If You're Mocking the South's Reaction to the Snow, Are You a Jerk?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A tow truck pulls an abandoned vehicle on an exit ramp along I-75 North during the winter storm January 29, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia (Daniel Shirey/Getty)

Cities like Atlanta and Birmingham ground to a halt this week as freak snow and ice storms caused traffic jams, power outages, and mass disruption. Why did the South cope so poorly, and should Northerners who are mocking the response think twice? As Clinton Yates at the Washington Post and Brian Bartlett at Gizmodo have pointed out, many Southern cities don't have the budgets to plan for the snow, and the weather is rare enough that a big reaction to a little snow should be expected. We open the phones for anyone with ties to the South to provide some context. Call 212-433-9692 or post below.

Comments [47]


I'm a Marylander who lives in Boston. I went to undergrad in VA. I've been through hurricanes and blizzards in both MD and MA. Honestly, I looked at the snow in the south with the apathetic pessimism of someone who lives with snow throughout winter. (Trust me, as I'm writing this, Boston has over a foot of snow and the Charles is frozen over.)

From my perspective, it's not so much mocking as it is a "Meh, it's not that bad. Could be worse."

Feb. 19 2014 10:56 PM

Of course you're a jerk if you're mocking them. The national weather service's Atlanta office reports that there have been 11 four-inch snowfalls there in the last 80 years, not all with the icing conditions that followed the recent storm. Spending on snow removal equipment would clearly be a misallocation of public funds. Of course, in the South as elsewhere there is surely room for improvement in general disaster readiness, but the forces of nature are overwhelming and rarely predictable enough for sufficient planning.

Jan. 31 2014 09:12 AM
Shawner from Michigan

I know alot of people who have moved south in last 5 yrs, and everyone except one makes comments when its 10 below in Mi and 75 there. every place has there special weather its not a big deal but its annoying. so i just giggle and take the high rd while there stuck on the road for 2 days

Jan. 30 2014 09:25 PM
William from North Carolina

Q: What do people along the Gulf Coast call Superstorm Sandy?
A: Rain.

It's all about what conditions you expect and have prepared to handle.

Jan. 30 2014 08:44 PM

Let's not forget hurricane sandy in NYC... While people in the south who are more accustomed to hurrican weather, prepare for, and typically aren't very phased by hurricane season, New York isn't capable of handling hurricane conditions and that's why the outcome was so bad. Did southerners make fun of them for being incapable to handle the destruction of Sandy?
A couple of inches of snow wasn't the problem in Atlanta, the circumstances of the day is what turned everything into chaos. Anyone can handle a couple of inches -- even, dare I say, Floridians -- but with everyone being on the roads at the same time to the ice on the roads getting worse, to a city that's just not built to handle extreme conditions and have those protocols in place.
I'm a Floridian, who also lived in Minnesota, and now living in Atlanta.

Jan. 30 2014 03:25 PM

It would not be mean to make would be kind of stupid. NYC deals with snow on a regular basis. It would be imprudent of Southern states to maintain enough equipment to deal with snow in every part of the state. This is going to cause snafus due to forecasting etc from time to time.

Heck, we couldn't even get it right on the East Side, right?

Jan. 30 2014 02:00 PM
Yuri from Tomsk (it's in Siberia)

Do you mean, people in New York do much better in snow/cold? Really? Haven't noticed it.

Jan. 30 2014 01:36 PM

For Edward from WH-
It's irrelevant whether the mayors of Atlanta were black or white, although in the 1960s and early 70s when MARTA was planned, they were white. The various areas of Atlanta voted by referendum as to whether they MARTA in their suburban neighborhoods. The white neighborhoods overwhelmingly voted against them. The mayor of Atlanta had little control over the outlying areas of Atlanta.

Jan. 30 2014 01:29 PM

No because if the New Yorkers are struggling with a heat wave, the south would be mocking the north 10 times worse. This is the perfect occasion for the south to celebrate that global warming is a hoax.

Jan. 30 2014 01:01 PM
Dj Miguel Changa from Stone Mountain, Georgia

Hey Brian; long time listener. Moved from NYC to Atl 20 yrs ago. I've seen this type of weather about 3 times. The probLem is the ice. The ice is impossible to drive on. From the management side i don't believe there was a failure to prepare as opposed to not wanting to over react to a possible non event. My recollection of weather report indicated the worst would be south of metro area. At any rate i'd give metro Atlanta (i'm in Stone Mountain) a B. People were real troopers and management (county, state etc) in spite of some mis steps rose to the occasion. Thanks .

