On very thin ice

by Brian Clarey


There’s an old saw about the weather stipulating that everybody’s complains, but nobody does anything about it.

But here in the North Carolina Piedmont Triad, we somehow manage to do both.

It’s not news that even the whispered rumor of a snowstorm around here brings throngs of freaked-out homebodies to the grocery store to wipe out local supplies of milk, eggs and bread. French toast, anyone?

Likewise, it’s no secret that born-and-raised Southerners are apprehensive about driving on snowy or icy roads.

And everybody knows that the public schools of the Triad have a hair trigger when it comes to closing down due to inclement weather.

Everybody loves a snow day, but this is getting ridiculous. Last week, a single snowstorm — not a blizzard, but a fairly routine dusting lasting less than 12 hours that left perhaps an inch of snow on the ground — shut down Guilford County and Forsyth County/Winston-Salem schools for four days. Four days! That’s longer than it took for President George Bush to visit New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit.

The problem, everyone will tell you, is ice on the roads that makes driving hazardous, and this is a valid point. A student at Reagan high School in Forsyth County died in the aftermath of the last blizzard due to an accident in icy road conditions. And it’s true that snow in this part of the world turns to ice fairly quickly when left on roads, driveways and sidewalks.

Which is why it needs to be salted, plowed, shoveled or otherwise dealt with within 24 hours of the end of a storm. And this is not a function of the private sector.

Right now we don’t have the infrastructure to handle even minor snowstorms, as evidenced by last week’s virtual shutdown of our school systems. But it seems to us a wise investment to bring on more plows, salt trucks and whatever other equipment is necessary to scrape a couple inches of snow off our main roads inside of a day. Snow is a fairly regular part of winters here in the North Carolina Piedmont Triad these days, and we can’t afford to be paralyzed by a couple hours of flurries.

Closing schools means kids stay home, which means a lot of parents are unable to work. And when roads remain treacherous for several days after a snowfall, every commercial business that exists on these roads suffers.

Except, of course, for the grocery stores, which do a brisk business in French toast makings.

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