Opinion

North Carolina and the snowpocalypse

North Tryon St, Charlotte, United States (Photo by Wes Hicks)
North Tryon St, Charlotte, United States (Photo by Wes Hicks)
There is a major flaw in our national security that we are powerless to avoid. I have studied this intently and there is absolutely nothing we can do to fill this gap. Foreign nationals are well aware of this Achillies heel, and there it is, just waiting to be exploited. I am not talking about flooding the country with hostile illegal immigrants, inflating the currency like a mylar balloon from Dollar Tree, or even discharging an electromagnetic pulse to bring U.S. civilization to an end. I am talking about our national security at the weakest point. This is North Carolina’s inability to cope with snow.

Yes, snow. The white, fluffy stuff that falls from the sky. Let a half-dozen snowflakes fall anywhere in North Carolina and that portion of the state goes into hibernation, or at least it should. To continue doing anything involving a highway, especially a slight hill or highway overpass, is certain to turn into disaster.

Snow to North Carolina is like kryptonite to Superman. I know you Yankees from up north, where it goes into a perpetual deep freeze from September to May, with piles of the fluffy stuff burying cars and large pets, roll your eyes in derision. But we accept that. Make fun of us all you want. We aspire to be more like Florida and absolutely nothing like Maine.

But every foreign dictator from Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-Un knows the best strategy for invading the US, if it comes to that, rests in hitting the North Carolina beaches with a small contingent of mediocre technicians armed with snow-making machines on a cold winter day. Faced with the prospect of sliding into a ditch and walking home in the freezing wind, we would surrender immediately, resistance would be futile. Your full-time four-wheel drive will not save you!

But our enemies possess a huge amount of intelligence in regard to this. Who can forget nature’s attack on Glenwood Avenue in February of 2014? The image of Glenwood with the burning car and the Fred’s Beds delivery truck, on a white backdrop dotted with innumerable ditch bound commuters, is classic North Carolina. They were all stuck like they had some kind of tar on their heels. We refuse to use tire chains, or carry sand and shovels, so maybe being stuck is the true badge of a defiant North Carolinian. February 2014 was not our best moment, but, if it is any consolation, at least that was a real snow.

There was the Jan. 2005 so-called “snowstorm” in Raleigh that left stranded children to fend for themselves overnight at all the schools because their mommas couldn’t find the necessary traction to get them home. News reports indicate this was an inch of something; snow, ice, white grease, I don’t know exactly, but whatever it was, for North Carolinians it was hopeless to drive on, which is not saying much. And, just for the record, as I experienced this, it wasn’t actually an inch but something closer to a millimeter. Stop laughing yanks. We bear our aversion to snow with pride.

When it comes to Christmas, just how do North Carolinians handle it? Santa, after all, is a heavily overdressed bearded guy, using an outdated mode of transportation that only has snow runners, powered by creatures that only exist north of the Arctic Circle. Seriously? In North Carolina, anything with a rack like that ends up on the chimney over the fireplace. Talk about awkward! But coastal North Carolinians had the opportunity to show their true mettle in the face of this foreign freezing hydrology during the Christmas snow in 1989.

The situation started setting up on the Dec. 23 in 1989, so people had plenty of time to prepare. But it ended up as a snowpoclypse that lasted a week or more. The storm dropped from 10-20 inches of the white stuff and covered a swath from Wilmington to Currituck. The only truly white Christmas in the Coastal Plain since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1871.

And how did the coast fare? Well, there was the tanker that ran aground on Carova Beach in the face of the 60 mile per hour northeaster with 35-foot swells. And there were the truly tragic deaths of the two elderly persons who froze to death in Camden County. But all in all, once everyone found out driving was absolutely impossible, they hunkered down and took it in stride. When roads completely disappeared under four-foot drifts, even the Yankees had to surrender to the elements.

When the option of driving is completely out of the question, the potential for the typically embarrassing North Carolina snow response is muted. It’s ironic that the fabled Christmas snow wished for and sung about so much as a Christmas time aspiration, turns North Carolina on its head when it actually appears!

So, if you are in North Carolina this Christmas and are tempted to sing Irving Berlin’s White Christmas with some baritone falsetto along with Bing Crosby on the radio, don’t even think about it! If happens to be snowing, one of us may snatch those lips right off your face! But that’s only if we can manage to keep from sliding into the ditch creeping up that hill on Glenwood. After all, the Russians and North Koreans are.

Nelson Paul is a real estate agent, former NC Coastal regulator, inventor, husband, and father of four, and a grandfather of seven.