What’s With All the Snow Days?

If you were bummed about Wisconsin’s lack of snow over the holidays, you may be feeling differently about snow just about now. I know I am.

In the past few weeks, local schools have cancelled classes five or six times because of adverse weather. To be fair, not all of the cancellations were due to snow; the infamous polar vortex and its frigid temperatures were also to blame.

As students missed more school and parents faced dramatically altered schedules, the crazy weather became a popular topic of conversation.

“ANOTHER snow day? Is this a joke?”

“What happened to the good ol’ days, when a snow day was a rarity and something special?”

“When I was a kid, it would snow 20 inches and they still didn’t cancel school!”

I grew up in California, so I had zero experience with snow days as a kid. But 2019’s snow days thus far have me wondering: are schools really closing more often for adverse weather these days?

A Washington Post article looked into this question back in 2014. Analyzing data for D.C. area schools, the author concluded that the average number of annual snow days had increased, but not by much — just one extra day over a 40-year period since the 1970s.

If that’s the case, why does it feel like we’re having a spectacularly high number of snow days, compared to decades ago?

First, we’ve had a particularly bad stretch of winter weather these past few weeks (and the weather gurus say it could last a few weeks more). After a mild December, I think we got lulled into a false sense of, “Oh, this winter isn’t that bad at all!”

(Little did we know Mother Nature was snickering in the background, “Ha, just wait for January!”)

Another factor here, as the Post article points out, is our perspective. For many kids, a snow day is an idyllic experience of sledding down freshly blanketed hills and drinking hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. Snow days can be a beautiful, unexpected reprieve from alarm clocks, homework, and busy schedules.

But we’re not kids anymore, and while we can still appreciate the beauty of a snow day, that simple joy feels more elusive now. I love seeing my kids romp around the yard, knee-deep in fluffy white powder — but I detest the salt- and mud-encrusted boots and endless loads of laundry. I’m delighted when I spot the ruby red feathers of a cardinal against a backdrop of falling snow — but I dread the nerve-wracking experience of driving in slippery road conditions.

For adults, snow days often bring increased stress from routines turned upside down, missed work hours, and the scramble to coordinate child care at the last minute. Plus, someone has to make sure the driveway is shoveled. For many of us, it’s understandable that a snow day can feel like something to dread, rather than a rare, exciting treat.

Whether snow days are really on the rise or not, this winter has felt especially long. Let’s hope spring arrives soon. (And if it doesn’t, there’s always hot chocolate with extra marshmallows.)

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