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There are people I know – I won’t name names – who panic when a winter storm is brewing. They take stock of their possessions and food stores as if in preparation for a long siege. All we need to weather the assault is milk and eggs, D batteries and enough rock salt to fill a bathtub.

Being prepared is definitely a good thing. And if I’m being honest I am probably more likely to err on the side of being underprepared. If I were ever really truly snowed in for a long period of time, left to my own devices, I’d be forced to survive on potato chips and mustard,

I must admit that I have a problem with snowstorms, but that problem is not with the snow. It’s been snowing on the planet forever – for all of human existence. And with each passing year, the field of snow removal theoretically continues to advance. I now own an electric snow blower that I can lift with one arm. It can tear through a foot of snow with ease. We have sophisticated formulas that can melt snow and not hurt dog feet. We have garbage trucks that double as snow plows. We have minivans with all-wheel drive.

Winter storm? We should all say, “We got this.”

But we don’t. Instead, as I drive around Philadelphia, people are still stuck – their cars plowed under large snow drifts. Their front walkways still iced over. While some homes and businesses are open and ready to go the next day, others remain shuttered, unprepared and/or unwilling to face the snow head-on and do something about it.

Yesterday, nearly every school in the region was closed. Even though many had all of Sunday to shovel walkways, driveways and get ready for the day, kids were told they had a snow day on Monday. And on Tuesday? The same thing. Schools remained closed.

I understand concerns for the safety of children. But the inability of our government to deal with a snowstorm is a little ridiculous. Two whole days of no school up to four days after the snowfall has stopped? We’re not talking about hurricane damage that has shredded trees and left power out. We’re talking about crystallized water that can simply be removed. How can it take three days to clear up one snowfall?

And what makes matters worse is not that schools close, but that when they do, everyone else is expected to work. This forces parents of children aged 12 and under to scramble to find child care or to miss work. For many, I suspect, that’s a real hardship. Not every job has an understanding personal day policy. And even if employers “understand,” they’re not obligated to pay for that day missed.

But even that sort of worst-case scenario notwithstanding, government and private industry should do a better job of getting on the same page. If it truly is so unsafe that children can’t make it to school, why is it fine for their parents to drive to work? To drive their kids to a caretaker? If Merck or Comcast can be open for business, why not the school district?

It’s just snow. It’s about time we figured out a way to get a grip on it.

Pete Mazzaccaro

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