Friday, January 13, 2017

A Definitive Ranking of the EIGHT Snow Days We've Had (So Far) This Year

When I was a kid, my admittedly vague memory is that every year or two, we'd get a snow day or two.  Sometimes we'd get sent home in the middle of the day, because meteorology was still called weather predicting, and they did not do hour-by-hour forecasts, or ten-day forecasts, so things caught us off guard all the time.

No light, no heat, so we sat by the fire.

My dad would leave the car at the far end of our road, which rolled up and down three large hills, and walk the rest of the way home.  I'd go out in the morning and tromp off a large rectangle of untouched snow to admire, take measurement of the snowfall on the garbage can lid, and use my dad's large magnifying glass to try to catch and view snowflakes.  My sisters or my mom or dad would help me get out the wooden sled with metal runners, and we'd walk up to the top of our hill, sled down and partway up the next hill, walk up that one to the top, and sled back down again.  

My dad and I having sled issues

Two years in a row, when I was nine and then ten, we had January ice storms that knocked out power for days AND messed up my best friend's birthday party plans.  In high school, I remember one early release due to snow, snowballs flying in the parking lot and some older brothers piling out of a car to threaten some kids who'd hit their windows.  I took the city bus home and suffered through the mile walk to my house in thin flats, convinced my toes had fallen off by the time I was halfway home.  (They hadn't.) 

Trying to get up to our house during an ice storm

A decade later I was back in the area, teaching in a rural area outside of the city.  And for the first several years we did not have a single snow day.  I joked about it with friends from the east coast and he Great Lake states.  "Here in Oregon, we have a snow day if we get an inch of snow--AND WE HAVEN'T HAD A SINGLE SNOW DAY IN FIVE YEARS!"

Mom and our dog in an early 90s snow event

Then in 2004, we came back from winter break on a Monday, it started snowing, and by noon school was dismissed.  My students were thrilled and shocked.  They had NEVER had that experience before.  We were out all week.

The Winemaker shovels his mom's walk

In 2008, I was in a new school district and hating my new job.  The week before our winter break, it started to snow.  We wound up getting the whole week off, and so having three weeks off.  I even got some socks knitted as Christmas gifts.  It was such a relief that difficult year to have that much time to recuperate before getting back to it.

There was only snow up in the hills on this New Year's hike several years back, not at our house.

This school year beats it all.  Today is the eighth day my kids and I have been off school due to weather.  Thursday and Friday two weeks before break.  Thursday and Friday before break.  Last Monday, and then Wednesday-Friday this week.  

I know there are families of bus drivers and custodians and cafeteria staff who are losing pay for every single day we are gone.  Not to mention the four homeless people who have died of exposure in Portland this month.  The worst problems I have are that I'm going to be working later in the summer than usual, and I fell and twisted my ankle trying to get outside and enjoy the winter wonderland.  We have electricity and heat.  We are all able to be home, so there's no childcare emergency.  We even had a leftover stash of prescription strength ibuprofen for my ankle, so we didn't have to go out.  (I was so afraid I'd broken it at first--how they hell would we get to the emergency room with icy roads and not being able to walk?)  

My front yard this morning, after a few days of settling and melting off.

Still, I've come to see that for parents, not all snow days are created equal.  These are the categories we've had so far this year.  

C--Ice Days.  
The roads are slick.  The yard is icy and wet.  Kids who go outside fall down and end up soaking, so they don't really want to go outside.  Cabin fever and general irritability set in quickly.  
Number of days like this so far: 3/8

B--Maybe We Overreacted Days
Sure, at 4 am when they're making the call, the roads are iced over and dangerous.  But by 9 am, things have pretty much melted.  It could have just been a late start day.  The afternoon can be spent running errands and getting around town.  Basically like a bonus weekend day, so who's complaining?
Number of days like this so far: 2/8

A: Actual Snow Day
There is snow on the ground.  Snowmen, snowballs, and sledding are all possible.  Children burst outside in mittens and hats and rush to gather friends to build forts or tube downhill.  Parents only need to help suit up at beginning of day, provide hot food once or twice, and tuck them into bed, exhausted at the end of the day.  Fun for kids, easy for parents--total win/win.  Plus, it looks gorgeous.
Number of days like this so far: 3/8

I'm going to propose that, given my city's inability to cope with this kind of weather, we stop having it.  Barring that, if we have any more snow days, I'm going to have to insist that they are all the Grade A variety.

My kids were super excited I was slowing them down with this picture taking nonsense when they just wanted to go sled.

Let's talk snow days!
  • Have winters changed since you were a kid?  
  • What does it take to get a snow day in your area?  
  • Do you do any winter sports?  As a teenager, I downhill skied, and in my twenties and thirties (i.e. after my parents stopped buying me lift tickets) I took up cross country and snowshoeing, but lately--I'm super lazy. 
  • In the event of actual snow, are you a "rush out and build a snowman" person or a "curl up and read a book" person?   
  • Speaking of books--what are your favorite wintery books?  I'm thinking of The Long Winter, Smilla's Sense of Snow, Snow Falling on Cedars, WinterdanceSnow White: A Graphic Novel, and City of Thieves.  


  1. I miss snow. Ever since I moved from Switzerland to England I've been missing snow. I would like to nominate your blog for the Mystery Blogger Award, I just put my post up at:
    Don't worry if that is not your kind of thing, then just ignore me :)

  2. I hope your ankle feels better soon. I live in Colorado, so we get tons of snow but hardly any snow days. There was once a snow day on my birthday, which was awesome. Once it snowed so much that nobody could get their cars out for several days. The neighbors teamed up to shovel out the roads. They put the snow in a huge pile that us kids turned into an ultra-dangerous sledding hill.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Yes, I imagine that in Colorado, they are actually equipped to deal with the snow. Here we have like two snowplows for the entire city, give or take a few!

  3. I'm so jealous! I love the snow, and I've only experienced it twice in the last decade. In my Seattle 'burb, we haven't even had an inch. :(

    1. That's funny, since you're north of us. I don't know why PDX area has gotten hit so much lately.

  4. I'm near Chicago and it takes A TON of snow to get a snow day. We are more likely to get a day off for ridiculously cold temperatures than for snow. I love a good snowfall - I just think snow is so amazingly beautiful when it's fresh, but I generally admire it from my window while reading a good book.

    1. It must have to be insanely cold to cancel things. Glad I don't have to experience that.

  5. I was just going to say exactly what Lisa said (I'm in Chicago too). Basically, they cancel school if the temps get down to somewhere around -15 degrees in order to protect the kids who have to walk to school and kids who stand out waiting for buses. I totally agree with you that Grade A snows are the best. I always say that if it's going to snow, I like it better when we have a blizzard---it's way more fun for the kids!!

    I can't think of any snow books off the top of my head. Except for The Long Winter, which you already mentioned. And there's a cute picture book that might just be called Snow Day that I can picture in my mind's eye.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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