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April 2011
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gwen [userpic]
"But I'm from where there's REAL snow! You wimps!"

I've lived in Utah and California, to be on either extreme of this discussion.

In Utah, the snow started in October, and by December the roads were made from indentations in the snow. Driving was somewhat like skiing. I actually learned how to drive while in Utah, so I got a very good primer on snow driving.

In California, if snow is witnessed in the sky, there's a cold panic. Er, no pun intended.

Now I'm back in Pittsburgh, and I remember the Utahns who'd lived in Pittsburgh making fun of our lack of driving skills in snow. I also know that the Yinzers make fun of California, Atlanta, etc for shutting down if snow is even mentioned. It's a wonderful chain of superiority complexes.

But, allow me to point out: snow begets snow preparedness. We are prepared for the average amount of snow that we get, for any location that we live in. Trying to compare Utah to California is just insane; and it's just as insane to compare Pittsburgh to either, or even to Erie.


1) Money. Why buy too much salt? More plows than we need? Over-employ people to plow? We could, of course, stay prepared for the worst case scenario... but then we'd be paying for it the rest of the year. I'm pretty sure that if we *were* to do this, everyone in Pittsburgh would complain about their taxes going up.

2) Test cases. OK, so we're making a lot of fun of the Mayor for not having a good plan for snow removal. I will grant you that I don't think much of him, but I am willing to forgive him in this case. Realize that he was given a plan frought with nepotism (Murphy had scheduled the main plowing for his home district), decided after the last disastor two years ago to change it, and until now his new plan has worked reasonably well... but no storm has been close to this magnitude in that time either. How, really, do you build plans without the ability to test them?

3) Preparation. In Utah, everyone knew it'd snow all winter, so they owned vehicles that were built for this. Everyone either had a truck, early SUV prototype (yes, it was that long ago), or kept chains in their cars. I even remember when Pittsburgh got snow more consistently, we also kept chains for the tires, and bricks for the weight. In Utah, you also kept a shovel in the car in case you had to dig out some traction for the tires. How many of you yinzers have any of these now? Hell, I didn't even have a snow shovel for my walk.

4) Experience. We aren't driving in snow that much these days, so we forget how. We also forget our limitations (that steep hill covered in snow and ice and our honda civic with summer tires? Yah, perhaps we shouldn't go up it). We forget how to handle the car when it does start to slide around. We forget that traction involves keeping the tires moving slowly over the snow, not causing them to spin. So people are doing things they probably shouldn't, and getting their cars stuck all over... which is making it harder for the plows/emergency vehicles/buses/etc to do their jobs.

So, really, please keep your egotism about where you're from out of my snow emergency. Where you're from had a different set of needs, and your bragging is actually harming our needs by encouraging people to prove they're better than that ... and then getting their unprepared car stuck on a hill.


Fully agreed.

I had a visitor from Chicago totally freaked out about driving in snow around here. We were supposed to get about 5 inches. He said, "But everything in PA is on a 70 degree angle." Sometimes I forget how this complicates things for people not from around here (or other slanty places).

I also think the biggest problem I see in the city itself is WHERE THE HECK DO YOU PUT ALL OF THIS SNOW???

At my place in Westmoreland County, you just throw it in the yard 'til Spring.

When I lived up on Mt. Washington, I had some friends visit from Columbus one winter. I freaked them out by taking the steepest hills. And it wasn't even snowy or icy at the time.

"OMG! I can't see over the edge of that!"

So much fun.

The folks shoveling the snow from their cars back into the street are implicitly sociopathic; y'all ain't helping!

That said, I have a six foot vertical toss/lift to get the snow from my sidewalk up over a retaining wall into my yard, which made the weekend full of calisthenics.

I agree that we haven't gotten this much snow in years. But Pittsburghers should know that we live in the northeast where it SNOWS! :) But then again, if it rains, everyone panics, if the sun is out? everyone panics. If it snows? everyone panics (see Giant Eagle before a storm!)

We owned a snow shovel. But as luck would have it, it BROKE! so now, we can't get a snow shovel to save our lives. and when the storm hits tonite, we'll be using a gardening shovel and if Petey can get to the shed, a coal shovel to do our really long driveway. Should be LOTS of fun!

I don't know, this weekend was a good example of why Giant Eagle gets like it does. I was out of a lot of things with no way to get them, because I habitually blow off weather concerns.

Gwen, I'm inclined to agree with a lot of what you say... I, at least, would buy a vehicle and tires better equipped for snow if we got it more often. I can't drive in this, but I'm okay with that, because it is saving me hundreds of dollars to give up driving for a few random winter days!


All very true. I'm glad we're not getting your level of snow myself, though at least in my area I probably still would not lose power as this neighborhood runs the lines underground. But we'd definitely be seriously snowed in.

Oh also, you might like this.

I agree to an extent, but I'm amazed at how snow down here always seems to take people by surprise. It snows here a few times each and every year, but the response from drivers, municipalities, VDOT, etc., every time, is like they've never seen it before and have no idea what to do. I'm cutting them some slack on this current round of course, because it is unusual to see this much of it here, but there's no excuse for the overall lack of preparedness for snow given the fact that it happens as often as it does.

Then again, this is an area in which it apparently seems like a good idea to put the bicycle program coordinator in charge of coordinating snow removal for one of the largest snow storms in the area in recorded history -- and he manages to get stuck himself.

Agreed -- well said, Gwen!

Yeah, we up in Peterborough often make sport of the problems folks in non-snowy places have when there's snow, but we have a whole infrastructure and set of habits built up for it -- we're not more virtuous or sensible or anything. And we've been screwed when the fall was heavier than we expected anyway.

This is a once-in-a-generation snow. If you listen to the old folks, they're all saying the same exact thing - "The last time we got a snow this bad was '78". (Alternately, "When you were a baby," which is equally correct, in my case.) Given that, I'm willing to cut everyone some slack. There's obvious dumbassery, but most of this is just folks being completely unprepared for something that happens maybe a few times in their life. I think I saw a headline claiming it's the fourth-worst snow storm in Pittsburgh history. Hearing from my dad about the problems clearing the main throughways of Baldwin, I can only imagine what a clusterfuck the mayor is facing right now.

In a sense I think living in California did me a bit of a favor. I recognize better when it's just not worth going out into the mess if I can help it. Though it's not stopping me from trying to go to the hockey game tomorrow night, but I'll accept I'm a fool for that.

If someone gets stuck on your street, grab your shovel and help them out. Basic human decency and neighborly behavior are among the admirable traits of Pittsburghers that'll help us get through the mess.

Oh, am I still babysitting for you tomorrow?

Hell no. :) Your mom is supposed to head out our way tomorrow and spend the night. Might be using her vehicle to get to the game if it's looking dicey outside.

I grew up with approximately monthly foot-deep storms. They would shut things down for 12h. A two-foot storm would take a couple days. Which seems not much faster than Pittsburgh, which gets far less snow in general.