Growing up in the Dallas area as a kid, we always had at least one or two ice storms each year. Usually, they came on the weekends, but occasionally, we got a free pass out of school for the day. While schools shut down, business generally carried on as normal. The entire city was not brought to it’s knees for a light sheeting of ice on the roads. Usually, everything just started a couple hours behind schedule.
Fast forward a few years, and move a few hours south, and we have a completely different situation on our hands. These ice storms might happen once every two or three years. When they do, the whole world shuts down.
So, in honor of today’s world stoppage brought to our little corner of Texas, I thought I’d illuminate (for the rest of the world) why we Texans have such a hard time with ice and snow.
1. We just don’t see it very often.
For many of us here in central Texas, it has been years since we have seen that magical white stuff fall from the sky. It brings back memories of childhood hope and wonder…and deprivation. No child who grew up in Texas (panhandle region excluded, of course) ever got to play in the snow 2 years in a row (unless their family went skiing for Christmas every year). When someone walks into a crowded room and says, it’s snowing outside, you can bet that everyone (no matter their age) is going to excitedly jump up and run outside to see…invariably running over at least 3 other people and leaving their jackets behind. Should you happen to drive by at that very moment, you will see a bunch of grown people standing outside in shorts and flip flops (because they didn’t watch the weather report this morning…it was 70 degrees at 8 am) shivering and staring up at the sky in wide-eyed wonder.
Often, the mere suggestion of freezing weather is enough to make adults in Texas do rather silly things. I once had a roommate (from South Texas) who, upon confirmation that the air temperature was below freezing, would climb the tree in the front yard with the sprinkler to “make snow”. Of course, he knew better, but he just couldn’t help himself…he had to try!
2. We don’t know how to deal with it.
In this part of Texas (west Texas and the panhandle are excluded from today’s tirade), snow days and ice events are really rare. So, we just don’t know how to deal with them. We’re pretty sure that we have an ice scraper for our windshield somewhere, but we haven’t seen it since the last time we had to buy a new one 3 years ago (when we couldn’t find the previous new one we’d bought 3 years before that).
So, we’re left with with a couple options:
- Pour water over the windshield to thaw the ice. Whatever you may have been told, this is a terrible idea. Don’t do it! If you get the water too warm, it can break the glass. Too cold, and it just makes the problem worse.
- Run the defroster in the car until you either:
- Run out of gas and can’t go where you needed to anyway.
- The ice gets thin enough to scrape it off with a credit card (be sure to call the bank tomorrow morning to get a replacement card for the one you bent trying to scrape before the ice was thin enough).
That’s all before we actually get in the car! I won’t even discuss what happens once we get behind the wheel! We Texans can be a pretty independent lot, but ice just isn’t our thing. We’ll still get the job done, though, no matter how many cars we have to smash in the process!
3. Our community leaders are paranoid.
School administrators and business leaders would rather cancel everything ahead of an ice storm than watch the rest of us play “smash-em-up” on the highway. I have to admit, however, that I’m still amazed that they feel the need to cancel life more than 48 hours before an anticipated storm. The weatherman hasn’t even decided yet if it’s actually going to happen. But, you can bet that the school closure reports will already be rolling in! Perhaps they’re worried that if it snows and they haven’t given enough notice that someone will round up a posse and make them personally dump sand on all the bridges.
There have been occasions where all the school systems in the area have cancelled classes two days ahead of time, only to have no significant weather actually materialize. There’s another little lesson about Texas…being a weatherman here is a dangerous line of work. People expect you to predict the future, and do nutty things based on your suggestions. There are so many different parameters at work in the atmosphere here that predicting the weather more than about 4 hours ahead of time is really a fool’s errand. But, we do like our 7 day outlooks! Just don’t bet the family farm on them!
So, to the rest of the world, trying to do business with Texans during an ice storm, try to have a little patience with us…the end of the world is nigh!