The astonishing photo shows cars strewn about the roadway like a child’s discarded Hot Wheels. Emergency lights gleam in the background as a vehicle engulfed in flames spouts black smoke into the gray sky above.
Yet the woman in the foreground on her cellphone appears unconcerned with the chaotic scene behind her. Perhaps she knows this is just the typical result of any significant snow accumulation in North Carolina.
North Carolina, along with most of the South, became the laughing stock of the nation due to their unpreparedness in the face of winter weather.
Although news outlets described the snow as both “severe” and “historic,” and Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in order to mobilize snow plows, traffic wrecks still abounded over the three days of heavy snow and many abandoned their vehicles along Interstate 40.
North Carolinians must learn how to deal with heavy snow and ice as these conditions become more common.
Mere weeks before this latest storm, crippling snow gridlocked Atlanta and forced many to spend nights in gas stations, schools or their own cars. North Carolina was not spared the wrath of this weather, with dozens of wrecks reported along I-40 and Interstate 85.
When intense snows start falling, it seems North Carolinians just will not stay off the roads.
Workplace and school coercion may account for some misguided intrepidness in the face of steadily-accumulating snow. Many state offices penalize employees for missing too much work, while minimum class hour requirements per semester make schools reticent to close or delay until conditions become ludicrously severe — sometimes even after buses have already taken to the roads.
The governor says he plans to reevaluate these standards for the sake of public safety, but the fact remains people should either prepare more carefully or use a modicum of common sense and stay put when the forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of snow.
Increasingly warm winters may cause drivers to second-guess purchasing a set of snow tires, but studies suggest that when winter weather does appear, it is likely to be more dangerous.
A study published last year by the scientific journal Nature Climate Change theorizes the jet stream, a powerful band of winds in the northern hemisphere, greatly impacts the movement and severity of snow storms. Increased temperatures and melting sea ice in the Arctic Circle cause the jet stream’s activity to fluctuate unpredictably in strength and location causing untold blizzards to slam regions like North Carolina, where people just do not anticipate such weather.
Government and citizens in the South must take it upon themselves to prepare for these disastrous snowstorms. Buncombe County and much of western North Carolina may have avoided the majority of complications because people from the mountains expect winter weather to hit harder.
Folks out in the Triangle may have lucked out in the past, but signs point towards snow like we saw last week becoming increasingly common. Everyone needs to take the proper precautions to ensure their car doesn’t end up the one on fire in some photo on the Internet people are laughing at and forwarding to their friends.