201210_NWS_CLE_Figure1

For thirteen years, I lived in the infamous Snow Belt in Ashtabula County, Ohio–approximately half way between Cleveland and Erie, PA.  Winter could begin as early as Halloween and last through Easter.  (Probably, why I love Arizona.)  Winter school  closures were the norm.  Every school district had snow emergency plans.  If we were unable to safely transport our students home, we housed them and fed them, until we could fire up the bus engines.  As superintendent, one of my vivid memories is spending the night on the cafeteria dining room floor with 100 teenagers.  Yes, it was actually fun.

On January 24, 1978, when I went to bed, it was rainy and foggy.  At 4:00 AM, the next morning, my phone rang.  “This is Bill. I’m closing our schools; there’s a blizzard coming.”  In a county with 10 school districts, our plan called for a phone tree to notify each other. “Gene, this is Sue. Bill is closing, and I’m closing.”  Then each of us called the local radio station, gave our assigned code number to broadcast district closings.

Ashtabula County, as much of Ohio, virtually stopped. Five days later, the storm abated.  Yet, only main roads were passable.  Fortunately, I lived in a two-story, townhouse complex where the management had removed the drifts from our front doors.  Not that I could go anywhere–my car was buried.  Cabin fever consumed me, while I ate macaroni and cheese day after day.  However, like Annie, I knew the sun will come up; this too shall pass.

As I reflect on the Blizzard of 1978 and now, the differences far outweigh the similarities.  In 1978, we had a plan, we followed the plan, we knew spring would return.  Currently, our fear of the unknown has sparked outrageous hoarding and panic.  We’ve dismissed the scientific experts, and we’ve decimated established health organizations. Now we are desperately trying to play catch up, after we frivolously dismissed COVD-19 as fake news.

I don’t have a crystal ball, nor am I a scientist.  A third of the world’s population may vanish.  In the meantime, we must follow the experts’ advice and play it safe.  We must cease this senseless hoarding.  Finally, we must model kindness and compassion for our children.  The sermon, according to Dr. Sue.  Go in peace.

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