Whitehall-Coplay Press

Sunday, May 26, 2019


Wednesday, March 13, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

The cost of winter weather

On March 3, forecasters anticipated snow in various accumulations in a storm expected to last mid-afternoon to early morning March 4. Predictions of inclement weather prompted Northwestern Lehigh School District to cancel the afternoon performance of the spring musical “The Addams Family” at the high school March 3 and offer details about securing ticket refunds via a special bulletin on the district website.

Earlier snow days in the academic year led organizers to postpone the “Mr. Emmaus” talent show at Emmaus High School at least twice as of March 3.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A snow day has its perks.

A coworker of mine spent a recent wintry mix ice and snow day indoors catching up on movies she missed during the summer blockbuster season.

And closer to home, laughter of children in my subdivision could be heard as they held snowball battles and built snow sculptures on a recent school day off due to snow.

But snow days do not come without serious cost.

For example, The Weather Channel reported 183 passengers and crew were trapped for more than 40 hours, 6:15 p.m. Feb. 24 to mid-morning Feb. 26, on an Amtrak train from Seattle to Los Angeles after the train hit a downed tree in a snowstorm named Winter Storm Ryan. Featherville, Idaho, was covered in 46.5 inches during the storm, according to media reports.

Numerous traffic accidents, power outages and other weather-related events can quickly turn from inconveniences to tragic circumstances when lives are lost and property is damaged in snowstorms.

Many readers may recall a blizzard shuttering much of the mid-Atlantic through the Northeast in January 2016. Governors from nearly a dozen states declared a state of emergency. Financial and physical resources were depleted in preparing for and clearing the snow. Thousands of flights were canceled.

In an on-air interview on the CBS Evening News at the time, Kenneth Meyers, then-senior vice president of corporate giant Siemens, noted the Jan. 22-24, 2016, storm hit the travel industry particularly hard because the blizzard fell on a weekend, timing that also factored into the regional and local impact of the storm on entertainment and dining venues. Hourly workers, especially those relying on tips such as wait staff at restaurants, were especially hard hit when shifts were lost because businesses were unable to open, Meyers explained.

In such circumstances, municipal workers might benefit since shoveling, plowing and other snow-clearing duties potentially translate into extra shifts and overtime pay. However, municipalities could “blow whole salt and plow budgets in one incident,” Meyers said.

Grocery stores and big-box home improvement stores might see a flurry of sales as people prepare for a snowstorm by stocking up on snacks, milk, rock salt and other snow-related supplies but lose business when wintry conditions deter shoppers from venturing out of their homes or keep businesses from opening for a day or two or more.

And snow takes a toll on education.

On the Parkland School District calendar posted on the district website, Nov. 16, 2018, Jan. 29 and 30 and Feb. 12, 13 and 20 were denoted as snow days as of March 3. In planning for the 2018-19 academic year, Salisbury Township School District officials projected the possibility of using Feb. 15 as a makeup day in its draft of the school calendar in June 2018. Salisbury Township Schools were indeed open a full day Feb. 15 as a snow makeup day.

At its Feb. 25 East Penn School District meeting, officials announced April 18, June 12 and 13 as makeup days districtwide and June 14 and 17 as makeup days for Emmaus High School. Students in the Whitehall-Coplay School District now will be in class April 18 as an instructional makeup day.

Perhaps Northampton Area School District offers the most comprehensive discussion of snow makeup days for students in the following announcement from Joseph S. Kovalchik, superintendent of schools, on the district website:

“Due to the inclement weather this year, the district is required to make up seven instructional days. The following will be the makeup days for students:

• Thursday, April 18, 2019 (will be used for the cancellation on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019)

• Monday, April 22, 2019 (will be used for the cancellation on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019)

• Tuesday, June 4, 2019 (will be used for the cancellation on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018)

• Wednesday, June 5, 2019 (will be used for the cancellation on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019)

• Thursday, June 6, 2019 (will be used for the cancellation on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019)

• Friday, June 7, 2019 (will be used for cancellation on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019)

• Monday, June 10, 2019 (will be used for cancellation on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019)

Due to the above schedule change, Wednesday, May 29; Thursday, May 30; and Friday, May 31; Monday, June 3; and Tuesday, June 4, 2019, will now be full days for students and staff. Wednesday, June 5; Thursday, June 6; Friday, June 7; and Monday, June 10, 2019, will be early dismissal days. Secondary schools (grades 6-12) will dismiss at 10:30 a.m., and elementary schools (grades K-5) will dismiss at noon.”

In the Salisbury Township School District, the original last day was going to be June 5, but it is now June 13.

That about sums it up. The cost of winter can be high.

April Peterson

editorial assistant

East Penn Press

Salisbury Press