Life of a Transplant: A Newbie's Guide to Navigating Harrisburg - A Community Blog

Savannah Marie searches for the best restaurants, wildlife and attractions that Harrisburg has to offer.

The Harsh, Bitter Reality of Living in Central PA

Written by Savannah Marie, Community Blogger | Jan 27, 2014 3:32 PM

As an upstate New York native, I am fully aware of what it takes to survive a winter in the North East. In the first 18 years of my life, I was fully stocked with winter coats, boots, scarves, mittens and a thick skin that one develops after sledding for hours in single-digit weather. In my formative years I would have laughed in the face of something called the “Polar Vortex,” and proceed to throw snowballs at my siblings. However, once I moved down south, all was lost.

The military transported me to the land of humidity, sweet tea, hurricanes (the weather system and the drink) and central air. This place is often referred to as Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The coast is a magical place that hosts triple-digit temperatures in the summer and averages a comfortable 68 degrees in the non-summer months. When I first arrived, I couldn’t breathe. The air was so saturated with hot moisture that I had a hard time believing this climate was able to sustain life. However, everyone else managed to walk around as though they weren’t melting. I mentally pulled up my bootstraps, shed a few layers and went about living my life in this hot, humid and sticky wonderland.

Eventually, I began to get the hang of southern weather. I knew that in the summer I could never, ever leave the house with straightened hair. If I ever attempted this my hair would turn into a mass of sweaty, frizzled dreadlocks that would earn me a “bless her heart” or “oh, darlin’” from kind-hearted (?) stranger. I learned to accept (and be thankful for) my natural curls.

I also learned that between July and November, people in the south get nutty. For you “yankees” that don’t understand this timeline, July through late November is hurricane season. During hurricane season residents stock up on essentials and throw a party. Seriously. Many of my sweet southern friends hosted parties when we were in the path of a less severe hurricane or tropical storm. Hurricane parties were usually reserved for the mild weather systems, rather than the devastating storms that have been known to hit the shores of the coast.

Check out the grocery store selection I had to choose from during prep for Hurricane Issac:

hurricane essentials.jpg

It took me a long time to appreciate southern weather, but I eventually began to navigate the humidity like a true southern belle. Just as I was getting the hang of things (five years later), we packed up and moved to central PA.

It was summertime when I moved to PA. I had missed the warm sun, green grass and all around wonderful climate. Harrisburg was a beautiful reminder of everything I didn't know I was missing. I could straighten my hair in the summer! All was blissful -- and then winter hit. I was completely unaware of how unprepared I was for winter until the first snow fall. I soon realize that I had no scrapper, no appropriate winter coat and no boots or gloves to speak of. What’s a transplant to do? I was forced to face Old Man Winter head on. Now I wake up early to tackle the inches of snow and ice that accumulate on my car each night; I bundle up in layer upon layer to take my dog for a walk; and I would like to add that I do it all with a smile, but that would a lie. A big, fat, cold, chapped-lipped lie.

I spent the early weeks of winter yearning for my southern life. All my friends were probably wearing T-shirts when I was wearing layers of unflattering clothing just to keep warm. I had to put my foot in my mouth when I learned that the coast was experiencing similar weather patterns. They were hit with freezing temperatures, snow and ice. What’s worse is because they aren't used to this type of weather, they weren’t prepared with the proper construction equipment to clear the roads. Additionally, most coastians aren't aware of the techniques to use when driving on slick and icy roads. The winter weather that I was complaining about posed a real danger to them.

This bitter weather comparison taught me a valuable lesson: The weather isn't always warmer on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line.

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