumbing is too old for frost free so the valve is on the outside of the wall and the water in the pipe is that much closer to the outer air. So I don’t think the hose would make much difference. Though the water in the hose itself could freeze and add to the problem.

    The thing about hoses is if you have a pressure spray handle on the end they stay full of water and can freeze in the cold. Water expands when it freezes so it can burst your hose (or pipes). That’s also why they say to leave a faucet dripping inside your house. So if water in the pipes freezes the extra pressure is released out the open spigot.

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