A winter to remember ... or, maybe, forget

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

The winter of 2002-03 will, no doubt, be remembered as one of the coldest, snowiest, iciest and gloomiest in memory. Years from now, coffee-shop regulars will sip their scalding brew during the coldest months of the year and talk, as usual, about the weather. Somewhere in the conversation, someone will say, "Remember that winter -- when was it? -- that we had snow or ice every Thursday?"

OK. Not every Thursday. And there were a lot of Sundays with winter-storm warnings too.

Southeast Missouri, unlike colder and often gloomier climes, has never had to reckon much with the psychological effects of gray days known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. But there has been evidence of it this year, based on less-than-clinical diagnoses from family, friends and co-workers.

How many times do you think you've heard the following conversation in recent weeks?

"I'm ready for spring."

"Me too. It can't come too soon."

One major impact of what has seemed, at times, like regularly scheduled foul weather has been disrupted work and school schedules. And when school is called off, far more folks than teachers and students are affected.

We live in a time when most parents work. The early-morning announcements on radio and TV that school has been canceled mean parents have to scramble to make arrangements for their school-age children, often at extra expense.

A lot of parents have expressed their exasperation with school closings this year. Some of them think weather and road conditions didn't necessarily require school to be called off. Others worry about how late the school year will end this year, thanks to all the make-up days.

Most of us -- parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, road crews and, yes, weather forecasters -- are quite capable of coping with a normal winter, whatever that is. Generally, we'd be happy if school had to be closed only a day or two. That's acceptable.

But the fact is weather in Southeast Missouri is as unpredictable as an armless ambidextrian who, sight unseen, gets hired as the circus juggler.

And if Southeast Missourians haven't been cursing weather forecasters this winter, they've vented on school superintendents who have to decide about closing schools. Some superintendents, the critics say, wait too long to decide. Others jump the gun. Others fail to close schools when it's obviously (except to the superintendent) too dangerous for anyone to be going to and from school.

When it comes to the safety of our children, we should expect school officials to make such decisions with the same concern for safety as any conscientious parent would make. It's too easy to second-guess such decisions. While no one is glad school days have been extended into the warming days of June for some schools, we can all be glad no students have been injured on slick roads.

Just think. Now that winters appears to be ebbing, we can turn our worries to spring storms and tornado season. That should take our mind off the snow for awhile.

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