The Great Dividing Line

Tom Poland

Posted Jan. 18, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

Yet another dud weather storm forecast teaches me something. When the next Ice Age arrives, its frozen sheet will grind to a halt where I-20 crosses the Southeast. (Assuming civilization lasts that long.) Winter forecasts prove over and over that I-20 forms a great dividing line as snow goes. Like some bully holding candy out to a kid then snatching it back, snow teases those along the shadow of I-20.

Winter after winter, radar reveals blue, pink, and white blotches rolling north of I-20. Below it? Green blotches of rain. Southerners who live along or south of that band of asphalt can forget snow. It’s a latitude thing.

No snow. That delights folks who hate snow. It disheartens Southerners who yearn for the white stuff. As Izzy, that lame name for a winter storm, churned through, I looked for flakes. Nothing. Then I noticed ice coating pine needles. Great. While those north of the dividing line enjoy snow we to the south get raw cold rain and possibly a destructive ice storm.

Over and over, dud winter forecasts build us up, then let us down. When winter radar and forecasts set snow to swirling in the heads of children and a few adults, me among them, I think of good things. One, the way snow softens and smoothes the landscape. Second, how snow revives childhood memories. I’d wake up on a morning when bluish light seeped through windows. Pulling back the curtain, there it was—that crystalline miracle. Fresh snow meant a walk through woods. With boughs crusted white, creaking branches sporting a white meringue, the woods seemed magical.

My boots crunched and squeaked as creatures of the woods revealed their trails. Dad and I tracked a rabbit. We found it still as stone melding into leaves of brown. Seeing it came as a shock. Raccoons and birds stenciled wintry patterns onto snow, that powdery wildlife preserve where animal prints reveal how alive the woods are.

Those memories retain their magic to this day. And it’s good I have them because I-20 is a killjoy, a spoilsport, a wet blanket of cold rain. Were I a weatherman, I’d never predict snow south of I-20 in the classic Deep South. I’d strike a country twang and say, “Here’s your forecast. No snow for those of you below I-20. You can wait a month of Sundays. No ways snow’s gonna happen.”

But here we are deep into January with February, the coldest month of all, yet to come. They’re already predicting another winter “event” next weekend. Is there a chance we’ll have snow? No. Whatever lame name the next weather event sports, I assure you it won’t drop flakes south of I-20. It’s the wrong latitude for snow. It’s the wall that stops flakes in their tracks. It’s the great dividing line.

I recall not one white Christmas. I remember at most a handful of decent snows. So, when I want to see snow down South I look forward to dogwood’s blizzard of white. When all those ivory bracts tumble to the ground, it’s a snow I can count on year after year, above and below the great dividing line. And best of all you can enjoy the show without getting cold. Dogwoods, the South’s real snowstorm.

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