Jan. 30 2014 12:59 PM
christina Caparoula from NYC

Just a quick response to when Brian said we New Yorkers freak out when it hits 10 degrees and below um HELLO!! .....I will tell you that it is much more difficult to walk to the subway, walk to work, walk to the grocery store and back, walk to the gym, walk to the doctors (especially when sick)....Yes those extra degrees make a huge difference to our sanity, skin and health. We don't have cars we can run and heat up and park in a parking lot and run into work....we walk to the subways, wait on the platforms, walk up the steps that are wet and slippery, trudge to work and so on....We get through it bc we are New Yorkers- but 10 degrees is a huge difference to anything above 32.

Jan. 30 2014 11:34 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

JC from UWS,

Problem with your scenario.

Atlanta has had Mayors who are black for several administrations.

Jan. 30 2014 11:32 AM
Jones from Denver, CO

A word from Colorado. Of course we get tons of snow, getting up to 10" today and tomorrow and I've seen two feet at my house near Denver (forget the mountains). When it happens we just deal with it, it's part of life (been here 15 years). But I'm from southern Missouri originally and I can say that unless you have driven in the kinds of ice storms they get in the south you have no idea. I have been sitting still, 0 mph, in my car sliding SIDEWAYS toward the sidewalk, it's that kind of slick. I do doubt that many southerners know how to drive in the snow, even fewer with snow tires (if any) but if this was initially an ice storm as I have heard, they deserve some slack.

Jan. 30 2014 11:30 AM
Richard from Brooklyn

Obviously the south isn't really set up for those conditions, and an ice storm is really hard anywhere... so I understand them having a hard time. I grew up in Fargo ND, so I know cold and snow. I think it's funny how here in NYC, when it gets into the teens the media is making it into such a big deal.. I mean, yeah, its damn cold but deal with it. I hate the cold, but I can put my head down and go through it. The main thing is to dress warm. During winter, I pretty much wear thin long johns the whole season, and when I'm out and about, I dress in layers. Lots of layers.

The media has a lot to do with the hysteria by branding it as "Polar Vortex" (would make a good film title, or ski apparel company) and having call in radio shows about "what are we gonna do!?!?"...A couple weeks ago on your show a man called in and asked "should we alter the times that we shower and bath so our skin is more dry when we go into the cold"... that's when I rolled my eyes and had to laugh. Its cold, sure, but you need to try -20 with a -70 windchill to really feel alive. Just use common sense and don't worry so much about looking cool rather than being warm.

As for climate change, I do feel that these extreme shifts and storms are definitely related to climate change / global warming. We need to do more to take care of the planet.

Jan. 30 2014 11:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

From what I heard, it was mostly an issue of ice, making it more dangerous than what most NYers would think of when they hear it was "just" 2" of snow. Still, it's better to prepare for worse than what's expected & have it not be that bad than the other way around.

Jan. 30 2014 11:27 AM

"Gone With the Snow".

Jan. 30 2014 11:27 AM
JC from UWS

The problem with Atlanta traffic, snow or no snow, has its roots in the inadequate rapid transit system.
And there is a real racial component to its inadequacy. Atlanta has remained quite segregated with most of the white residents in the north and black residents in the southern and central part of the city. When MARTA, the city's rapid transit system, was in its planning stages over 30 years ago, the wealthy white affluent suburbs fought the extension of MARTA into its neighborhoods. The whites didn't want blacks to have easy access to their neighborhoods. As a result, the rail system is a woefully inadequate skeleton that makes driving a car necessary. Thus there are traffic nightmares that rival or surpass LA's. The racists also had a nasty nickname for
the acronym MARTA: Move the Africans rapidly through Atlanta. Without proper mass transit the city will remain a traffic disaster. The snow and ice simply amplify the problem.

Jan. 30 2014 11:23 AM
Katherine from Brooklyn

After reading more comments on this subject, I am absolutely amazed at the ignorance of some New Yorkers when it comes to the South, and Atlanta in particular.

Jan. 30 2014 11:21 AM
Juliana Mitchell

Born in Brooklyn, lived in Savannah and Atlanta for large parts of my life, now back in NY for 12 yrs. This is pretty simple, this weather is rare, they aren't used to it. But hey, what happens here when it hits 90 degrees? Everyone melts! But down in Atlanta or Savannah? People are out and about, playing baseball, having picnics, etc. It's all what you're used to.

Jan. 30 2014 11:17 AM

Coming from Colorado, I have been struck by how poorly New York deals with weather, like snow, that it gets often. The infrastructure completely collapses here as well-- airports close, cars crash, trash isn't picked up for weeks, schools close-- and New York doesn't have the South's excuse. In order to make fun of the South's handling of the snow, you should at least meet the prerequisite of being good at dealing with it yourself New York.

