I had a different photograph in mind when I went searching through my files, but I’ll save that one for another time.
This picture, taken near the Okefenokee Swamp a couple of years ago, isn’t very good, technically. But when I stumbled across it, I saw it differently. I saw those words with the brilliant sunlight and that clear blue sky and the trees as backdrop.
Late yesterday afternoon, after a day of heavy rain and wind and storms, the skies finally cleared. Out my kitchen window, I watched the clouds scudding by, still wind-driven, and the glow of sunset through the bare trees. I couldn’t resist. I went outside to take a few shots.
Actually, I think about the weather a lot. I’m a devotee of the Weather Channel, especially when storm fronts come rushing at us from the west or a hurricane spawns out in the Gulf.
I’d guess you don’t know much about Mississippi weather, though. Maybe you think we go barefoot year-round, sit on our verandas and watch the heat shimmer, and sip mint juleps.
Allow me to enlighten you.
In central Mississippi where I live, we do have seasonal changes. Spring and fall are gorgeous, my favorite times of the year. Go 150 miles north, and you’ll see more distinct seasonal swings with much colder winters, even occasional snow. (That’s hill country, where I grew up.) Go south, and you’ll find balmy temps most of the year, although our coast can get pretty chilly. Sometimes it even snows farther south, when a warm, moist front out of the Gulf meets a cold front barreling down from the north. If they tangle just right, that scenario has been known to drop six to twelve inches of the white stuff south of here, and we don’t get a flake.
Where I live, snow is rare but not unheard of. We are just south of what I call “the snow line,” maybe fifty miles north. Sometimes I wish for a front to push a little farther south, but I’m careful of what I wish for. A few inches of snow shuts us down. We lose power. Looking befuddled, road crews throw gravel, sand, and salt on our bridges and overpasses. Schools close. Only essential personnel report for work. It’s for the best. You don’t want to be out on the streets with folks who don’t know how to drive in snow, and believe me, we don’t know how. We get so little practice.
Fear of Ice
A little snow, we deep Southerners can handle, as long as we can sit inside by the fire (we do have fireplaces), sip a little something, and watch it fall prettily outside our windows. No power outages, no digging out, just a day or so of hibernation and waking up to a glittery world when the sun comes out the next day. Most likely, by afternoon, the streets are passable, and it’s over.
But ice? Ice is terrifying. We have all these big old trees, you see. The pine trees bend until the ice gets so heavy they can’t take any more, and then they come down. Hardwood tree limbs snap like toothpicks. The smaller limbs go first, then the bigger ones, and if the frozen stuff piles on heavily enough, those big, hundred-year-old trees come down and wreak havoc.
I remember my first ice storm. I was about ten. We got the precip as sleet and freezing rain overnight, and as ice accumulated on trees and power lines, all night long I heard the crack and crash of limbs coming down. It didn’t take long for the power lines to go. By morning, it was snowing. Beautiful, but oh, so cold in our house. We were without power for at least a week. (For a related post, see Age Ten: The Hush of Ice and Death.)
Sunny and Mild
Lots of folks believe our winters are generally getting milder. I tend to agree. I doubt we had more than six weeks of cold weather here last winter. (FYI, cold here means highs in the forties or fifties, lows in the teens or twenties.) Today, the eighth of December, the high will be seventy-five. (Unless you live in south Florida, you are envious, I know.) But it won’t last. In a day or two or three, an Arctic front will make its way down, probably with heavy weather in front of it–thunderstorms and hail and wind and maybe even tornadoes–and we’ll hunker down until it passes. Once it does, the temperature will drop within minutes. Go to the grocery without a sweater, and by the time you come out, you’re shivering. It’ll be winter again.
That’s our weather roller coaster. And we haven’t even touched on the hundred-degree summers. Another time, maybe.
Mississippi weather? Picture a famous movie star (Southern). Mercurial. Sultry. Petulant. Gorgeous. Cold. Unpredictable. Stormy. Sizzling. Fickle. So think twice before you envy the Southern weather paradise!