Baylor students and staff observed a snow day Tuesday despite the lack of a rather essential element: Snow. This has lead to sarcastic remarks about the tempestuous weather conditions that resulted in a four-day weekend.
Besides just being thankful for an extra day off from school and work, we are also thankful to the Baylor administration for exercising prudence when it comes to the safety of Baylor students and staff.
“Please know that we do not take the decision to close campus lightly, particularly this early in the semester. We consult with various state and local emergency management officials as well as the National Weather Service to make a prudent decision for your safety and security,” Baylor President Dr. Linda A. Livingstone wrote in a Presidential Perspective email to the Baylor family Thursday afternoon.
Central Texas was put under a Winter Storm Warning from midnight to 6 p.m. Tuesday due to a cold front expected to bring freezing rain, sleet and snow, according to an email from Baylor sent to students and staff at 4:25 p.m. Monday.
At 9:43 p.m. Monday, Baylor announced it would be closing the campus Tuesday “because of winter weather conditions.”
In places such as the East coast or the Midwest, these frigid temperatures can be expected, and as a result, they are often well planned for. However, in Central Texas, wintry conditions don’t often amount to icy roads and snow flurries. In fact, Waco experienced temperatures nearing and sometimes breaking record lows Tuesday and Wednesday.
Due to Central Texans’ general lack of experience with icy roads and winter storms, Baylor made the right call in being overly-cautious. It is better to be proactive than reactive when faced with potentially fatal risks.
Local news outlets had predicted inclement weather conditions and dangerously icy roads. After most people experienced a snow-free snow day, local meteorologists were quick to admit their mistake.
“Believe me, all of the local TV weather folk are the recipients of a number of criticisms today. I, for one, accept them. I am most sorry for workers, who are paid hourly wages, and whose employer elected to close down today. And the families whose local day care decided to shut down for fear of an icy threat, leaving Moms and Dads scrambling for an alternative,” KWTX evening weather anchor Rusty Garrett wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon.
Despite the inconveniences the weather reports incited, we strongly believe it is better to err on the side of caution.
“Some snow did fall across our area, but it wasn’t as bad as what it could have been … I would rather be wrong, and people are safe, than the other way around,” KXXV chief meteorologist Matt Hines wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday morning.
In fact, according to Time Magazine, extreme cold weather has been responsible for at least nine deaths this year across the country, and has caused other injuries, accidents and a frozen water tower in Iowa. Time Magazine also reports that a few weeks ago, the local police chief in Abilene, Texas said “more than three dozen vehicle crashes were reported in 24 hours.”
Maybe the snow day seemed unnecessary to those of us who commute to Baylor by walking to class from our dorm or biking from our off-campus apartments. Some professors and students, however, have a much longer and likely more treacherous journey to campus.
In 2016, road surface conditions resulting from cold temperatures accounted for a total of 860 vehicle crashes statewide, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. While it is true that rain can also contribute to the likelihood of car crashes, Central Texans are more experienced with the caution required to navigate wet roads. Icy roads, particularly black ice, is not as easily seen by drivers, and ignoring its dangerous potential can have fatal consequences.
When people’s lives could be in danger, it’s much better to plan ahead and be wrong, than to do nothing and deal with the consequences.