This is my fourth winter in Maine.
I’m used to telling people that.
Whenever I meet someone, after they pick up on the tell-tale Southern accent, the question is inevitable, “Is this your first Maine winter?”
No. It isn’t.
I’ve already accepted the fact that I will always be “from away”. I’m OK with that because I am proud of my roots… and my accent.
But there is one quality that is starting to rub off on me the longer I am in Maine and it is actually quite annoying to my Southern friends.
I’m becoming a pious Maine Winter weather snob.
I’ve crossed the line of once being in awe of how the world keeps functioning after we get over 12″ of snow in one day here in northern Maine.
I am now one of those annoying people “of the North” that chuckles at my Southern friends when a dusting of snow in their forecast is imminent.
Earlier this week, the entire South shut down over the threat of a couple of inches of snow and VERY cold temperatures and wind chills. The snow never really materialized as predicted but I know that it was cold. I think it got down to near 0 with -20°F or colder wind chills. I know that doesn’t sound very cold to a Mainer considering it didn’t get above 0 for nearly all of last week, but to anyone living in Georgia, that is VERY cold.
It was the coldest temperatures that many people have ever experienced in their lifetime.
My Southern friends just don’t have the right clothes for such cold weather. Scarves, hats, and gloves – yes they have them because Southerners love to accessorize, but they are more for style than they are for function.
Houses and businesses aren’t built to handle such cold temps. Many people experienced frozen pipes and damage as a result of that. Schools were canceled and all of the bread and milk in the grocery stores were sold out.
So I want to give you a little insight into what it is like for a Georgia girl to learn to survive (and even sometimes enjoy) a Maine winter.
A Georgia Snow Day
- The meteorologist has just announced that sometime next week, there is a slight chance that there will be snow. Discussions automatically begin on whether or not school will be canceled.
- Those who have generators will make sure that they have enough fuel on hand. Kerosene heaters are filled up in the event that power is lost. Flashlight batteries are checked. Phones are charged and ready.
- As the weekend ahead of this extreme weather event approaches, you can be assured that milk and bread will be flying off of the grocery store shelves.
- It is now one day ahead of the imminent storm and the first school system has decided to cancel school the next day. It will just be too dangerous for the students and school buses to justify opening. They justify this decision by saying that they want to give parents an opportunity to make arrangements for their children.
- All other schools in the surrounding counties cancel school.
- The snow day arrives. There are two scenerios: A/ There is no snow. Everyone gets a free day off. OR B/ There is a little snow. A beautiful white blanket covers the ground and the world stands still. All is at peace. The roads are a beautiful pathway of white, untouched by vehicle or snow plow. Because people in Georgia do NOTHING when it snows. Except take pictures, watch movies inside, and scrape together snowmen from what little snow actually fell.
A Maine Snow Day
- The meteorologist announces that next week there may be a chance of snow.
- Nobody really listens to the meteorologist because you can’t predict Maine weather with any certainty more than 24-48 hours out.
- A news story runs about how many inches ahead/behind we are in snow totals for the year and the economic impact thereof.
- If more than 6 inches of snow is predicted, those Mainers owning sleds (to my Georgia friends this is a Maine term for snowmobiles) make sure that their equipment is ready for some fun. Secondary to this is making sure that the plow truck or snow-blower is fueled up.
- It snows. The weathermen that were able to make an accurate prediction on snow totals pat themselves on the back. Those that were wrong give the detailed reason for why they were inaccurate (shift in a front, secondary front, winds, etc.).
- In my neighborhood at 6:00am, the snow plow will go by the house. You can set your watch by it. Then you will hear the mild hum of all of the neighbors (and my husband) blowing out their driveways.
- I drop the kids off at daycare and school and head to work. Thankful for the new snow because it is the one time that all of the potholes are filled in, making a smooth drive to work.
The One Thing That Freaks Both Northerners & Southerners Out
Yes, Northerners do pick on Southerners for their ways of handling a little snow. You should have seen all of the stuff that we bought for our first Maine winter that we have never needed.
One element that we expected to contend with that is generally not an issue in extreme Northern Maine is ICE. Believe it or not, with the exception of the ice storm that hit most of Maine earlier this season, it is usually too cold for ice to be a problem.
The world shuts down in the South when there is snow not because of the snow, but because of the ice. It generally doesn’t get cold enough for the snow to be powder. The snow I grew up looking forward to was wet and made wonderful snowmen when you could scrape enough together to do so.
Ice is what makes the world stop in the South. Trees and power lines freeze and the roads are treachorous.
When I was a little girl the city would call on my Dad in the middle of the night to help spread salt/sand on the roads when it would snow. Why, do you ask? Because he worked for the feed and seed store and they owned a fertilizer spreader truck.
Mainers are well equipped for piles of snow. The roads get plowed and salted when necessary. I have seldom had issues getting around in the snow.
But I don’t care where you are from, ICE is the common denominator. I don’t know a soul that is an expert in driving in ice.
So I’ll leave you with advice that my Dad once gave me for driving in slick conditions. I was in high school and living through “The Blizzard of ’93”. We had just gotten the most snow I had ever seen at that point in my life. I think we had about 6-8 inches and I had to go to work at the local radio station (my high school job). He told me that when driving in ice, if you lose control of your vehicle and begin to slide to, “forget you have breaks and aim for something cheap.”
For my Northern friends, I’m well equipped for Winter weather and am actually longing for a good snowstorm. I have some new snowshoes that I can’t wait to try and I’m dodging way too many potholes on the way to work.
For my Southern friends, I’ll try to cut you some slack the next time you have snow in the forecast. But please think of me in a month or so when your flowers are blooming. We won’t be seeing the ground here until around May.