Surviving the s(no)wpocalypse of '14 

Well, would you just look at this weather! The sun shining like it's selling something, an amicable breeze kissing our noses—once again, we Savannahians are blissfully kicking down the cobblestones while the rest of the country huddles around the heating vents. That big ol' Winter Storm Leon seems like a distant dream doesn't it?

Yet it was just last week that we were all obsessively refreshing our phones to check the hourly weather forecast, squealing when that unmistakable digital snowflake icon appeared on our screens.

Well, some of us squealed. Maybe snow is no big deal for those who hail from northerly climes, the humblebraggarts regaling us with how they dug themselves out of seven-foot drifts in Baltimore back in '98. But to folks for whom winter preparation mostly means throwing an extra blanket on the bed, snow was a thrilling prospect.

Snow—in addition to its homelier, bitter sister, ice—can also be slippery and dangerous. Knowing how discombobulated we get around here when it rains for more than five minutes, the city's emergency services bureaus were not about to let the snow-crazy public fend for themselves.

Stoically ignoring the irony of last Monday's cloudless sky, jacketless representatives from city hall, police and fire held a press conference at the City of Savannah's Emergency Command & Control Center, a clandestine nexus of high-tech security so super secret that I have been sworn not to reveal its exact location. (Hint: It is not in the Cluskey Vaults.)

If there was ever a question of whether public safety is a priority around here, be reassured by the fact that this city has its own Bat Cave.

Surrounded by NASA-like cubicle stations and six flat screen TVs constantly monitoring GPS maps, traffic flow and of course, the Weather Channel, official after official warned that conditions could turn "extremely serious" and that "home is the safest place to be."

Some Yankees may have groused about "overblown media hype" and "slow news day," but after the clustercuss in Atlanta, it doesn't seem so hysterical now, does it?

So good job on the listening, fellow citizens. We all know that by Tuesday afternoon, schools had been let out early, the streets were deserted and grocery stores had been relieved of their entire stocks of bread, batteries and beer.

I went home and made some delicious lentil soup (and it was delicious, no matter what my husband says about lentils being the last food choice of even the most depressed post-apocalyptic hippie.) We checked the flashlights and made sure there was plenty of chocolate.

I remembered what the assistant fire chief said about taking precautions for our non-human loved ones, so I went back out, clipped off all the dish-sized camellias blooming in the front yard and gently arranged them on the kitchen table.

Then we waited to be enveloped in a shimmery blanket of white. And waited.

We put on our one pair of wool socks and broke out the board games. We brushed up on unfamiliar terms like "wintry mix," which either sounds like a cocktail made from Kahlua and cough syrup or a batch of horrid potpourri that makes your house smell like grandma's cooking meth.

The next morning we woke to icicles and dead lawns, but no snow. We baked cookies for breakfast to keep spirits bright, jackets and boots piled next to the door so we could be ready to rush into the coming winter wonderland at a moment's notice. There was a bit of excitement when what appeared to be flurries were spotted in the lane, but they were just ash flakes from someone's chimney.

By Wednesday afternoon, it became clear it was not going to snow. The digital snowflake disappeared from the weather apps. All the cookies were long gone. Winter Storm Leon had passed, but the atmosphere couldn't have been more tense. People began posting Facebook photos of themselves packing balls of air to throw at their neighbors. Children lay prone on the concrete, not making snow angels. Others sadly crooned that infernal "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" song from the movie Frozen until they were banned from the living room.

Monopoly was declared an instrument of Satan.

The anticipation unspooled into a sub-category of bad mood heretofore known as Anticlimactic Climate Syndrome. It was more than disappointment. The fact that it didn't snow actually hurt our feelings.

What's so wrong with us that we didn't deserve just a little dusting? we lamented. Just one freakin' flake to melt on the tongue, even?

It was a difficult reality to accept: Snow had SNUBBED us. Snow threw mad shade on Savannah like we were that long-haired dumb dude from TMZ trying to interview Meryl Streep at the Oscars. Snow is a SNOB.

When the news came that school was canceled for again, we almost choked on the Monopoly iron at the thought of spending another day indoors with two bug-eyed kids and a diabetic dog. Our shoulders, along with the camellias, drooped. Several blooms went ahead and dumped their petals all over the kitchen table in solidarity.

Deep down in our cold hearts, we understood the sagacity of one more day of sequestration for Chatham County's 37,000 students—many of whom would have had to wait in the freezing darkness for buses skittering around on still-icy roads. But dang, having to listen to Northerners snigger about it was downright embarrassing. Not only were we not invited to snow's party, now we were overdressed.

That's why on Friday, sweating in my deceased grandmother's fur vest that I wore to work in the hopes of luring the cold weather back this way, I went down the street to the WSAV studios to ask meteorologist Lee Haywood WHY it did not snow.

Now, let it be known I do not blame Mr. Haywood or any other weather professional for snow's no-show. Meteorologists make educated predictions on scientific data and multiple computer models; they don't actually make the weather. In spite of this, I heard some rather asinine accusations lobbed against them, from gross incompetency to the conspiracy theory that they purposely report the wrong weather to make politicians look bad.

That's just silly, people. This was obviously all snow's fault. Because snow is a TEASE.

Haywood was sympathetic to my distress. After 13 years of mostly reporting on pollen and humidity, he was ready for a little weather drama himself.

"Don't take it personally," he consoled me as I peeled off layers in the WSAV lobby. "I wanted it to snow, too."

He patiently explained just how rare an occurrence snow is in our coastal region, that it has to be cold enough with just the right amount of wet to create the magic of those white flakes, each one unique and perfect.

Acknowledging that weatherpeople must have a thick skin to weather the constant criticism, Haywood reasoned that leading up to last Wednesday, conditions really did look like they might yield some flurries. But the arctic air that was supposed to meet the warmer, wet stuff coming up from the Gulf Stream must have been fixing its hair or something and missed the hook-up.

"Basically, the deeper layer of cold got here as the moisture was moving out," he described using his hands, even without the green screen. "It was a timing issue."

Professor Haywood—as he is known to his AASU students—also schooled me on the difference between freezing rain (precipitation that ices as it hits the ground) and sleet (icy pellets that wishful thinkers might mistake for snow but will bore a hole in your tongue.) These, in turn, are totally unrelated to hail, which is also a type of ice pellet but has no business with winter weather at all.

Maybe because he's more forgiving, the good professor counseled me not to give up on snow. We've still got a month and a half of winter to go, plenty of time for another weirdo weather pattern to find its way to Savannah.

"But it's not even cold anymore," I sniffed forlornly, looking out onto Daffin Park, full of folks and their dogs frolicking in the sunny warmth.

"We're always within a couple days of 70 in Savannah," Haywood nodded, patting my furry shoulder. "It's not such a bad thing. Try to enjoy it."

I'll try. But, hey snow: Should you find your way 'round these parts again, maybe you could stick around a while. Promise we won't make you play Monopoly.

Or eat any lentils.


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About The Author

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Jessica Leigh Lebos

Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos has been writing about interesting people, vexing issues and anything involving free food for more than 20 years. She introduces herself at cocktail parties as southern by marriage.

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