Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 30, 2014

Polar chills spur longing for spring, but winter could be worse

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — For the last few days, I’ve had to suit up like an astronaut to go outside. First comes the sweater, then the snow boots or my waterproofed shoes, then the winter coat, a long scarf, a hat that makes me look like a character in “South Park” and heavy gloves. I’m not sure I could get up if I fell down.

My mom gave me some spare gloves that double as mittens; you can pull the mitten part back to uncover the fingers when you drive. Unfortunately, I still have to pull a glove off when I want my car keys. I use my scarf to cover the lower part of my face when the wind picks up, but then my glasses fog up. Sometimes you can’t seem to win. If we’re not battling snow, we’re fighting bitter cold. I had to take my time and watch the roads Tuesday night as I headed home.

Despite all these weather woes, I have to keep telling myself that the situation could be much worse. I remember blizzards that put two to three feet of snow on the ground and ice storms that knocked out power for weeks. These memories are usually little comfort when you’re trying to commute home during a snow shower, but they help a little.

I remember one particularly bad snowstorm back in 2013. The region was smothered under wet, slippery snow that made travel a heart-pounding experience. We got the newspaper out early and headed home as soon as possible.

When I left the parking lot, I realized the word “soon” wasn’t going to apply to this drive home. My rate of travel was a crawl, and the road had turned into an obstacle course. Stranded cars and trucks were everywhere, and stopping at the wrong place and the wrong time would add my car to the storm’s collection.

One of the worst moments was going down Princeton Avenue just as you go past Grassy Branch Road outside of Bluefield. It’s a downhill slope that offers the potential of sliding and going into oncoming traffic. I navigated this obstacle and encountered a new one, the slope that takes you up to Route 460.

Stranded vehicles were everywhere and drivers were out chatting with each other. I remembered all the winter driving lessons my dad had taught me and headed up the hill, weaving to maintain traction and telling myself not to stop. If I stopped, I was going to get struck. What almost made my temper meltdown were the pedestrians who were ignoring this car coming toward them. Fortunately, they stepped aside and I reached Route 460. Finally, I managed to creep my way home.

Then I had a sobering revelation. When I got home, I heard the distinctive scraping sound a snowplow makes when it’s raising sparks on the pavement. I looked out the window and saw a state Department of Highways truck go by my apartment. And the road looked clear! I later estimated that if I had waited about half an hour and let the plows do some cleaning up, my commute home would have been a lot less stressful.

The fact we have experienced snowplow drivers ready to spend all night on the highways, and the fact we have the equipment needed to handle a storm, comes home when I hear about what my sister’s family goes through when any snow hits North Carolina.

Basically, a snow shower we wouldn’t consider significant shuts down the city. If the roads get even a couple of inches of snow, traveling turns into a nightmare. A lot of drivers don’t have much experience driving in winter weather. The cities also don’t have the snow equipment we have in West Virginia, so clearing up is a major chore. I’ve heard of school being closed in the Charlotte area after two or three inches of snow hit the ground. I know my nephews, A.J. and Alex, liked that situation.

When I was teaching in Henry County, Va., which sits on the North Carolina border, I looked outside one morning and assumed school was on for the day. There were only a few patches off melting snow on the ground. Then I heard on the radio that school was canceled. I was amazed, but delighted. I went back to bed. That was one advantage to being a teacher; you got snow days just like you did when you were a little kid.

We’re all hoping the weather will warm up and give us a break from the polar chill. I used to like winter, but the cold and commuting on slippery roads have ended that love affair. I want spring to get here as soon as possible.

Like a lot of other people, I’ll just keep telling myself how the situation could be worse and to be thankful we got two inches of snow instead of two feet.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at