Weather forecasting, Southern style

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 4, 2016

“You know what they say,” pretty much any Southerner will tell you during the winter. “If you hear thunder, then you’ll have snow within seb’n days.”

“Seb’n?” I echoed the elderly gent, this past Wednesday, who has sold us produce for years, although without a Lucky Strike wedged in the corner of my mouth.

“Yep, seb’n,” he replied, and squinting one eye closed against the smoke, he bagged up a couple more onion sets and mused, “I just hope it don’t happen like it did in ’53.”

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“What happened then?” I wanted to know.

“Whew,” he gave a wave of his hand, “Bad, man, bad.” He crushed the butt of the cigarette under his boot heel. “I just hope that don’t happen again.”

There was a small queue of people gathering behind me and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. I did, however, upon returning home, Google ‘Snow storm, N and S Carolina, 1953.’ Nothing. Nada. Zilch. But there was an enormous event later on, which now, my curiosity piqued, I brought up to him two days later while feigning interest in collards.

I hate collards.

“You remember how you were telling me about what happened in 1953?” I started, wincing, as a big mop head of collards was shoved down into a brown paper bag for me.

“Whew,” he replied, shaking his head, “Man, I sure hope that don’t happen again.”

As diplomatically as I could muster, I asked, “You don’t mean 1969, do you? I read about a record snow fall – a couple of feet – fell across here in 1969.”

“Oh, I remember ’69,” he said, “Nah, I’m talkin’ about ’53. Now, that was bad.”

“What happened in ’53?” I tried again.

He took off his cap, scratched the back of his head with one hand and slapped the cap back on with the other. “I’ll tell you what…” he began, slowly.

The wait was agonizing.

“It was bad.”

“So, not ’69 when all the steel towers holding the power lines collapsed under the weight of the ice and nobody had power for over a week?” I asked, in despair.


“And there were drifts up to four feet and the snow buckled the roofs at the poultry farms and all the chickens in the region were killed?”

“Nah. Is this gonna be it?” I looked up and with frustration noted another small knot of people gathering behind me. “Yeah, that’ll do, thanks.”

When I got home, I tossed the collards into the compost pile and took a look at the weather app on my phone. Specifically, the extended forecast. On Tuesday, six days, after hearing the rumble of thunder from the rain storm this past Wednesday, I saw a snowflake icon, along with a high of 39 degrees and a low of 25. Probability of white stuff: 40 percent.

“Within seb’n days,” jogged my memory.

I just hope it don’t happen like it did in ’53.