The part of Texas I live in does not see snow very often. Shoot, we don’t see cold for half as long as most northern places. Sure, a chilly week or two in each of November and December, and it does start getting mighty cold in January and February, but by the end of March, we’re headed back into what most parts of the country consider “summer temperatures.” By the middle of May? Full blast heat wave.
In those rare years when we do get snow, the whole region shuts down for a half-inch or so because Texas is not ready for this stuff. We have really high “flyover” bridges all over the place, and they ice up if anyone sneezes wrong during the winter months. Then it’s bumper cars at 120 feet in the air. Not a good scene. More commonly, though, we do get ice storms that leave roads, trees, and power lines coated in sheets of ice. That’s why I is for Cold.
When I was teaching, school closures were determined by the superintendent. Most superintendents were on top of things. If the weather forecast included a high likelihood of ice storms, the superintendent would close the district down. One school district where I worked, however, had a superintendent who slipped up one year.
An ice storm was expected to come through and most districts had already shut down for the day, but not the one I worked for. I got up earlier than usual because I lived half an hour away from the school and had to cross through construction that lengthened that commute to about an hour on a good day. Potential ice storm? I was going to need more time.
I had the news on while I was getting ready and kept watching for the announcement that the district I worked for had closed down. By the time I finished getting ready, there was no announcement, so I gathered my stuff and walked out to my car. The roads in front of my house were slushy but not frozen, so I started off. I didn’t get very far.
As I approached a turn at the beginning of a construction area, where traffic was diverted onto a side road because the main road was a disaster, I hit a patch of black ice. My car whipped around 630 degrees (1.75 full turns). I’d swear I pulled fighter-pilot-worthy Gs before I landed in the middle of an ice-and-dirt median.
Once I remembered how that breathing thing worked again, I fished my cell phone out of my purse to call my principal and let her know that I would not be making it in that day. Before I started dialing the number, the phone rang. It was my mother. School had been cancelled for the day, and when the school’s phone tree failed to find me at home, the principal called my mother (listed in my emergency contacts) to see if I had a cell phone. (This was at a time when cell phones were not ubiquitous. Mine was the size of big stapler).
When the weather cleared two days later and the roads were safe to travel, the superintendent caught an earful. Most of the staff did not live in the district. Many of us came from more than 45 minutes away (This is Texas. Distance is measured in the number of minutes of travel time), so waiting that long to declare a school closure had actually put a number of teachers at risk. Some had called in “sick” and took a personal day, but others didn’t have personal days left, and those who were very north (like me) were in an area that wasn’t as bad as the local area of the district.
The next time there was a predicted ice storm, the superintendent cancelled school sooner.
Next time… J is for Funny.