Published: Feb 10, 2010 02:00 AM
Modified: Feb 09, 2010 07:13 PM
It's hard not to enjoy watching the snowflakes fall here in the Bull City. After all, we're far less jaded about an event like this than say, people in Chicago, or Buffalo, N.Y., where the plows are plentiful and the inches of snow are abundant in the winter.
I was discussing our little snow-filled interlude to a software rep from Michigan who arrived into town two Sundays ago, just as we were waking up to deal with the full impact of the crunchy white powder, which at least in my part of town was given that crunch due to a layer of sleet that fell in between showers of the soft stuff. Levi's used to the cold, snowy weather up there, and thought he was escaping the fun by coming down this way.
He told me his experience landing at RDU was, to say the least, interesting. His flight from the upper Midwest wasn't canceled, even though many were during the weekend, and our airport was taking in flights by Sunday morning. When he took off in his neck of the woods, the runways were clear, the streets were plowed - since they are used to this sort of thing, but as he flew in over our usual rich green Triangle treescape and over I-40, he noticed it was all white because of all the unplowed snow all over the highway.
As the mid-sized jet cruised down to the runway, he said it landed with a rumbling thud, crunching and bumping along as if landing in the snow. He looked out the window and, well, that's what the bumpy landing was all about. I guess cleared runways are bit relative down here.
After all, how many of you live in subdivisions or on in-town side streets that never see a plow? When we had that freak 24-inch snow here several years ago - I lived over in Old West Durham at the time - I don't recall seeing a plow for days and days. And when it did come through, it turned half-frozen snow into a smooth skating-rink-worthy sheet of ice because the plow stayed a good two to three inches off the ground. It was four days until I could get to work.
This time around, I did notice that our major arteries and the Durham Freeway were in exceptionally good condition for the Monday-after rush compared to that past storm, though Durham had much less snow to deal with this time around. Again, clearing the side streets was not a priority (nor should it be), but the end result is that many were trapped just a few turns from a main road.
What was odd was that some of the heavily traveled streets were maddeningly dangerous. For instance, Highway 55 heading north toward downtown was only partially passable, with plenty of opportunities for slipping, sliding and wrecking. And if you were one of the hardy, obligated or less-sane parties who headed out on Monday and found themselves heading north on Duke Street, you were treated to a clear road right until after you crossed the railroad tracks at Peabody Place right onto a sheet of ice that propelled you straight downhill to Main with only slight control over your careening vehicle.
These are the times when you're glad your fellow Bull City residents stayed at home with their kids to build a snowman. But while people often grumble about the lack of our city's coping abilities when it comes to snow, it always makes me grateful to see the flakes falling outside rather than waking up to blowing transformers and breaking limbs due to an ice storm - we don't weather those well at all.
Pam Spaulding lives in Durham and is the creator of the political blog Pam's House Blend. Write to her at email@example.com