Are we weather wimps?

February 14, 2007|By Matt Jablow

On Dec. 25, 1776, Gen. George Washington led a brave band of 2,500 soldiers through a driving snowstorm across the icy Delaware River. Their surprise attack caught British troops in Trenton, N.J., entirely by surprise and provided a major boost to the American war effort.

One year later, General Washington's troops, without nearly enough food or warm clothing, braved the bitter cold and snow of Valley Forge for six full months in a display of bravery and loyalty virtually without parallel in our nation's history.

Thank goodness General Washington and his men did not fear inclement weather the way we do today, or in all likelihood we would all be washing down our fish and chips with warm beer and singing "God Save the Queen" at Orioles cricket games.

If you live in Maryland, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. How many times in recent years have our schools, businesses, courthouses and various other institutions and establishments been closed or had delayed openings at the first sign of snow - actually, at the first sign of the possibility of snow?

Yesterday, for example, with a minuscule amount of snow on the ground and the weather not expected to get worse until sometime at night, hundreds of schools closed several hours early. Last Wednesday, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky and about 1 inch of light, fluffy flakes on the ground, most schools in the Baltimore area closed their doors for the entire day. Students grinned - until they realized that there wasn't enough snow to go sledding - while parents, many scrambling to find day care for their kids so they could go to work, grimaced.

In addition to being unnecessarily inconvenient, school closings like these send the terrible message to our children that a little adversity can't be overcome. We're able to send a man to the moon (where the average temperature at night, by the way, is 243 degrees below zero) but we can't drive, or perhaps even walk, through a little snow.

The spirit that won the West? Does that include the snow-capped Rocky Mountain West? Oh, no! Lewis and Clark never would have made it past snowy North Dakota had today's sentiments about the weather prevailed back in 1804.

I say it's time we start relying once again on common sense and stop being so influenced by broadcast journalists whose job it is to make "The Big Story" out of the smallest weather event. Whatever happened to a healthy dose of skepticism? We seem to fall for the "weather of mass destruction" routine every time, even though significant weather events are extremely rare here in Baltimore.

Is it a real snowstorm? You know, 6 inches on the ground, gale-force winds, treacherous driving conditions? Then, by all means, close the schools and send workers home early.

But if the weather doesn't match the media-generated hysteria about the weather, can we please continue on with our lives? General Washington would have expected nothing less.

Matt Jablow, the public affairs director for the Baltimore Police Department, has children in the Baltimore County public schools. His e-mail is matt.jablow@baltimorepolice.org.

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