I live in north central Texas. The weather here is pretty intense sometimes. People commonly say “If you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes.” During the summer we usually have severe droughts and months of high temperatures over 100 degrees. The fall doesn’t exist too much. In fact it is the middle of December right now and just 4 or 5 days ago we had a day over 80 degrees. Our springs are filled with mild temperatures and severe thunderstorms that sometimes spawn tornadoes. Then there’s winter. Some years we never really have a winter and other years you’d think we were in Canada.
Our winters are full of surprises and inconstancy. It wasn’t always this way though. I remember during my childhood we got snow every year. During my teens and early twenties the snowfall almost ceased completely with a few exceptions. The past several years we’ve started getting snow again. Usually it is a light dusting that melts within hours of sunrise. Every once in a while we’ll get a massive amount that takes several days to melt away, but it isn’t that common. Needless to say, in the event that snowfall leads to icy roads you’re better off staying at home if you can.
The big problem here is that the DOT is completely incompetent. All too often we’ll get a heavy snow and there will be absolutely no ice or sand on the roads beforehand. You’re also not likely to ever see plows on the icy roads trying to clear a path. You will, however, see salt and sand trucks out on the icy roads the next day. Talk about too little too late. The attitude seems to be “let’s deal with the aftermath” rather than “let’s be prepared for this”.
Today is a good example of what I’m talking about. We had a 30% chance of snow in our forecast for last night and they’ve been saying that for days. Last week it was unseasonably warm so I didn’t think that the snow would stick if it did decide to fall. The last few days, however, we’ve seen highs only in the 40′s so it cooled the ground off a bit. Last night our low was 19 degrees and that seemed to be cold enough to make for accumulation. I woke up and noticed some snow on the ground. My wife advised me that we only got between 1-2 inches of the powdery stuff so I still wasn’t too concerned. When I went out to my car my driveway only had a little bit of ice on it and I still wasn’t too concerned. Then I pulled into the street. I immediately realized that it was going to be a slow drive to work. I also opted to avoid the highways at all costs and took a longer route to work. I was about 25 minutes late today, but thankfully I don’t punch a clock so it isn’t a big deal. Still, I saw countless signs of stupidity on my way to work.
Regardless of the fact that we actually had a chance of snow in the forecast today there was no salt or sand put down on the roads last night. There also didn’t seem to be any city trucks called in early today to clear the major roads. Instead we were left with a slow, slippery drive to work that resulted in a lot of accidents. I have to drop my wife off at work on the opposite side of town, then drop my kiddo off at daycare, then I get to drive to work so I have a pretty lengthy morning drive everyday. Not one time did I ever see a city truck during my morning commute. Not a single road I drove on was in good shape. A colleague told me he saw one truck during his commute that was salting the road, but there was a major accident on that road about an hour before involving multiple vehicles so it seemed more like an attempt by the city to cover their asses then an actual attempt to start clearing the roads throughout the city. The city also installed heaters under the surface of any major overpass built within the past 7 or so years. They weren’t turned on this morning. Actually, the fact that they are rarely ever turned on has made the local news before. Basically, if you live in this city, don’t expect any kind of logical preparation or reaction to the possibility of unsafe driving conditions when winter precipitation is in the forecast. The city officials are too incompetent or too worried about costs to do anything worthwhile.
A smaller issue that we have to deal with in this area is the lack of ability to drive on icy roads. This has always blown my mind because it is pretty much a given that we have to deal with this at least once a year. Even though we deal with icy roads annually it seems as if no one ever learns how to adjust the way they drive. There will be accidents all over town, cars stuck in ditches as a result of sliding off the road, and fender benders in parking lots everywhere. Some of this is expected and could be considered reasonable, but for an area with only about 120,000 people there is just entirely too much of this happening. You can blame the city for some of it because they do nothing to makes the roads safer, but there is definitely a lot of stupidity causing this too. Some folks drive close to the speed limit and lose control when they try to turn or hit a patch of black ice. Other overcompensate by driving 10 miles per hour their entire commute and get rear ended at some point. There are also those that don’t start slowing down early for stop signs and lights then act surprised when they are the ones doing the rear-ending. Oh yeah, and there are plenty of morons that drive big 4×4 pickups that drive like there isn’t even anything to be worried about. They cause a lot of accidents because they don’t seem to realize that 4×4 means they will have great traction to keep them going but not so great for turning and stopping. There seems to be only a small group of folks out there that stay between 30-45 mph and slow down early for turns and stops.
There is also the issue of the ridiculous hysteria that seems to occur when we get snow around here. Lots of folks seem to have a knee-jerk reaction as if they’ve never seen the white stuff before. We had 1-2 inches of snow last night and school is completely cancelled today. My daycare called me around 9:30 this morning to let me know that they are closing at 4pm instead of 5:30pm today. The reason they gave was that they wanted to give their folks an early start on the commute home. My problems with this lies in the fact that by the time they called the ice was already melting pretty quickly. Our high today is 45 degrees so this afternoon there will be no ice whatsoever. People around here just get panicky when there is any snow or ice on the roads. I understood this type of reaction when I lived in Austin because it is extremely rare that they get snow or ice, but in north Texas this happens enough that people should know the drill by now. They don’t. No one ever learns a thing. Every year that this happens people act like the world is ending and they drive like complete shit.
Bottom line…if you ever live in north Texas prepare for the apocalypse if there is snow in the forecast. The DOT is a joke and the citizens evidently are incapable of learning how to properly deal with inclement road conditions regardless of the fact that they have to do so annually.