Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winter in Raleigh


                                                                                                                                      Photo: Meth Swanson

Recently relocated Yankees are always very amused by the school closings that happen on the mere threat of an inch of snow here in the Raleigh area.  I know, I was absolutely dumbfounded by their ‘ridiculous over-reaction’ my first winter here as well.  But once you have lived through a couple of ‘Raleigh Winters’ you start to understand why it’s not as crazy as it sounds. But, before I explain why, let’s take a look at some facts about this crazy winter of 2013/2014.

Late February 2
It is mid- February.  Yesterday it was in the upper 60’s and today’s high is 72 degrees. I am writing this entry on a laptop on my patio in short sleeves, facing the warm afternoon sun.  In New York yesterday it snowed most of the day again, bringing the city's total for the winter to a whopping 56.6 inches. The frigid temperatures have kept most of that snow hanging around piling up one storm after another, and the winter is not over yet for the north. For North Carolina, spring has now arrived.  It always does by the end of February… about 2 months before NY. 

Don’t get me wrong, it has been a VERY NASTY season for the south.  It was bad EVERYWHERE this winter, with Snow on the ground in in every continental state except Florida.  While it was odd to see consistently freezing temperatures for several days on end due to the “polar vortex” here in the Raleigh Triangle, it was by no means the worst or snowiest.  That record was set in 2000 which gave the area just over 20 inches. This year didn't even come close with a cumulative 2013/2014 snow fall of 2.70 inches at Raleigh Durham Airport, according to National Weather Service weather stations.  Still, the Raleigh metro area (and the metro area of Atlanta, Georgia) made headlines with panic and chaos this month.

                                                                               Photo:  Lindsey Webb
What is wrong with these southerners? What is it that makes them go so crazy about an inch or 2 of snow?

The answer is – it’s NOT ABOUT THE SNOW at all.

 The reason the south panics about 'a little snow' I have learned, isn't the snow itself so much (although they are truly unprepared to deal with much...wait until you hear about them "brining" the roads with salt water...I still don't understand the logic behind watered down road salt) it's more about the rapid melting and refreezing that happens here which makes for very dangerous conditions for any kind of movement.

We hover between 30 and 40 degrees in the winter just long enough to melt/thaw during the day and freeze at night, creating vast sheets of ice or patches of that invisible ‘black ice’.  There is simply NO traction, even for the hardiest of 4 wheel drive vehicles.  I have come to respect many of their warnings, albeit with a dose NY cynicism.

Rapid melting then refreezing
We transplanted Yankees have NO FEAR when it comes to the dustings of snow…but we learn fast that dustings melt and turn to water

and then freezes. It doesn’t melt again until noon the next day.  The reason the schools close, is because they don’t want to be liable for school buses losing control on the ICY roads. So technically a lot of our "snow days" are really "Ice Days".

Two days after snow storm -
 snow almost all gone
The good news is – even if we get several inches of snow – it only takes a few days for it all to melt away.  Just enough time for the local kids to have a little fun. At most it's a minor inconvenience, not like the endless shoveling out the northeast gets hit with year after year. I don’t miss that one bit!

Tree Blooming late February 2011

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