Coldageddon: Washington Panics In the Face Of Eight Degree Weather

mqdefaultI know that I have previously complained about the snowphobia that grips Washington, D.C. the minute a flake descends from the clouds. I have long been mystified by the closures of schools and businesses with even a dusting of snow. Then there are the spontaneous car crashes that seem to follow immediately after a flake hits a car hood. However, nothing prepared me for today. All of the school in Fairfax are closed because it is cold. That’s right. No, snow. No freezing rain. It is eight degrees so schools are closed. That is clearly really cold. But does it require cancellation of schools? The forecast today is sunny with a high of 17 degrees. [Update: As of noon, it was sunny, 19 degrees, and rising in McLean.]

The cancellation was accompanied by news reports last night that can strangely close to the “Class 3 Kill Storm” from The Simpsons. News anchors spoke in near panicked tones of the crisis befalling the city and approaching menace. You would have thought that we were about to see a scene from “The Day After Tomorrow”.

Last night, around 5 pm, I received this emergency alert: “All Fairfax County public schools will be closed Tuesday, January 7, due to dangerously low temperatures and wind chill.”

I realize that I am from Chicago and a bit more comfortable with cold weather. However, it took a temperature of -50 today to shutdown schools in Chicago. We did it with 8 degrees. Yet, just across the county line a block from my house, the Arlington schools are open after a slight delay and the Washington DC schools and Alexandria are open without a delay. These districts are all within the same ten mile radius.

Now, I will admit that I love having the kids home but I have a job that allows me the flexibility to be at home. For hundreds of thousands of parents, these cancellations mean missed work and other logistical problems. Those costs really seem to be part of the decision.

I do not take lightly that it is cold. However, I just got back from Chicago with below zero temps (before the recent severe drop to -50 with wind chill). The kids played outside and we went on with our lives. We dressed warmer than usual.

So I am interested in your view: should Fairfax have closed the schools:

37 thoughts on “Coldageddon: Washington Panics In the Face Of Eight Degree Weather”

  1. Professor:

    I suspect that you were not living in the D.C. area (circa late 70’s or early 80’s) when the Capitals hockey game was cancelled because snow was predicted. The prediction failed to materialize. It never snowed. No snow, ice, freezing rain, sleet, wintry mix, etc. either. The roads were perfectly clear and, in fact, dry; the temperature was moderate; airports were open; trains ran on time. Yet, there was no game. To make the embarrassment greater, the scheduled opponent was the Montreal Canadians.

  2. Ms:
    Of course you’re right. Liability is a non-issue as Virginia protects school boards, teachers, and most other school personnel under the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. That also goes for school bus drivers whom the Va Supreme Court says are engaging in a protected governmental function in transporting students. Only in rare situations are school employees liable, so your assumption that the best interests of the kids are their paramount concern is dead-on right.

  3. ^^mespo727272

    This South Floridian turned Atlantan thanks you for your clarity and the sanity of your post. It is the same issue here in ATL, too many children simply do not have the cold weather gear to tolerate -10 while waiting for a bus (which can be the dickens to start in such cold) in the dark. Many of our students who come from Mexico and further south don’t have the clothes. Our schools/services give away thousands of coats as well. Too many parents do not have the resources to go out and buy things that may only be needed once every few years, especially the way kids grow. While I know my county wouldn’t want to be sued, I believe the decision makers care more about the health and safety of our kids.

  4. nick spinelli – yes, southern Californian drivers positively fear the rain -while visiting relatives, driving on I -5 in the rain – a nice light rain, my driver was white knuckled and visibly and vocally in angst. Later in the day, we learned that the Chinese restaurant we were planning to eat at was closed because “of the rain” – no deliveries that day. As it was explained to me, due to the high volume of automobiles on the roads every day, coupled with very little rain on a yearly basis, the roads, in rain , turn into an oil slick – made sense.

  5. Um, the good professor has fudged his data here. The 5 degrees in Fairfax was an actual temperature while the -50 in Chicago was a wind chill temperature. The actual temperature was probably about -15.

  6. True, Bron. But if you can’t have one have the other. At least get something for the money…..

  7. No. They should have closed the White House for the next 3 years and sent the community imbecile packing back to the ghetto. #barackflake

  8. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too snowy. It’s too rainy. It’s too windy. It’s too uncertain. What’s next? It’s too sunny? It’s too BS. Schools are a racket and they can take as many days off as they want. Will they make up these ‘cold’ days by lengthening the school year or shortening one of the myriad week-long winter, late winter, spring, or late spring breaks? Kids end up going to school less than Congress is in session.

    In western NY, my God fearing Catholic school was open when it was cold, snowy, rainy, windy, etc. We did have some storm days off when you had to shovel your way out of the 2nd story, but that was the extent of it. School taxes increase each year and so do the excuses why schools need to be closed. In the age of the Internet when business is transacted online 24/7, you could have school at home during inclement weather, but apparently that would be too much work, too much outside the box thinking for teachers and parents. With both parents working, schools are now more about daycare than education anyways.

  9. it is cold, the dogs wont even go out. Kids need some days off and so do the teachers. Why not have a cold day instead of a snow day?

    What is the big deal?

  10. Oxa, You also must serve the same penance as gloriousbach. You both have until the end of February to complete your assignment.

  11. gloriousbach, You have the temerity to imply our litigious society would have some negative consequences and make people overly cautious. For your penance you must sit in on a boring 5 day civil trial. Take notes. And report back here on the case. You pick the venue. Product liability are some of the most boring trials, but they usually run longer than 5 day.

  12. It’s a matter of liability, pure and simple. School districts are more concerned about covering their butts than about the welfare of the children.

  13. Hello mates, how is everything, and what you want to say regarding this article, in
    my view its really awesome for me.

  14. Once upon a time the Earth was flat, causing the stars and planets to orbit around it, because it was also the center of the universe.

    Weather on the flat Earth was stable, in that, it was always either winter, summer, fall, or spring at the same time on the vast flatness.

    Then the Earth was changed into a globe by librul scientists.

    So, all those planets went into orbit around stars like our Sun, and even stars are no longer orbiting the Earth.

    Additionally, ever since the Earth became no longer flat, rather becoming a globe orbiting the Sun, there has been both summer and winter at the same time on Earth ever since.

    For example, even as we speak it is been threating 122 deg. F. (50 deg. C) in Australia, as it is cold at the same time on the flat lands in the Midwest (where deniers are freezing right now).

    Libruls make it difficult to “get it” when it is summer near Antarctica and winter in Kansas at the same time.

  15. I’ve been watching auto wreckage on television — people driving obviously too fast for conditions; and while I wouldn’t want my kids on that ROAD, my children also played outside in such cold conditions. Unless power is out or such, I don’t see why there should be automatic closures.

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