January 11, 2011 10:47:00 AM
Mother Nature is providing much of the Golden Triangle with a day or two off. Many of us made the most of the rare snowfall that fell across the area Sunday night.
All area schools were closed Monday and today. Many grown-ups were treated to a four-day week -- or a three-day week -- as businesses stayed closed yesterday and today. Many anticipated what some on Twitter were wryly calling "icearmageddon."
Icearmageddon it wasn''t, at least not here. The episode was free of the power outages that often accompany winter storms. Still, many of us -- perhaps the majority of us -- stayed home Monday, and wisely, off the roads. Those who did venture out were lonely travelers -- one person we spoke to said she didn''t see another car for miles Monday as she took a normally busy route to work. Area downtowns were dormant, their owners and employees in hibernation. Even the downtown Columbus Post Office''s service window was closed. (How does that Postal Service motto go -- "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail ..." Oh, well.)
As far as staying closed today, it was a coin toss. Better to be safe than sorry, we suppose, though most of the danger seemed to melt away by yesterday afternoon.
The yankees among us snickered at our reaction to what are typical spring days in many places north of Tennessee. But understand, we''re not used to this.
Those of us fortunate to score a day off ventured outside to enjoy the snow before it was reduced to slush by Monday afternoon. Several Dispatch readers shared photos, including multiple snowmen, snow-women, and even an entire snow-family, complete with a snow-dog. (Some unprintable specimens were snow-men indeed, with the anatomically correct equipment represented.) Sledders took to the hills. Snowball skirmishes, battles and all-out wars broke out.
Some Auburn fans were forced to stay home when they didn''t want to. Some travelers headed to Glendale, Ariz., for the Auburn-Oregon football championship found themselves stranded in Birmingham''s airport, though it reopened by the afternoon. Others hoping to catch the game at their favorite watering hole thought twice and hunkered down at home instead. (Among those forced to watch the game at home was Alabama''s governor, who canceled a junket to Arizona on a state plane rather than abandon his state during an emergency.)
While we played and relaxed in our powered-up homes, electric company workers and emergency responders exhaled a deep, nervous breath they sucked in late last week, when the storm was still forming to the west. Winds accompanying the snowfall kept precipitation from accumulating in trees, and kept branches off of power lines. And fortunately, we had more snow than rain or hail.
Statewide, few people lost power. Electric cooperatives including 4-County didn''t need to field emergency crews. Instead of scrambling to repair local lines and call for outside help, they were instead waiting by the phone for their counterparts in other states to call, looking for help of their own. But they were ready for the worst, and we appreciate that.
There were still problems. Motorists in over their heads slid off icy roads. Area counties reported a few dozen cars in ditches, though local towing companies said they''ve seen it worse. If you hadn''t hit local grocery stores by Saturday morning, milk, bread and bottled water were tough commodities to come by, as your neighbors had already showed up en masse and cleared off the shelves.
Many of us remember the crippling ice storm of February 1994, which devastated a wide swath of north Mississippi. All of us, not just emergency crews, are thankful that nothing close to that happened over the past couple days.
But we still have a few months of winter left, and who knows what weather may be ahead. Let''s call this a dry run, and learn our lessons for next time.