Weather decisions can be tough calls
Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:00 AM
Open? Closed? Delayed?
When winter weather hits, even in areas that are somewhat accustomed to it, a bit of mayhem and confusion can occur. And it is all too easy for frustration to set in as people wait to learn whether schools and businesses will shutter early or be open the next day. Frustration also abounds as one person's normal daily driving route is cleared instead another's.
As forecasters got a better handle on the direction and impact of Tuesday's winter storm, area officials were better able to make decisions regarding closings and delays. For the most part, information seemed to come in a timely and effective manner. In some cases, it probably would have been helpful if decisions about Wednesday closings and delays had come earlier. For example, it was after midnight a notice went out to say Lander University was shut down Wednesday for staff and students. An earlier decision, and thus an earlier notification, would have been more helpful. No doubt the same was true among area businesses as those in charge weighed the situation. Bear in mind at one point it was forecast the Greenwood area would have far more snow than it ultimately got.
Weather is fickle and at times it seems those who have to make the tough decisions about whether to open, close or delay opening are equally fickle.
But cut them — most of them, anyway — some slack. Much goes into the decision-making process. Closing has a rippling effect, and not just economically. People need goods and services, but employers also want to ensure their employees can safely travel to work. A decision to close schools for the day has an impact on the rest of the school year's calendar, but student and staff safety is a paramount concern. Roads need to be made safe for travel, but some roads truly are more vital to clear than others — and it all takes time.
While children and adults alike might have celebrated Tuesday's snow and even played in it a little, others had to be on watch and even venture out themselves to gauge what next step to take. And when. While most slept in a warm bed, others were out clearing roadways and checking power lines.
By and large, those charged with making the decisions about whether to close or open late did the best they could equipped with the best information at hand. Maybe the ultimate decision reached doesn't make sense to some, while for others it was obvious. These things are subjective. At the end of the day, however, what matters is whether the decisions are made with the ultimate best interests in mind — that being preserving lives and ensuring safety. What also matters is whether a decision today is assessed and analyzed so the next time a similar situation arises, better — and quicker — decisions are made as needed.