Dare I say it, another winter has passed. (A view of the end of Winter from about a month and a half ago can be seen here) In terms of narrative arc, the year is just depressing, running from the depths of winter to the depths of winter. A good dramatic structure would at least have the people leave (and enter) the year smiling, looking forward to Spring, being cathartically relieved of Winter by the new Spring. In short, New Year’s Day should be the near the Spring Equinox not the Winter Solstice. [This is true in many cultures]
Instead we are just beginning to enjoy the year in May, here in the northland, and we still see the detritus of Winter. In this case, all of the remnants of snow piles that were placed on sidewalks by snowplows so that the streets would be cleared for motor vehicles. This flotsam and jetsam of the road is transferred to sidewalks, and ultimately to the river.
A few more winters and East River Road and Franklin Avenue will cease to be, pining for the Fjords, being returned by nature and Mr. Plow to its indigenous state.
Even the massive rainstorms of the past week are insufficient to remove this rubble. At least it adds traction.
So we have survived yet another winter, this with uncountable numbers of days below 0 degrees F. We are now in the early days of meteorological Spring, where the daytime temperatures are above freezing, but the nighttime temperatures fall below that magic number. This means yesterday afternoon’s thin puddles of waters and rivers of runoff are this morning’s thin sheets of ice.
Large sheets of ice are of course bad for cars, which if they cannot control their ton or two of hardware with their four points of contact on the road risk spinning out.
But even small sheets of ice are perilous for pedestrians, with far less force than two tons applied at only two points of contact on the sidewalk.
Further conditions for pedestrians are worse as roads have been actively cleared all winter. Where did that snow go? Well the Boulevards between the road and the sidewalk, and sometimes the sidewalk itself.
Even further, roads are wide and therefore get more direct sunlight, while the sidewalks are often shaded, and thus cooler, and thus have a prolonged freeze-thaw cycle.
Moreover, sidewalks are generally in as bad or worse condition as roads (prove me wrong with your sophisticated sidewalk monitoring system data). Not just cracks and spalling of concrete, but unlevelness, settling, and so on, all of which are great places for water to accumulate.
Finally sidewalks often have very steep snowbanks on both sides, caused both by shoveling show from the sidewalk and plowing it from the street, which continuously melts in this period of the season in the day, and freezes in the afternoon.
Of course it is frozen in the form of ice. Driving on ice is a fool’s errand. On ice it is hard to stop (or start) moving. On ice, vehicle control is difficult at best. You don’t need to be a transportation engineer to know that crashes increase with snow and especially ice, with its reduced friction. The problem is not that Atlanta got snow, but that the snow turned into ice.
Should Atlanta have been better prepared? In retrospect, the answer is obvious. In prospect it should have been as well.