Friday, January 31, 2014

The South's lack of snowplows is a rational decision

Schools are closed because it snowed three days ago, and, predictably, the complaints have come from transplants to the South from colder climates. The complaints are usually preceded by a judgmental, "You people are crazy," and followed by an explanation that in Chicago, Michigan or (fill in the blank), "we never would have closed the schools for two inches of snow! Learn to drive, people!"

It's true. You can drive on snow, though many southerners go apoplectic at the thought. And, if you're careful, you can get around following a snowstorm. But southerners have good reason to go into hibernation when snow falls. Take a look at Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon. Take a look at that horrendous and deadly traffic pile-up in Indiana (or wherever it was) this week. Driving on ice can be dangerous, even suicidal. And school administrators have learned that there are parents and lawyers ready to sue if their children are forced to travel over slick roads to school.

Then there's the snowplow and salt factor. The complaining transplants always want to know why southern cities don't have snowplows and salt trucks. Look at the economics of it. It's the same reason southerners don't have snow blowers. One would have come in handy this week as I cleared our walks, but if I invested several hundred dollars in a snow blower this month, I might not get to use it again for another two or three years. There's no return on investment. The same applies to snowplows and salt trucks. Sure, Wilson and Greenville could buy a fleet of snowplows, but they would rust and die before they got 20 days of use. Snowplows are not a good investment when even the biggest snowfalls are usually melted within 48 hours. And it's often 65 degrees two days after a snowstorm. Southerners love snow because it goes away fast, and they have never seen the black piles of snow that more northerly commuters see each year.

So go easy on us backward southerners. Being able to drive on icy roads depends largely on snowplows and salt clearing a path, whether in New Jersey or Florida. We don't have enough snowplows, but we know how to run the numbers on an unwise investment.

No comments: