Friday, January 24, 2014

No, we can't drive in this crap

Once every few winters, it happens. A winter storm brings freezing rain, sleet and even a few flurries into the Houston metropolitan area, and everybody panics. The local TV news stations go into the OMG EXTREME WEATHER !!11! frenzy they usually reserve for hurricanes. Schools close. Kids rejoice. Flights get canceled. Business gets disrupted. People up north find out about it and laugh their asses off at us.

But there's a reason why this city shuts down at the slightest bit of ice: as the carnage wrought by this morning's ice storm once again illustrates, we don't know how to drive in this shit.

Driving in icy conditions is simply not a skill that the typical Houston motorist (transplants from up north aside) possesses. We just don't see these kinds of weather conditions often enough to know how to deal with driving in them.

Many of us readily admit that we do not know how to drive in these conditions. We simply stay off the roads. A substantial percentage of locals, however, either cannot admit that they don't know how to drive in icy weather or simply do not realize that driving in such conditions requires special skills that are not required for normal driving. These are the folks that get on the roads and get into wrecks, get stranded on ice-covered overpasses, or otherwise validate the decisions of those of us who choose not to drive in these conditions.

Sure, sometimes people down here can get a bit too ridiculous about it. Yesterday afternoon, everybody was in such a hurry to get home before the ice hit that my trip from The Woodlands (where I was attending meetings) to my home in Bellaire took two whole hours. This in spite of the fact that the freezing precipitation wasn't expected until much later in the evening. And the local news hype, complete with "team coverage" of reporters standing at busy intersections around town or B-roll of TxDOT trucks spraying salt on bridges and people wrapping their plants with blankets, doesn't make matters any better. 

But that's just the way it is down here, where icy weather is a rarity and where knowledge of how to drive in it is simply not a skill that is required 99.9% of the time. If we wanted to drive in this crap, we'd be living in Wyoming or Minnesota.

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