Perspective

I was born and raised and spent a good chunk of my adult life living in the upper Midwest, where it snows regularly and not-infrequently in large quantities. Naturally, I have a number of friends and family who still live there, and unfortunately, apparently also naturally a fair number of them seem to think there’s something they have to feel smugly superior about in watching the mid-Atlantic react to this weekend’s snow. So.. as someone who’s lived in both places, allow me to clarify why that behavior is not only annoying, but also fundamentally flawed and illogical.

If you live somewhere where it snows frequently, it makes sense to build your infrastructure in ways that will withstand sometimes large volumes of snow. This means your city planners were likely intentional about building wider streets and highway shoulders – so that when it snows and the plows come through, there’s room for the resulting snow to be piled up without impinging on traffic. Similarly, your power lines are more likely to be underground, where accumulated ice and heavy snow would be less likely to cause outages. It also makes sense for your cities, counties, and states to invest in sufficient equipment to safely and quickly respond to snow – adequate vehicles to pre-treat all major and most minor roads, enough plows so that even during blizzards they can make passes through most streets multiple times. Because if you live somewhere where it snows frequently, *not* doing those things would be irresponsible, both in terms of health and human safety, but also in terms of economic impact on the community.

If you live somewhere where it does not snow frequently, somewhere where in the last three and a half years (as long as I’ve lived in DC) it’s snowed *at all* less than a dozen times and snowed a couple inches at once only one or two times, it does not make sense to build your infrastructure with snow removal in mind. It would be fiscally irresponsible, in fact, for cities, counties, and states to invest in large volumes of equipment for the once-every-half-decade snow storm where they might be justified. It would be more expensive – taking money out of public budgets that could and should be spent on other things more likely to have direct impact on health and safety and economic prosperity – to insist that all power lines be underground, or that all streets be wide enough to accommodate snow banks.

Therefore, when that once-every-half-decade snow storm happens, yes, those places where snow is not a regular occurrence will not be able to respond as efficiently as those places that know and regularly expect snow in large quantities every year. There’s nothing inferior about the preparation or governance of those places that do not regularly experience snow. The people who live there are not inherently stupid, though they may be ignorant of how to drive in so much snow or how to ensure that their home is prepared for what may be several days without the ability to restock *because* it’s not a normal occurrence. Their governments are not overreacting when they close things down for several days to give adequate time and less-trafficked roads to the crews who are working diligently to respond to an abnormal weather event; they’re being responsible and working to keep everyone safe.

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