Southern Winter Wonderland

Matt DiGiovanni

Across the United States, from coast to coast, there are numerous regions where snow is a fact of life; but following the back-to-back blizzards of the north, the South got an unusual taste of winter weather recently. Although for the most part they merely received inches of snow compared to the feet received in the north, with how rare snow accumulation is, any amount can be crippling to the south. Case in point, Atlanta, Georgia was predicting only two inches of snow and this resulted in Delta Airlines cancelling 1,100 flights at Atlanta Airport. In Dallas-Fort Worth, American Airlines cancelled 240 flights after having their snowiest winter in 32 seasons.

With all the hype of snow in the south, it raises the question: Why is it there?

The answer lies in the two jet streams that influence winter weather across the country. When the southern jet stream, which is responsible in conjunction with El Nino for gathering moisture dips, precipitation results. With the severe winter storms that struck the northern United States, cold temperatures had been pulled down toward the South, so understandably, precipitation falling in cold air will form sleet, snow, or hail.

Conditions such as these resulted in a snowy winter for the South this season with the record earliest snowfall for Houston, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana on Dec. 4, record snowfall for Oklahoma City on Dec. 24-25 and the snowiest Christmas Eve in both Dallas and Wichita Falls, Texas, and on Jan. 29-30, an ice storm devastated southwest Oklahoma and Tennessee.

What makes these seemingly insignificant accumulations have such a huge impact? The lack of utilities to take care of cleanup following a storm. Stores do not carry snow shovels, and there are not battalions of snowplows and trucks to salt the roads. Combining inexperienced drivers in the snow and slippery conditions, the results can be disastrous. In Dallas, with more than a foot of snow on the ground, nearly 200 traffic accidents occurred.

Despite the issues resulting from snow in the South, the younger population welcomed it, because for many children it was the first time they had seen snow in any quantity. While it is uncertain whether future winters will be snowier, it is safe to say that the south experience a winter wonderland of sorts this year.