Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Winter to Remember

If you turned on the local Atlanta news over the past 5 days, you would have seen one of two stories: the investigation into the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the weather. Both stories have their own ongoing developments, and have captivated a national and regional audience, respectively.

For those who don’t know, the metro Atlanta area has been paralyzed nearly a week by an unusually severe winter storm. Sunday’s heavy snowfall quickly turned into perilous ice, leaving many roads impassable to most vehicles. Mail delivery and trash collection were suspended, while schools and businesses around the city shut their doors for days.

Yet despite the inconveniences the storm has caused, despite the traffic jams and so called “cabin fever” (which I personally find anachronistic, given the modern age’s infinite digital distractions) I find myself treasuring the silver lining of this white blanket.

First and foremost is its ability to bring people together. People these days rarely know many, if any, of their neighbors, but the lure of youthful fun in the snow brought us out of our houses and into the streets. Whether it meant joining together to help push cars on the highway or collaborating on sled ramps, igloos, and snowmen, people around the city bonded over their common circumstances.

The inability to drive drove people to walk, allowing them to observe their neighborhood from a more human perspective, with the lack of cars reducing noise (and air) pollution. Perhaps some will even maintain the habit of making trips to the grocery by foot, rather than climbing in their car.

Winter weather forces people to seek warmth and company, to light fires, play board games, have long conversations. And yes, despite the abundant posting of pictures and videos on Facebook and Twitter, it brings us back to simpler times. It’s not hard to imagine Atlantans 50 years ago trudging through the same streets we do, on their way to buy bread or beer.

As natural disasters go, snow and ice are certainly among the most preferable. Floods, fires and earthquakes all cause dreadful damage, and cities take years to recover. Snow and ice, on the other hand, provide plentiful opportunities for fun, and their effect is mostly gone in a matter of days. Most of the damage comes from cars that fishtail and struggle to make it up slick hills--and there’s even humor in watching that. Even if they crash, their speed is so slow that serious personal injury is unlikely.

There were, however, some opportunistic rascals who took advantage of the situation for material gain. But such activity was quite limited.

As a long-time Southerner, I appreciate the rarity of events like this, which, in the end, makes their arrival that much sweeter. Snowpocalypse 2011, I will miss you!
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