Cold Weather Shenanigans

Looks like tonight will be one of the rare opportunities for the local news stations to bust out their catchy “Cold Snap” logos and update them for ’05. Things get wacky around Austin when the mercury drops below 32 (or 0, for you globalist Celsius types). The local stations do their best to keep up on closings and warnings, but the useful nuggets are usually buried below a surfeit of Chicken Little-esque hyperbole and “gee, it sure is cold” human interest fluff. While cold weather is something to be taken seriously in Austin, cold weather reporting is not.

So, in the interest of promoting safety, and maybe saving you the hassle of tuning in to mindless hand-wringing, here’s a casual checklist of freeze issues:

Closures: If there’s a hint of frozen water on the steps or the street, just assume that everything’s closed. If you’re the rough-and-tumble former Yankee who won’t let a little ice get in your way, be prepared to feel like the Omega Man when you hit the highways the morning after a wet freeze.

Bridges: Everyone should know that bridges freeze before roads, but that doesn’t stop dozens of Austinites from careening out of control when tire grip takes a vacation on the overpass. The only thing sadder than wrecking on a frozen bridge is being the 243rd wreck on a frozen bridge, because by then the novelty has worn thin and all the cool accident victims have moved on to the next fad.

Sand: What better way to deal with frozen roads than to dump a slightly less slick substance all over the place? I suppose the grit helps break down the ice to some degree, but it also leave Austin with weeks of sandswept streets that you might normally associate with Baghdad or the interior Sahara. How exotic!

Cold: It’s not Frostbite Falls out there, but bad things still happen to living tissue after dark on a cold night. That means it’s not the best time to let the dogs sleep outside … unless you happen to own a pack of ravenous blood-lusting beasts just waiting to pounce on your elderly neighbor, then a good freeze might be just the ticket. And by the way, why not join them outdoors for the night?

Plants: [hums chorus to “Circle of Life.” Or is it “Hakuna Matata?”] Um, anyway, they’re plants. They die. Move on.

Traction, Pt. 1: If you’re the guy in the Mustang 5.0 or the 2-wheel drive RAM pickup, don’t try to make it up the hill [into your driveway / to Trudy’s South / to fetch a pail of water]. All those ponies are impressively muscular when yer pimpin’ down on 6th St., but not so much on a wet incline. Take the ego hit, do a slow 3-pt reverse turn back down the hill, and avert your eyes from the grandma in the AWD Forester who just blew past you.

Traction, Pt. 2: And while 4-wheel drive certainly gets you rollin’ pretty good, stopping and lateral adhesion are whole different ball game, as you’ll inevitably find out during the next panic stop. Mmmmmm … crunchy.

That’s pretty much it. Be safe everybody.

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