One of the greatest thrills of my childhood (besides pickles, olives and lefse—see last post) was the experience of the Snow Day. Few things can compare to the excitement of hearing Andy Lia of KDLM radio announce “No school today in Detroit Lakes.” While one might want to return to bed for more sleep, the excitement was so great that sleep would never come. It didn’t take long to don our snow gear and head outside for some fun.
I remember my mom telling the story of some boys in her grade who played a prank where one of them pretended to be the superintendent and called the radio station, informing them that school was cancelled. The radio station believed them and announced it! I guess they were caught and punished, but as a kid I admired them and wished I could do that.
When I became a teacher I again got to experience the joy of snow days. I taught two years in Burnsville, Minnesota, which is a suburb of the Twin Cities. Snow days were exceptionally rare in the “metro” area, so any late start or early dismissal was an occasion for pandemonium. One day when the weather was bad, the kids were all a-buzz at the possibility of getting out of school early.
When the principal finally came on the intercom to announce that school was releasing early, my room was empty before he’d spoken two sentences. He continued on for a minute, apparently oblivious to the fact that the building was almost empty by the time he finished his speech about an orderly dismissal.
Even as a teacher, I reveled at the possibility of a day off. Never mind the fact that at some later date that day will need to be made up, most likely when the weather is nice and everyone would rather be outside. Carpe Diem!
I think the desire for an unexpected day off is human nature. Future consequences don’t seem to matter when compared to the prospect of a day without work/school, etc. I also think this helps explain the tendency people have to overreact to weather forecasts.
If the weatherman says there’s a possibility for snow that may accumulate at a depth of 3-5 inches, people’s natural tendency to overreact turns it into a huge blizzard with a foot of snow and hurricane-force winds. When the same weatherman says light flurries may start in mid-afternoon, you can rest assured that numerous evening activities will be cancelled, whether it’s snowing by 7:00 p.m. or not.
My dad is very good at warning me about this weather and saying, “Too bad you have to go to work in this. You’ll probably have to stay there tonight, because you don’t want to drive home in that kind of weather!” Of course, he also laments one having to leave the house if it’s raining on a summer day. “Wish you didn’t have to go out in this junky weather!”
The National Weather Service hasn’t exactly helped lessen the hype with the new practice of actually naming winter storms, a la hurricanes. Is that really necessary?
People also tend to exaggerate temperatures, at least around here. I occasionally hear someone refer to 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (which is the same as -40 Celsius) as typical, though it hasn’t been that cold in this part of Minnesota since about 1996. The fact is, we usually only have a small handful of nights a year where the temperature dips below -20.
One more thing that bears mention is the practice of radio stations to announce something like “Frazee school and buses two hours late.” Never once have I heard an announcement like “Pelican Rapids schools are two hours late, but buses are on time. Bundle up, because the school is locked,” or “Lake Park/Audubon school is on time, but buses are two hours late. You’d better not be tardy!” It just seems like a waste of breath to say it like they do.
Admittedly, I find myself easily sucked in to the bad-weather excitement, even though it rarely gets as bad as it sounds. After so many disappointments, you’d think I’d learn to start taking those forecasts with a grain of salt (no road salt pun intended).
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...