While Atlanta adjusts to snow, Northerners shake fists at another winter storm

With more than 500,000 homes out of power in the Southeast on Thursday morning, utility companies in the Northeast were bracing for more of that trend as the storm moves up the coast.

Bebeto Matthews/AP
Pedestrians walk along Nostrand Avenue as snowfall blankets the area on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 in the Flatbush section of the Brooklyn borough of New York. A winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the Mid-Atlantic region as it marched Northeast and threatened more power outages, traffic headaches, and widespread closures for millions of residents.

Southerners – for the most part – are getting the hang of this snow thing, as yet another snowstorm has turned the region mostly known for honeysuckle and magnolias into something that looks more like a snowscape by Monet.

Now, the storm that the Weather Channel has dubbed Pax – as in Pax Americana – is bearing down on the Northeast, where patience and snowplowing budgets are starting to run thin with weeks yet to go before the key of spring turns.

At issue is a systematic barrage of so-called long-wave weather systems sweeping more deeply into the South than usual, creating a seemingly interminable run of weather across massive swaths of the land to the east of the Mississippi.

If Southerners – at least Southern schoolchildren – are growing used to this strange thing called snow, many Northerners are fed up. “Snow rage” is beginning to appear in tabloid headlines, amid news of shotguns being pulled on snowplow drivers. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio complained after shoveling three times during last week’s storm that “the snow is getting really obnoxious.”

Even before New York could see another 14 inches from “Pax,” the snow totals for the season are north of 40 inches in Manhattan – twice the average total at this point.

“Another week, another major winter storm. Literally that’s been the case in 2014, a year that is exactly six weeks old,” writes WPIX-TV reporter James Ford in New York. “The storm offers a chance to challenge some long established winter weather records. That’s small solace, however, for a metro area that’s grown weary of getting battered again and again by weather that’s severe, even for this season that’s supposed to be cold and snowy.”

Although they seem unlikely targets, New York snowplow drivers have been a target of built-up frustration with the snow cycle.

“They yell. They curse at you. They do all kind of stupidness,” driver Zaheer Hussain tells CBS New York. “They make snowballs and throw them at you.”

The spate of storms is taking a toll on local treasuries as well, with Massachusetts already churning through its $43 million storm-fighting budget.

So far, 12 people have died in storm-related incidents, including a Dallas firefighter who was hit by an out-of-control ambulance.

With more than 500,000 homes out of power in the Southeast on Thursday morning, power companies in the Northeast were bracing for more of that trend as the storm moves up the coast.

So far, nearly 5,000 flights have been canceled in the Eastern US as airlines throw in the towel. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has seen a lot of cancellations, though some trains continue to run.

The core engine of this storm pattern is a constant pumping of “long wave” weather systems pouring down out of Alaska every three to five days, pushing along cloudy low-pressure systems.

The trouble in particular has been a once-in-a-decade “statistical improbability” of cold and wet air that’s common in the snowy Midwest pressing more deeply than usual into the South, says National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Leary in Peachtree City, Ga.

As those storms move up and berate the North, the cycle continues. Rinse and repeat.

“These long waves are about three days apart, just a little more, and when that long wave moves down, there’s a pretty good jet of winds associated with it that push it along, and that’s when you get the weather,” Mr. Leary says.

As a result, planes, trains, and automobiles currently stand mostly idle up the Eastern Seaboard, even as school systems begin to run out of snow days.

Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, was at a standstill Thursday morning under a foot of snow, which was still falling. Citizens were strapping on skis to glide by the Capitol.

As happened in Atlanta two weeks ago, North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, was caught inexperienced on Wednesday when ice precipitation stranded hundreds of motorists and produced massive gridlock. (Perhaps worse, the Duke vs. UNC men’s basketball game had to be postponed.)

In contrast, Atlantans learned their lesson and stayed off the streets for this latest snow, leaving the city’s streets looking more like a scene from “The Walking Dead” TV show rather than a bustling Southern metropolis.

For Southern schoolkids, the bottom line has been an unprecedented run of sledding days. Some dads venturing out in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood used a backhoe to build a snow jump at a local park turned sled hill.

Walking his dog Snowball, Kyle Jones, an Atlanta banker, marveled Thursday morning at a snowscape that “looks like Maine” and worried about his bank customers as regional managers have shut most branches down. “I can imagine people are getting antsy after a week of not getting to the bank,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jones has been working on a home improvement project, managing to get to an (open) Home Depot to pick up some drywall. “I’m actually getting some work done,” he said brightly.

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