Central portion of North Carolina suffered a complete traffic paralysis today. Some people remained in their cars for over eight hours (some are still there, I guess) across highways and byways of the Triangle Area, especially roads going into Raleigh . A number of kids are having dinners and sleepovers at their schools because the school buses could not get anywhere, and parents couldn't either. What happened? Just 3/4 inches of snow.
Well, I've been living here for 14 years and I can tell you - it snows here every winter. And every year the locals are surprised! "What? Snow! Here? This is South! How can it be? What global warming!?" Schools, churches and businesses close, stores are emptied of bottled water and firewood, local news stations are making a big deal out of the whole thing.
How is this night different from all the other nights? It is all a matter of timing. Even when we get a couple of feet of snow (like last year), it all falls during the night. The city wakes up in the morning to see the beautiful white blanket. Everyone stays at home and builds a snowman and it is all fine. But today, it started out about noon. And the first snowflakes seemed so tiny and insignificant. Then it suddenly got bad and, of course, schools, churches and businesses let everyone out on the roads simultaneously. As a result, everyone with a motor vehicle suddenly showed up on the road and on a very slippery surface. The city bulldozers and salt-trucks could not pass through the stopped traffic. Everything came to a standstill except for a few 16-wheelers slowly and elegantly sliding off the highways into ditches.
I thought I had it bad, but I was actually lucky. I started from Raleigh early enough. It took me 40 minutes to pass the first mile, out of the little side streets, my station wagon spinning out of control on every corner at 1 mph. I then stopped to refuel, get my bearings, and some Coke, and used the drugstore phone (I am the last person on Earth still without a cellphone) to call my wife and tell her about early school closings and the whole situation.
It took another 1 hour and 20 minutes for the next 5 miles, getting on I-40 and driving on it till about the Airport exit. People were actually quite smart about their driving. Instead of stop and go - a dangerous thing on thin ice - everyone just drove continuously but very slowly. The last 22 miles took only about 40 minutes. That part of I-40 was cleaned up, and all the streets in Chapel Hill were pretty dry and clean. Only the downhill on my street down to my house appeared treacherous, but it worked out fine.
Driving for 2:40 hours on ice, completely surrounded by cars that are slipping and sliding as much as your car does is so physically draining. It requires 100% concentration. You have to be absolutely focused on your driving and "feel" every inch of your each tire as it treads the surface. It is like flying a jet fighter in formation at an air show, I guess.
I got home completely drained. The local TV news stations asked people not to use the phone or dial-up connections without absolute neccessity, as the phone lines were so busy, people could not even get their 911 calls through (and there were 340 minor accidents between noon and 5pm in Raleigh alone). Thus I remained offline until now. And now I am too tired to think, write and post something as brilliant as usual. Y'all will just have to suffer, I guess. In the meantime, go to Legal Fiction (http://lawandpolitics.blogspot.com/) and read last few posts by Publius and a guest post by Eric Martin (of http://tianews.blogspot.com fame)- REALLY good stuff!