One of the most attractive reasons to live in the Deep South is the winter. Seldom do we suffer the frigid, biting cold that the more northern states endure. In Louisiana, if we have three or four days below freezing, that is considered winter. Those subzero days need not be consecutive.
This week our weather forecasters have been alternately giddy and panic-stricken at the prospect of an incoming “polar vortex” that is expected to bring single-digit temperatures for most of next week. Even better, we also anticipate snow and ice, they tell us.
This means almost certain power outages.
As you can imagine, this has caused a flurry of activity as people rush to the grocery store for bread, milk, bottled water, and batteries. Not many of us in northern Louisiana have a generator; those are more common in southern Louisiana where hurricanes cause power outages for extended periods of time. My neighbor does have a portable generator which he cranks up the moment the power goes out, however.
Some of us old-timers remember when the Red River froze back in 1983 after a week of subfreezing temperatures. It hasn’t been that cold for that long since but people still talk about the river freezing as a benchmark of record-setting cold weather.
People in different parts of the country tend to scoff at our inability to deal with cold weather. I have a niece in Iowa who howls with laughter when we close the schools for less than an inch of snow or ice, but as I said, we aren’t accustomed to this phenomenon and we don’t know how to drive in it. We don’t have salt trucks or snowplows.
So, instead, we go to the grocery store and buy bread.
The weather forecasters have been telling everyone for several days to wrap pipes and cover plants. I have a friend who has directed her husband to cover each of their sixteen peach trees in an attempt to protect the fragile blooms and the peach crop.
Soon the three local television stations will dispatch their intrepid reporters out to stand along the interstate to report on live local road conditions. They will breathlessly interview local officials about running sand trucks along overpasses and news websites will post a running list of Weather-Related Closures long before anything actually closes. Every school kid in town will religiously monitor this list. So will their teachers.
What does it say about us that we react this way to extreme weather? Is it the change that draws us in? Do we feed off misery and suffering? Whether it is a hurricane or a polar vortex, the weather forecasters give us days and days of this advanced information and ever-changing, uncertain news. Sometimes the storm materializes and sometimes it doesn’t, but we are always prepared, I suppose.
At least we always have bread and milk.