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. It all depends on the region. While VA is not exactly the Sun Belt, some families may not be as well conditioned or equipped as the Turley family. In a more wealthy area, most kids would be driven to school and have a lot of winter clothes and ski equipment. So I can see a rational reason for local considerations based on the specifics for each area. I don’t know those for your area, so I will have to defer to the local authorities who DO have that knowledge and responsibility.

  2. The same can be said for Seattle. If it snows half an inch panic ensues and 26 minutes of a 30 minute news program is weather related. Some people there will actually abandon their cars in the middle of the street, not bothering to at least pull it to the side.

    Tips from drivers in Seattle

    Grab your 4 wheel drive and speed (you are invincible)
    Spin tires
    Lock up brakes
    Turn away from slide
    If you are in trouble, you can use another car for braking

  3. You should think about this from a lawyer’s perspective. You are required to send your kids to schools. If they don’t cancel schools and kids have to stand outside for the bus – or worse, walk 3/4 of a mile (it was closer to a mile for some of the kids that didn’t get buses at my high school) – aren’t the schools making themselves responsible if someone dies?

  4. In the Madison area about 10-15 years ago, the school districts got together w/ medical people vis a vis cold temps and school cancellations. The medical people pointed out the wind chill is the key. It can be -10 but if there is no wind, it’s not dangerous as long as common sense is used. However, -30 wind chill was determined by medical people, and concurred w/ by school people, to be the benchmark. Who knew bureaucrats would have the sense to use science in making a decision. school has been cancelled the last couple days here w/ -50 wind chill.

    In San Diego, where I will soon be, and in all of SoCal it’s rain. They go as nuts about snow as we do rain. It’s the Weather Channel, cable news, local news phenomenon. “Scare the hell outta them” is their motto. My mom, who lived through a horrible life in the Depression and was tough as nails, was turned into a weenie by Jim Cantore and Mike Sidell!

  5. DC as a pioneer of the volitional stop on red. If you want to stop on red, go ahead. After all, this is the land of the free. But if you don’t want to stop on red, go ahead, DC is also the home of the brave.

    DC and surrounding areas also implement special snow driving rules. At the first sign of snow: 1) speed up – you don’t want to be caught on the road in a snow storm 2) don’t worry about stopping at intersections – the other guy can do that. You might skid and loose control so be sure to power right through.

    These snow rules are in addition to DC’s usual rational expectation of driving rules. If the other driver can see you don’t hesitate to cut right in or do what ever you want. The other driver would have to be crazy not to jam on his breaks, swerve or do what ever is necessary to avoid hitting you.

    This is DC the nations capital – Be sure to have a nice day.

  6. You can bet the kids love it and will be outside playing in the snow.
    Makes sense to me, another day off for the teachers. NOT.

  7. It’s that way in Tennessee also. There were some county schools that were supposed to be back in session on Monday, January 6; however, due to the very cold (8 degrees and below) temperatures they extended their Christmas break and are not going back until tomorrow, January 8. Also, when there’s even a “threat” of freezing rain/snow the schools here will close. And if it does snow (even a very small amount), the driving is just crazy. It’s like people just lose their minds when that beautiful white stuff falls from the sky!!!

  8. Dr. Turley, I don’t think you’re being generous enough. If I were a school administrator in DC, I’d close the schools too: there are too many lawyer parents who’d sue the school board if little Johnny got a frostbite from their own negligence! I’m surprised the other counties didn’t close!

    BTW, love the blog. You’re a treasure to constitutional government, and an example of person who’s guided by principle as opposed to partisanship and blind allegiance to party.

  9. ** 1, January 7, 2014 at 9:54 am Paul

    You can bet the kids love it and will be outside playing in the snow.**

    ** Missouri Snow Found to Contain Radiation DOUBLE Normal Amount

    More concerns about possible impact of Fukushima

    Paul Joseph Watson **

    One architect screws up one job and gets criminally charged, Japanese govt/General Electric ignore 3 engineers warnings & screw up the planet and are still on the loose.

    Law of the Jungle seems to be the only real law at the current time.

    **German Architect To Plead Guilty In Fatal Fire**

    **One of his defenses was that he personally stayed in the house and would not have done so if he thought the design was dangerous. This does make it different from other cases where architects simply disregard the safety of others. Here Becker clearly did not believe that there was a danger to himself.

    This could be for architects a hard case making bad law if it results in greater criminalization of negligent designs. This was a pretty damning record of utter contempt for the building codes, knowing circumvention of inspectors, and the arrogant dismissal of warnings. **

  10. Maybe Al Gore & his buddies at Goldmansachs should have started a Radiation derivatives trading scam instead of their Global Warming/AWG/Carbon derivatives trading scam that would only make pollution worst.

  11. The other question is, why in the heck would anyone leave their kids in those unsafe govt brainwashing public schools & not have already moved them to a small group of Homeschooling parents or taken their kids safety out of the USA altogether?

  12. I spent most of my life in three cities: Edmonton, Albert, Montreal, PQ, and Washington, D.C. . For 35 years, I taught in a Virginia high school then a small Virginia college.

    Across the decades plenty of bizarre winter weather required administrators to craft weather-policy statements. What really changed across the decades? the increasingly loud: “We could be sued, we could be sued, we could be sued.”

  13. Here in Northern Illinois, we have had schools closed for two days this week as the wind chills have hit 50 below at times, along with a lot of blowing snow. When I took the dog out this morning, the digital thermometer read -17 without taking into account of the wind. We are in for a warm up ask the high today may get into the single digits…above zero!

  14. JT:

    Ah,you cold states guys are always touting your cold weather tolerance but still living here in the sunny South. We had the same carping here in Richmond, too, and as the son of a former school administrator the truth is that:

    1. Young kids are particularly susceptible to hypothermia and they can be affected in less than 10 minutes in this kind of weather.
    2. Many disadvantaged kids do not have adequate outerwear to handle single digit weather. In Richmond one program alone distributes 15,000 coats every year to underprivileged kids and they can’t keep up with the demand.
    3. A lot of kids who live within a half of a mile have to walk to school and are at risk

    The decision is based on science and sociology not silliness and I trust the schools to know how to handle inclement weather more than I do.

  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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

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

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. ^^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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

Comments are closed.