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Monday around 4:45 p.m., as family and friends gathered to say farewell to Nelle Reagan, we began to look out the windows of Henderson & Sons Funeral Home in Armuchee. An intense round of rain was overhead.
As the service end, the news folks among us acknowledged a busy night and Tuesday morning ahead because of expected flooding.
As we said our final goodbyes, a steady stream of people made their way under umbrellas to their cars while puddles began to form in and around the Henderson campus. The ditches along U.S. 27 were at capacity and the rain kept falling.
Amid the updates later in the evening were road closings in Floyd, Bartow and Gordon counties. And then one by one – and we mean at the pace of a pre-global warming glacier – local school administrators started to make “The Decision.”
Those of you who are sports fans know what The Decision means – when LeBron James announced he was taking his talents to South Beach years ago. The ESPN “special” seemingly lasted longer than the Oscars. So, too, did the notices from area schools Monday night.
Parents and educators were writing, calling and texting. “Any word yet?”
Ever so slowly, Trion reported no classes on Tuesday. Cherokee County, Ala., reported a two-hour delay. Polk County Schools announced a 10 a.m. start time Tuesday. And then Gordon County. And then Calhoun City. And then Bartow County but not before some of the schools leaked word before the county school system.
Finally, around 9 p.m. Monday, Floyd County Schools made the call – a two-hour delayed start to Tuesday. And then Rome. And then our private schools, some after 10 p.m.
A few more came in Tuesday morning.
So what’s the right call? Closing schools or delayed starts. We’ll find out today. Our real question is exactly when that call is made. We understand the careful analysis of road closings, overnight rains, latest advisories and such. But to give parents the final word at or after 9 p.m. is tough. Even those parents who made contingency plans in case of a delay or cancellation had to execute those plans with sitters, relatives, bosses and others at a later hour.
We understand the pressure behind such a decision. We remember the days when expected snow never materialized and school systems caught hell for making a bad call. And we remember the day when no decision was made until the storm already had hit and half the county was stuck on snow-and-ice covered roads trying to get from work to school to home.
So what’s the answer? Make the decision and make it when people have time to react. It’s one with if overnight weather causes delays or closings. It’s another thing when we already now the cities and counties are swamped and more rain is falling.
We understand the concerns about exactly what the verdict will be from the High Court of Facebook. Parents already are upset. The rest of it is from the traditional batch of unemployed people who have nothing better to do than whine about clouds dotting an otherwise blue sky.
We have so many tools to use these days to spread the word: school alerts, email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, whatever. If anything, we have more ways of reaching families which might be a hardship vs. the old “mass media” approach.
That said, the most important tool is decision making. Make the call, say before 8 p.m., and let people plan according.
Besides, the High Court of Facebook is always in session. All rise.