A cold reality check
Lowcountry life has wonderful advantages. But largely unimpaired motor vehicle transportation during - and for at least a day or so after - an ice storm isn't one of them.
Some transplants from colder climes are predictably vexed by this local reality. And our persisting difficulties in handling what such folks consider slight amounts of frozen precipitation were re-confirmed after a wintry blast hit here late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
However, there remains this practical reason for not having nearly as many snowplows in South Carolina as there are in Minnesota - or even Virginia:
We rarely need them.
Thus, freezing rain, sleet and snow forced the closure of many tri-county bridges. That group included the Arthur Ravenel Jr. and Don Holt bridges over the Cooper River.
Though the Holt re-opened at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, the Ravenel didn't re-open until almost 24 hours later, at about 3 p.m. Thursday. That created heavy traffic on the Holt.
It also triggered questions about why the Ravenel wasn't re-opened sooner.
S.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore told us Thursday that re-opening the Holt was easier than re-opening the Ravenel due to a variety of factors, including the bridges' differing surfaces.
So, as he logically put it, because "we can get one of them open faster than the other," the DOT initially focused more of its efforts on the Holt than the Ravenel.
That explanation likely offers scant consolation to the thousands of people who had to very slowly traverse the Holt during Thursday morning's rush hours.
And it is reasonable for motorists to wonder what the delay might be like if there was a much stronger winter storm with multiple inches of ice and snow. That's a question that the DOT ought to ask its emergency response officials - for instance, in Oconee County, where they get much more practice with frozen roads.
In any event, re-opening the Ravenel, which is more prone to icing than the Holt, before DOT officials deemed it safe would have been irresponsible.
So is driving too fast on icy roads, where reduced speeds - and patience - are indispensable assets. Tailgating in those conditions is particularly perilous.
And while experts (and lots of non-experts) debate whether the authorities waited longer than necessary to open the Ravenel, keep in mind this regional maxim:
When wet winter weather hits hard around here, erring on the side of caution has considerable merit.
If you doubt that, consult the thousands of people stuck in a shivering plight on Atlanta's highways for extended periods this week because the authorities there underestimated the frigid fury headed their way.
The good news here: If you're longing for a warming trend, you won't have long to wait.
The local high-temperature forecasts are near 60 today, over 60 on Saturday and around 70 on Sunday.
But even after all of that ice melts away, remember:
You still shouldn't tailgate.