A Yankee’s Guide to drving in Southern Snow

First of all… Welcome Y’all!


We southerner’s love our northern friends and love to share stories of our different experiences.  One such difference is the way southern cities shut down at the first threat of snow and how people drive in the snow down here vs. up north.

Our friends from up North are usually flaberghasted at how “crazy” we react to snow, pile up at the local grocery stores, empty the shelves of milk, bread, and eggs, and how badly we drive in the snow, believing that there should be no excuse for any of it, because hey, “we have snow in the north ALL THE TIME and it’s no big deal!  What’s wrong with you people?”

We usually smile and nod, because we’re polite and pride ourselves on our Southern hospitality.

So, here’s the Yankee’s guide to dealing with snow in the south.  It’s actually more of a list of things you need to understand.

There are some differences between the north and the south that you need to understand.  I’ll try to list them in roughly the most obvious to the least.

  1. We get less snow than you do.
  2. We get a LOT LESS snow than you do.
  3. Snow is rare down here.  We actually look forward to it because it’s so rare and pretty when it falls and the kids love it because it means they get a day or two break from school and as adults, it frequently means a paid day or so off work and an excuse to relive our youth when we got to get out of school and play in the snow, and we do, even as adults.
  4. Because snow is rare down here, we don’t have many snow plows to deal with it, so our roads stay covered and dangerous.  This is why the cities shut down on those rare occassions we have snow.
  5. Because snow is rare, we will always be inexperienced drivers in the snow.  There’s no getting out of that.  It’s just a fact of life, and it’s not our fault.
  6. If we have to go out driving in the snow, we’re going to drive slowly because, quite frankly, we don’t know what the hell this white shit is that’s all over the roads.  We know it as crash causing slippery wet stuff that no one in their right mind would try to drive on.  We think that to ourselves as we’re driving on it, BTW.
  7. Most cars down here don’t have snow tires.
  8. Even fewer have chaines.
  9. Believe it or not, our snow is not the same as yours.  I was in Boston on a business trip recently and experienced what we in the south would consider a five hundred year blizzard.  It was 3 feet of snow that fell overnight.  Apparantly that’s normal up there and before the sun rose, the streets had been cleared… EVERYWHERE!  Unfreaking-believable for a Southener.  My northern friends hated it and were amazed at my amazement and beuty of it all.  Every house was photo postcard worthy.  Anyway, back to the snow… I noticed that the snow was dry and powdery and very easy to drive on… even I could drive on it.  That snow actually had some friction and was more like talcom powder than slipery, wet ice, like our snow is in the South.  I suddenly understood why Northerners drive on it… because they can!  Our snow is usually super slippery, wet, and frequently has black ice underneath that you can’t see and are unaware of until you’re on top of it and rotating out of control towards a ditch, mailbox, parked car, another spinning, out of control car, tree, or God forbid, a cliff or a child.
  10. When it snows down here, our power is almost certainly going to go out.  Trees down here are also unexperienced with snow, so weak limbs and trees are NOT constantly taken out with heavey snow.  They prosper and flourish down here, until it snows, then they like to fall, a LOT, and their favorite places to fall are on our power lines.
  11. Because we know we’re going to be without power or outside help for 1 to 3 days, and because we know that driving will be treacherous, we have to rush to the local stores to stock up on food and heating supplies NOW.  Why the food of choice is bread, milk, and eggs is still a mystery.
  12. Schools will be let out as soon as it’s known that snow is eminant.  It’s exceedingly important because every minute delayed, is another minute with more crazy ass slippery shit on the roads that our experienced school bus drivers with little to no experience of driving on that slippy stuff will be putting our kids’ lives in danger.  We need to get them home ASAP.  Last year, here in Knoxville, our new school superintendant (from the North, mind you), delayed letting the kids out until the “blizzard” was upon us.  Many buses crashed and children DIED!  He resigned last week, BTW.  This is a real issue and real threat.  Kids MUST be sent home ASAP.
  13. Perpetual inexperience (which will always be the case down here, due to lack of opportunities to become experienced) and always slippery, wet, black ice covered in wet snow, and lack of infrastructure (due to the rarity of the events) dictates that drivers will be scared, crashes will happen, supplies will be needed, and power will go out.

A surprising number of “our” crashes in the snow are actually caused by visiting or passing Northeners’ and their inexperiences with our type of snow, inexperience with our traffic patterns, and inexperience with how rightfully inexperienced drivers react.

So, next time you are down here in our rare snow, remember these major differences.  Yes, we are inexperienced in driving in the snow.  What would you expect in areas that rarely have it?  But, we love to have you down here, just be mindful of the fundamental and inescapable differences in snow, and we’ll get along just fine!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?  Winking smile

[UPDATE 2016-01-20] Since I wrote this. we in TN have had our first snow of 2016.  Here are some of the results:




[Update again 2016-01-21]  Here’s some dash cam video of me unable to go a certain route home.  Then some idiot comes up behind me in their 4 wheel drive, get stuck, block me, and nearly hit me.  (the dates are wrong in the videos… It’s actually today, 1/21/2016.)

Here’s the same event from the rear view camera.  Note that it is recorded in a mirror image.

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