We have enough freezing rain this morning to coat some elevated surfaces.
It is unusual here on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina even on a date like January 28, but it was not unexpected.
I pay attention to our local weathermen and women so I am not surprised. Our very competent weather folks all called this particular storm about as well as it could be called to this point.
What amazes me is people complaining yesterday about our school officials who trusted enough in the weather forecast to go ahead and cancel today's school yesterday.
Closing schools the day before a bad storm is not just a North Carolina phenomena as some would have you believe. It is a fact of modern life and actually a sign of how far we have come with weather forecasts even in a time of budget cuts to government services.
I remember the days when our children were young and still in school. Roanoke County unlike many of the surrounding counties in Virginia would always wait until the last minute before canceling school. While mountain weather is tricky, it is no less tricky than the riddle of coastal weather, and I can assure you hopping out of bed in the pre-Internet days and trying to figure out whether or not school was closed was not a lot of fun.
It makes a lot of sense to let working parents know the day before so those who need to arrange child care can have time to do that. Some parents might not be lucky enough to be working at New River Air Station which also announced its closing the day before the storm.
There are some other really good reasons for school systems below the Mason-Dixon line to be a little quicker on the draw than more northern districts.
The first reason would be that winter weather is in the south is very different than it is in the north. Anyone who has driven in the heart of a winter snowstorm in Canada and one in the south will quickly verify this.
It is rare that southern snow happens in conditions that are cold enough for "good" snow to come down. Most southern snow comes during conditions which are often close to freezing not twenty degrees below freezing.
The simple difference is that you can go into a slide on Canadian snow and have a much greater chance of controling your slide than you can on Virginia or North Carolina snow. I have done a couple of very "slick" 180 degree turns on Canadian snow with a little more than a flick of the wrist. Traction on snow that falls when the temperature is in the low twenties is actually quite good.
On icy southern snow, you have far less control if you start to slide. It is likely you will end up in the ditch and the odds are that the ditch you end up in will not be filled with snow like it often is in Canada. I have intentionally put my pick-up truck in the ditch in Canada to avoid hitting a car stopped in the middle of the road just over the top of a hill. I did have to catch a ride home to get one of our tractors to pull it out of the snowbank, but there was no damage to my truck. It I had done the same thing in coastal North Carolina, I might have needed scuba gear to find my truck in the water. In Virginia, likely my truck might have bonded with a rocky cliff.
The other reason officials are being intelligent in canceling school early is that most municipalities and southern states just do not have the budget to buy enough first rate snow clearing machinery. It does not make financial sense to spend a lot of money on snow clearing machinery in areas which get one or two snow storms every three or four years. After all, just how long is our southern snow going to last? Likely it will be gone in a day or two. Even some Canadian areas depend on the weather for much of their snow removal. Counting on chinooks is a popular method of snow removal in Canada's province of Alberta.
So the next time you hear someone complaining about school being closed before the storm gets here, try imagining how people people would react to a bus full of children that slipped off an icy road.
I am grateful to our weather folks for the terrific job that they do with limited resources. I am also thankful to school officials who put the safety of children first. It makes more sense for everyone to stay home than to end up in a mess like Atlanta did this this week.
Sometimes those of us who live out in rural America have a little more common sense than the folks who live in cities. It seems like the folks in Atlanta could use a bit of that to avoid yet another ice storm disaster.
Even the federal government in Washington knows enough to tell its workers to stay home when it looks like a storm is on the way.