Jan. 30 2014 11:17 AM

I don’t think there should be any mocking going on when it comes to a weather event that is unusual for an area. I remember when Sandy was bearing down on NYC and those in Florida were telling everyone up here that, that category of storm was nothing to worry about, just a walk in the park for them. And then the storm hit.
You look like a nut comparing Apple weather to Orange weather.

Jan. 30 2014 11:11 AM
Pete from Brooklyn

I'm from Maine and have been living in Brooklyn for 7 years now. I feel about New York City how New York City folk feel about Atlanta. I think this city freaks out with only a couple inches of snow or temperatures below below freezing.

Jan. 30 2014 11:11 AM
Katherine from Brooklyn

Yes, you are a jerk. I've lived in New York for 35 years but I lived in Atlanta for years and still have family there. If Atlanta got as much snow as NYC, they would be prepared and would know how to deal with it. But they only get snow every 3-4 years, and so even a small amount paralyzes the city.

Add to this the fact that it's a car city. Most people drive everywhere. Even though there is public transportation, it isn't convenient. You can't get to a MARTA station by walking. You have to drive, and the stations are relatively few and far between. And forget buses.

Add to THIS the fact that snow in Atlanta inevitably turns to freezing rain, which creates ICE. This was the case yesterday. Ice is treacherous. Try driving on it some time.

And by the way, for those of you who think everyone who lives there is a Republican and/or redneck, you are wrong. There are many liberals--I dare say, even progressives--in Atlanta.

So, if you're snickering and laughing at Atlantans' predicament, sit down and shut up.

Jan. 30 2014 11:11 AM
Nancy from Brooklyn but formerly Md./D.C.

Thank you, real South, for making Washington look like a master of coping with snow.

Jan. 30 2014 11:09 AM
Doirothy from Manhattan

I lived in Atlanta for 5 years -- albeit many years ago. They're more likely to have ice storms than snow storms. No one would have paid attention to staggered closings. Everyone would have headed directly to their cars in spite of gov't actions. I'll be a large percentage of those cars down there are occupied by one person. It's a car culture.

When I lived there, we routinely took a walk after dinner and people would stop and offer a ride, assuming that our car had broken down.

"Mass hysteria" -- absolutely accurate!

Jan. 30 2014 11:08 AM

@RJ from Prospect Heights

The North continually funds relief efforts for Southern disasters, while it was primarily the Southern reps who tried to DENY AID for Hurricane Sandy.

Jan. 30 2014 11:07 AM
BK from Hoboken

If you are that ill equipped it doesn't matter wether you get one inch or six inches. The mayor of Atlanta was complaining that the weather service went from a winter advisory to warning. It shouldn't matter. If you can't cope with even one inch, then you keep people at home by closing schools and government. He is an idiot.

Jan. 30 2014 11:07 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Surprised they haven't blamed Obama, librul judges or Planned Parenthood. Could it be a librul weather machine? Just wait, it's a comin', the South shall whine agin....

Jan. 30 2014 11:06 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Question is, how to transform these car cultures into sites of efficient public transportation?

Jan. 30 2014 11:05 AM
Kate from Brooklyn

Of course the South isn't prepared for snow, but in a place like Atlanta the real issue here is suburban sprawl, car culture, and bad city planning (not closing offices and schools). The Times article today quotes a woman who sat on the highway for 22 hours because she was scared to get out of her car. Scared of the snow? Scared of encountering a poor person? If everyone there wasn't going back in forth in their gaz-guzzling SUVs, probably wearing flip-flops because they're so out of touch with reality, they wouldn't be taken by surprise when a bit of bad weather strikes. They're trapped in their Facebook, iPhone, gated community bubbles and are neither self-reliant nor connected to their neighbors.

Jan. 30 2014 11:03 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh pleeeeeeeez Brian they don't need you to be their apologist. They can't handle and frankly we can't either often. But where they can handle it is Montreal. Canadians rule the snow.
we the wimpy neighbors to the south are just babies who can't deal with it.

Jan. 30 2014 11:03 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I lived in Atlanta for 11 years, and experienced several of these snowstorms. During the first one, I was working at a convenience store and people actually came to the store on skis and bought me out of milk, bread and eggs. Fortunately, I was able to travel to and from work without too many problems, but the fire engines at the station across the street were having chains put on their tires for an inch and a half of snow.

Usually, the minute it starts to snow, people stop their cars on I-85, I-75, I-20 and I-285 and walk home. They don't know how to drive in the snow; don't know how to prepare for the snow and don't pay attention to the weather reports.

