Samaritan moments as Southern states get a taste of snow

Snow is an unexpected sight for many in the South, who are getting by with limited equipment and a dose of neighborliness. 

Lisa Suhay
Ian Suhay (bottom) Kamani Simmons, and E.Z. Bodrick of Norfolk, Virginia help a neighbor get his car moving on one for the city's unplowed residential streets.

It is a wintry mix of joy and frustration as the Northeast continues to lament the worst house guest ever – Old Man Winter – and many in the South are welcoming their first real taste of snow in a year or more.

“The Eastern Shore, Virginia and North Carolina got between five and 10 inches of snow, with periods of sleet in some areas,” says Larry Brown of the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia in a phone interview. “Here, that’s an event.”

Mr. Brown, a native of Chicago, moved to the Wakefield area 12 years ago and is still impressed with how much Virginians love snow.

“I think that in general, most people here are real snow lovers, although some are frightened by it,” says Brown. “It snowed for 20 minutes the other night and that was an event too. The 2010 storm the day after Christmas that brought about 10-inches to that area was the biggest snow that city had seen since the 1800s.”

Brown adds, “The fact that any accumulation at all is so rare in Southern states the mere mention of it in a forecast makes some people very nervous here.”

However, today, kids in Norfolk, Virginia are enjoying their first snow day of the year, as their city is blanketed with less than eight inches.

That's enough to shut down the city, according to the Norfolk government’s call center, perhaps due to the fact that, according to its website, “Crews do not plow residential roads due to the size of our equipment and safety concerns.  As such, please exercise extreme caution when operating on these roads in snow and ice conditions.”

While main roads are plowed by the city, getting to them is a bit too tricky. Hence, much of the city is essentially immobilized by the white stuff.

Unable to take to the roads, many Southerners took to Twitter instead to celebrate the rare snow event and the joy of helping others.

Marcella Hauser of Richmond, Virginia, a student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk and friends are busy with a snow scavenger hunt.

"It's a tradition my friends and I have had since Freshman year, but we really haven't been able to do it many times," Ms. Hauser says.

Meanwhile, in New England, Boston in particular, as more than seven feet of snow continues to grip the city where the territorial nature of some residents has been tried by those either reserving shoveled parking spaces or hijacking them has become an issue.

Although there have been numerous instances of good Samaritans helping people push snowbound vehicles and assist the elderly in the white-out, the thrill is definitely gone for many who would like nothing better than to never see another snowflake again.

In late January, after the first of what would become many major snow events in Boston, Philip Hillman II, a regional manager for a California-based vineyard, who was staying at the Charlesmark Hotel and chose to shovel the finish line of the Boston Marathon as a gesture of goodwill that swiftly went viral on social media, perhaps fueled by Bostonians eager to see the finish line for winter.

Meanwhile, in some place in the South, people just want to make it out of their parking spaces on unplowed streets that appear to be doomed to remain impassible until the cities get a thaw.

“I fully expect kids in Virginia to be out of school the rest of the week,” Brown says.  “Places like Norfolk where they don’t plow residential areas probably won’t be able to get back to normal until the weekend.”

Brown says Wednesday will be the warmest day of the week for the Eastern Shore, Virginia and North Carolina.

He adds, “Anyone looking for a significant thaw that can affect unploughed streets will have to wait until Saturday at the earliest.”

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