How to be a Southerner: Know the Weather, vol. 1

Joseph and I have decided it’s time to educate folks on how to be a Southerner.  Here’s a helpful post on how to be just that.

Weather is a fact of life.  When I was in public school, I learned that there were 4 seasons – Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring.  Living in the South, I’ve learned that what I was taught in public school about the weather* was not true.  In the South, we have 2 seasons – Summer and Winter.  Summer usually lasts for anywhere from 46-50 weeks and winter lasts anywhere from 2-6 weeks.  This is helpful for anyone who is interested in the South to know, because if you come here, you will know you need to pack as if you’re either staying for a few days on the Hoth system or if you’re planning on going directly to the sun.  Whatever your fashion magazine says about Spring or Fall trends is irrelevant, unless you want an entire wardrobe you can wear for all of about 15 minutes.  So keep that in mind.

But our current season is winter,** so I’m going to help you understand how to live in the winter in the South.

First, you need a good weather app.  It will change every 15 minutes, and probably won’t be accurate, but trying to figure out how to survive here without one, inaccurate as it may be, is like trying to navigate the Anoat Asteroid Belt with your eyes closed.  And keep in mind with your eyes open, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to one.***  It’s just hard to do.

As hard as it is to predict the weather here, though, you need something to guide you.  It’s also a sight to behold when it’s going to be 70 one day and 20 just a few days later.

Second, when it is cold, be prepared for absolute pandemonium.  This is actually essential, because if you aren’t prepared for this, you might die.  Let me create for you a hypothetical situation:

It’s 3 in the afternoon and you check your trusty weather app.  You think to yourself “wow, what a beautiful, sunny day it is today!  January in the South is just so pleasant.”  You notice it’s a pleasant 68 degrees with a low in the upper 30s.  “I wonder how long this stroke of good fortune and great weather will last!” you say to yourself, as you click on the 10-day forecast.  Then you see something crazy – in two days (a scant 48 hours), there are going to be highs of 17!  And with the chance of precipitation!

You, not being a Southerner, might not think anything of it.  Wherever you are reading this, it may be 17 degrees already and you already have on your winter coat.  “Good thing I have on this great coat to keep me warm!” you say, then you’re on your merry little way.  That’s not how a Southerner responds.

Panic sets in.  You immediately leave wherever you are and rush home.  Upon arriving, you do three things.  First, you turn on the Weather Channel.  You see that there’s a winter storm coming your way from somewhere out west, say, Texas.****  Prepared with this knowledge, you start pulling plants inside and wrapping pipes.  (That’s the second thing you do.  Sometimes people make lists and don’t enumerate them correctly, so I want to make sure you know wrapping pipes and pulling plants inside is the second thing you do).  This is actually good sense, so do that anywhere you live. Busted pipes suck.  Third, you check the refrigerator to gauge your essential food supply.  You write down what you need.  This food supply is not what you think it will be, but that’s for the next step.

So you’re equipped with the knowledge of where the storm is coming from, your plants and pipes are safe, and you have your list of essential food and head to the closest grocery store.  Probably Wal-Mart.

The problem with this plan is that literally everyone else wherever you are is thinking the same thing.

Wal-Mart is already a terrible place to go.  But imagine Wal-Mart where everyone has an irrational fear of death.  The closest thing I can compare it to is the mall in the original Dead Rising video game.  A whole bunch of mindless, angry people focused only on two things – milk and bread.

Here’s the payoff from the above paragraph – the big reveal, if you will.  The stuff on your essential food list?  Milk and bread.  That’s it.  That’s the only way you survive a snowpocalypse.

Let’s say, though, that you have successfully navigated Wal-Mart.  You have dodged the traffic in the parking lot and managed to not get your brains eaten in the store, and you’ve made it back to your house.  Your fridge is stocked, your pipes are wrapped.  Now…you wait.

Third, the wait is the worst part.  It’s starting to get cloudy, the temperature is dropping, and you wait.  Your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat is full of pictures of the various weather apps.  Parents and kids alike are posting statuses hoping school will be cancelled.*****  The night before the temperature finally drops, everybody – and I mean literally eeeeeeeeeeeeverybody – stays up late watching the news, hoping to see their county’s schools closed.  There is absolutely no rhythm or rhyme to school cancellations, but everybody waits.  It’s more exciting than watching the Santa tracker on Christmas Eve.

Really, in a lot of ways, the wait is more debilitating than the actual weather.  But that’s not the point.

As Southerners, we really don’t understand how this is supposed to work though.  Observe a conversation I witnessed (on a day with no precipitation):

Person 1:  “Hey, <person of school authority>, are the schools closed?  It’s really cold outside!”
Person 2:  “No, city schools are open.”
Person 1:  “Oh…”

Notice that in this conversation, the cold was why school might be closed.

Fourth, if you are counting on school/work to be closed, you are almost always going to be disappointed.  But you should stay home that day anyway, because you already stayed up so late waiting to see if school would be closed, and also because that day is the worst day to drive ever.  Conditions are fine, but even the best of drivers go crazy, and the worst of drivers become downright dangerous.  And if, by chance, it does snow, emerging from your house that day is going to be a whole lot like emerging from the vault at the beginning of Fallout 3.

Finally, you may be tempted to put your summer clothes up.  Don’t.  You’ll be wearing shorts again in a few days.

*And everything else

**If I had written this earlier this week, our current season would have been Summer.

***Obviously an approximation.

****Not the South.

*****Parents always wind up hating this.


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