I know this is boring news to everyone else, but yesterday we got another ice day here in Austin. Two in within a week! That means I’m sipping hot chocolate and working from home in my pajamas.
But not everyone is having such a good day off.
Quite a few school districts, not the mention the University of Texas, didn’t end up delaying or canceling today until 7:30am or later, which meant a lot of people were out on the roads or already on school buses. Quite a dilemma with the police begging people to stay home while employers were requiring people to be at work.
There were more than 150 car accidents between 5am and noon yesterday; that’s a lot more than our snow day on Friday despite milder weather due to more people on the roads. It just goes to show how important decisions to delay or cancel operating hours can be.
The University of Texas is now apologizing for its delayed decision. The decision to delay opening until noon wasn’t issued until after 8:15am — after most campus offices opened and after 8am classes were scheduled. By that time road closures due to ice were rolling in by the handful and the University still waited until after 11am to close the university for the day.
These decisions are never easy. Yesterday’s storm was forecast to be less severe than last Friday’s and there was already some lingering gravel and sand on the road from the last time around. Apparently meteorological reports came in overnight that predicted there wouldn’t be much ice on the road this morning.
I’m no meteorologist, but that’s hard to believe when the rain started by 10pm Monday night and it was below freezing until 1pm yesterday.
While officials rely on the meteorological reports to make their decisions, and there’s a lot at stake when deciding to close a school district or large university system, it’s baffling to me that the decision continued to be delayed despite the empirical evidence. Every police agency was asking people to stay off the roads this morning. There were dozens of roads and highway ramps closed by 7 am and people I know reported seeing more than a dozen vehicles involved in accidents just on their own commute to work.
I realize the decisions can be complex and that hindsight is 20/20, but these kinds of situations pain me. A little common sense can go a long way.