I had an unlucky start to 2018. I was out of town for Savannah’s rare snowfall.
It was both fascinating and frustrating to follow news and developments from afar.
I was most struck by the myriad images showing the sheer beauty of Savannah and its environs with a coating of ice and snow.
Even after living in Savannah for 22 years, I am routinely struck by the city’s beauty. Almost every time I leave my house, I notice some glorious detail that I had never really seen in the architecture or in the bends of the trees.
Greg Parker, president and CEO of Parker’s, has often called Savannah “the most beautiful city in America” or “America’s most beautiful city.” He even suggested that we should officially brand ourselves as such in a guest editorial for this newspaper all the way back in 2002. It still seems like a good idea.
Regrettably, last week’s wintry weather revealed more than the city’s beauty. As reporter Will Peebles noted in this newspaper, homeless shelters in Savannah were “overflowing with people seeking shelter.”
To put it simply, we don’t seem especially well-prepared to assist our sizable homeless population when we experience weather crises.
I don’t mean that to sound like an indictment of government officials or dedicated service providers. We just need to learn more from experiences like last week’s cold and last year’s hurricane, and we should probably take steps to establish one or more emergency shelters.
Last week’s snow and ice also impacted many area businesses, especially locally owned retail shops, restaurants and bars.
Fortunately, many small businesses wouldn’t have budgeted for huge sales in the first week of January, but the extended closures and lost shifts certainly impacted many owners and employees, some of whom are still struggling to get their balance sheets back in order after the losses due to Hurricane Irma.
There is no easy fix for lost sales related to weather, so consumers might consider spending money at some of their favorite small businesses this month.
Most businesses will probably recover from the missed weeks due to the hurricane and snowstorm, but some will be under-capitalized and could struggle, especially if we have any other disruptive events. If we have entered a pattern of more frequent extreme weather, there could be subtle but far-reaching impacts on property values, real estate sales and tourism.
I was also struck last week by the level of frustration with road and school closings. Given the lack of infrastructure for handling actual winter weather, I’m not quite sure why some residents expected local governments to be able to spring into action.
Some of the frustration almost made me glad I was out of town. Almost.
City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.