The Mountain Times

°F Mon, April 21, 2014

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Snow storm preparation just ain’t what it used to be


As I write this column, the East is being hammered by a storm of epic proportions. Vermonters know well the effects of a classic Nor'easter. But those who live in the Southeast are simply not equipped to handle snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain.
When winter weather rears its ugly head below the Mason-Dixon Line, life basically comes to a standstill. Schools, banks and businesses shut their doors and batten down the hatches. DOT departments do the best they can to keep roads clear, but their inventory of snow removal equipment is skeletal at best. As they say in South Carolina, "The interstates are clear, y'all just can't get to them."
In the Northeast and experienced my share of snow storms. There was a standard precipitation protocol that everyone followed. But times have changed and gearing up for a snow event simply isn't what it used to be.
Here we go again - another "good old days" comparison column for all you Boomers out there.
Today, we track a storm by looking at Doppler radars, listening to weather alerts on our battery-powered weather radio and watching The Weather Channel non-stop.
Back then we knew bad weather was coming because grandpa's arthritis was acting up or grandma recognized a snow storm sky when she saw one.
Back then we stocked up on candles, bought fresh batteries for the flashlight (there was only one per household, it took D batteries and dad was the only person allowed to handle it), filled rinsed out milk cartons with water and filled the bathtub so we could use it to flush the toilets if the power went out because the well pump would be out too.
Today, we purchase expensive generators and backup battery packs so we can keep our phones, iPads and laptops running. No problem on the lights, we can use the flashlight app on our smart phones. Two cases of bottled water from Walmart and we consider ourselves prepared.
Back then, mom planned menus for a three-day stint, wrote out a precise shopping list, clipped her coupons, visited the grocery store, paid cash and collected her green stamps. She went on a cooking frenzy and after each meal, she packed up the leftovers in her prized Tupperware containers and placed them in the freezer so she was prepared for the next storm.
Today, we run to the supermarket buying bread, milk and eggs along with other items we don't particularly eat even when the weather is good. When we get hungry, we throw caution to the wind (and ice), throw our oversized SUV into four-wheel drive and maneuver our way to the nearest Waffle House or Dunkin Donuts because they never close. A week later, we throw away the bread, milk and eggs that never even got touched.
Back then we pulled out the board games, card decks and giant jigsaw puzzles to keep ourselves amused. The entire family sat around the kitchen table to play Monopoly for hours or to put together the puzzle starting with all the edge pieces first.
Today, every family member retreats to their own corner of the house playing video games or browsing the internet on their personal electronic device.
Back then we "created" outfits for playing in the snow using long johns, corduroys, flannel shirts, waterproof jackets, two pair of socks, galoshes, idiot mittens and woolen hats. We looked like overstuffed rag muffins. But so long as we could stay warm, we played outside for hours.
Today, we don clothing bought at sporting goods stores emblazoned with logos and it all must be color coordinated. We don't care if we get cold, so long as we look good.
Back then, mom and dad put a shovel in our hands and sent us outside to clear the walkway and driveway. We were also expected to shovel the driveways of any elderly neighbors who lived on our street - and we didn't expect to be paid for it. They also gave us a broom so we could brush every speck of snow off the car to allow for safe driving with totally unobstructed sight lines.
Today, we start the car 15 minutes before we are ready to leave the house so it will be warm. Once inside, we turn on the windshield wipers to clear enough snow from the windshield to see what's in front of us. We drive off, headed for the nearest Starbucks, allowing the rest of the snow to blow off into the path of other drivers. If it doesn't come off quickly enough, we hit the gas pedal to help it along.
Back then, if schools were closed during a storm, kids rejoiced like it was Christmas. We got up early so we could go outside, build a snow fort or snow man, have a snowball fight or do anything snow related so we could enjoy it while it lasted. When school reopened, mom rejoiced like it was Christmas.
Today, if schools close for a storm, kids sleep in to make up for staying up too late playing the afore-mentioned video games. By noon they get cajoled into going outside to enjoy the snow while it lasts. With half a snowman built, they traipse back in the house complaining it's too cold outside. When school reopens, mom rejoices like it's Christmas.
I guess some things do remain the same.
Cindy Phillips is a columnist for The Mountain Times. She can be reached directly at cphillipsauthor@yahoo.com.