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Fri January 31, 2014

It's True: Snowiest Places Are Least Likely To Close Schools

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 7:48 pm

We all probably sort of knew this already, but a new map seems to show quite clearly that it doesn't take much snow to close schools in the Southern U.S. — and that it takes a lot to close them in the Northern half of the nation.

Reddit user Alexandr Trubetskoy posted the map earlier this week, saying it's based on data "from hundreds of various points from user responses and interpolated using NOAA's average annual snowfall days map." The snowfall totals refer to what falls over a 24-hour period or overnight.

As The Atlantic says, the graphic is "sure to stoke" regional competition as Northerners note that it can take 2 feet or more to get officials to close their schools, while some parts of the South shut down when there's "any snow."

Some context is needed, of course. For instance, places where it snows a lot have more snowplows and sand trucks. They deal with snow every year, so they're prepared.

It's also worth noting that the map deals only with snowfall. But schools close for more reasons than just the amount of snow that's been falling. In Chicago this week, for example, bitter cold led officials to cancel classes. In the South, icy roads made it too dangerous to travel.

Still, check out the map and see if you agree with the general view.

Side note: This blogger wants to pull out the "back in my day" card.

Arthur Memmott, my dad, was the principal in our little one-school village in western New York from the mid-'40s until 1969. The legend is that he never closed school even though Little Valley is smack dab in the middle of a pretty good snow belt. Supposedly, he kept his eye on a point about 4 feet up the trunk of an elm tree in our front yard. If the snow hadn't reached that mark overnight, school was going to be open in the morning.

Now, he's not around to check with on that. And I wouldn't necessarily trust my siblings' memories. But I do not think there was a day off school because of snow at least through my fifth-grade year. Dad retired right before I hit sixth grade.

These days, from what I hear, sometimes school gets canceled up there because of snow. That's probably OK. Kids have to be kept safe.

But back in Dad's day ...

Side note II, at 4:45 p.m. ET: Brother John Memmott emails to say he doesn't specifically recall any snow days (see what I mean about siblings' memories?). But he does remember school being closed early at least a couple of times because of excessive snowfall. So maybe Dad did have some softness when it came to getting kids home early.

Sister Martha Memmott thinks there might have been at least one year when school was closed for a couple of days (again, those memories!). This blogger is sticking with the legend.

John has also sent along a photo of the two of us, apparently before your blogger was in kindergarten. Nice snowsuit!

Side note III at 6:35 p.m. ET: Brother Jim Memmott, who makes the case that memory improves with age, writes that he can "recall the late 40s and early 50s in Little Valley with absolute precision."

He says that:

"I can say with certainty that dad did call off school because of heavy snowfall from time to time. [Oldest brother] Ed and I would hear the phone ring about 5 a.m.; it would be the county highway superintendent letting dad know that the roads were unsafe for travel. He, in turn, would notify WBEN-AM in Buffalo that Little Valley was shut down. We would happily go back to sleep. Later, when we were teenagers or maybe a little younger, we would trod down to school anyway. Dad, who always went to work, would let us in, and we and [our] pals would shoot baskets."

This appears to be the first time in family history that this blogger recalls things being harder for him (as in, no school closings) than for his siblings.

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