I, as the resident Yankee among southerners, kept rock salt in my car during the winter and was able to walk to and from my various places of work. I got one of the first calf length down coats when I was visiting in New York, and I had bought some moon boots in a shop in Atlanta, so I was bundled up and going about my business like a normal Yankee while all around me there was panic.

Jan. 30 2014 11:02 AM
Jaime from Ellenville, NY

I will take two feet of snow in New England over an ice storm in Atlanta. The ice builds up on everything and you can not see it. All you can do is slide off the road and wait for the thaw.

Jan. 30 2014 11:01 AM
Penny from Downtown ex Gulf Coast

They laugh at us when we can't handle a hurricane. No one will be laughing, however, when we get a category 3 storm and all the windows in the city are smashed by trash projectiles. All the flood chatter is "fight the last war."

Jan. 30 2014 11:01 AM
Adrienne from Inwood

My sister lives in Atlanta (Roswell, technically) and she told me it took her 4 hours to get home. She had it easy. Her friend, who has just a 9 mile commute, was in traffic for 15 hours.

Atlanta has a huge commuter traffic problem in good weather. Apparently the snow turned the streets into ice so it was really treacherous. Everyone hitting the roads at the same time only exacerbated the problem - and that's the mayor's responsibility.

Jan. 30 2014 11:01 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Did Southerners snicker at the impact of Sandy? Parts of the South are regularly hit by tornados, hurricanes, and the North basically ignores it--the lack of electricity, the scarcity of basic supplies sometimes, etc. Just what happened around here during Sandy. These responses are bizarre and ridiculous. I wonder if there are any cultural attitudes underlying this.

Jan. 30 2014 11:00 AM

I must also add everyone in a car is a selfish idiot.

Jan. 30 2014 11:00 AM

Being incapable of dealing with a few inches of snow and icy roads is an example of the inability to take responsibility for themselves that happens to state and city governments in a region that depends on being given much more money from Washington than it contributes.

PS No wonder they lost the war.

Jan. 30 2014 11:00 AM
Lesa from Westchester from In the wilds of Westchester where parents let kids run amok

Minnesotans laugh at our inability to handle 7 inches of snow!

Jan. 30 2014 10:59 AM
Ben from Westchester

The rest of my family, other than me, are on a plane to Atlanta right now! We have ties there.

The reason to make fun of the south has little to do with their inability to deal with an inch of snow -- although that's always good for a laugh -- it has to do with the entire deep south listening to radio and watching TV where the mention of climate change brings howls of laughter.

Why not hire a meteorologist or, dare I say, a scientist to talk about the coming changes we will all face? They would rather watch Fox.

New York will flood, Atlanta will have snow, Texas will have drought. None of it is funny, all of it is new, and this is our new world which we ourselves have made.

Jan. 30 2014 10:59 AM

My family lived in Atlanta in 1959 when it also snowed.

The reaction hasn't changed. Luckily at the time we still had our sleds from our time in Cincinnati & made do sledding on a nearby golf course.

I don't envy any driver trying to cross Ferncliff RD on Lenox RD which is a long, steep slope as it runs south from Lenox SQ mall. It wasn't any fun in the rain, either.

Jan. 30 2014 10:59 AM
Robert from NYC

Must be due to the wrath of God. i don't really care'

Jan. 30 2014 10:57 AM
Nick from UWS

For Christ's sake, is there nothing more interesting to talk about than the weather?

Jan. 30 2014 10:57 AM

Mocking the South for their (understandable) snow incompetence, gives everyone a break from the deserved mockery of their racism, sexism, religious fanaticism and all-around general ignorance.

The rest of us get a change of topic, and the South gets to be justifiably aggrieved at an unfair criticism, instead of creepily furious at the rest of the country for it's progress.

It's a win-win for all!

Jan. 30 2014 10:57 AM
Ruby-Beth from Brooklyn

Not so into name calling but, yes, jerk is appropriate. I'm an Atlanta ex pat living in Brooklyn and I couldn't help but seethe yesterday. The jokes and even the dismissive reporting by media outlets were completely inappropriate. I had friends still stuck at 3pm yesterday. I felt like the mocking was coming from a New York-centric view of weather and infrastructure. Thankfully Atlanta-based facebook pages that allowed people to connect and get help gave me pause and I was able to take deep breaths and not take it out on my poor Brooklyn co-workers. :-)

Jan. 30 2014 10:44 AM

Why is it that folks want small government untill they need government help for their issue?

Government can't plan for everything and if they try, its likely they have wasted my tax dollars
What's next? Plan for snow in July, could happen!?!
People grow up!

Jan. 30 2014 10:41 AM

LOL, I am a jerk then. doesnt change the fact that with climate change these people will need to relearn to drive ya'll!

Jan. 30 2014 10:28 AM

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