Growing up in New York City in the 50s and 60s I seldom got to experience school cancellations or delays. If it snowed we went to school. The official pronouncement from the Board of Education was, “tough nuggies.”
I hear similar stories all the time. People muse over the fact that this is New England and it does snow. “When I was a kid…,” they’ll begin. No need to finish the sentence. We all know where it’s going.
Is today’s reaction to a tiny snowfall prima facie evidence that we’ve gone wimpy? No! No emphatically.
Schools weren’t canceled as quickly 30-40 years ago (and more recently as well) because we just didn’t know what was coming! Yes, there were weather forecasts, but they were awful compared to today’s (and today’s have room for improvement).
We just don’t have “Blizzard of ’78” scenarios anymore.
We still get blizzards, but we’re not surprised by them. 1978’s storm was by-and-large unexpected. Sure the exact snow forecast timing might still be off or we’ll blow the amount of snow, but it’s been a long time since snow snuck in totally unannounced or a forecast of flurries became a dumping.
School superintendents wake up with “actionable intelligence,” to steal a military expression. That leaves them with a quandary. What’s the potential downside for having school versus canceling–especially with the huge percentage of kids who bus in?
There is no upside having school on a snowy day and plenty of potential downside. That’s why they’ve developed hair triggers and why schools are shut at the drop of a hat. It’s also why “snow days” are already built into the calendar.
Pity the superintendent who keeps schools open and has a bus slide off the road, even without injuries!
Weather forecasts have more utility and they’re being used. That’s a good thing. On the other hand old habits die hard. That’s bad.
Because we have better forecasts (and much, much better mechanized technology) your chances of being stranded somewhere for more than a handful of hours because of snow have become very low. Still the mere mention of snow causes a panicked run on supermarkets!
Are we really that scared of running out of milk, bread and eggs? Is this 1952? We have plows. We have salt/sand and ice busting chemistry. Many people have 4-wheel drive vehicles.
The real wimps aren’t running schools. The wimps are at the grocery store!