Snow go or no go

About 30 years ago we were in Portland, Oregon. My sister lived there at the time and her home was on a hill. Portland experienced an ice storm. The freezing rain stuck to everything and coated the roads. I put tire chains on our family van and pulled it out of my sister’s driveway. I could get some momentum, but I couldn’t steer the van. I got it stopped without hitting anything and got out some cable chains and put on the front tires. So-equipped I loaded my family into the van and headed out for the 400+ mile drive home. Within 30 miles we had the chains off of the van and encountered no further problems.

As we drove I told our children the story of another time, years before, when we were living in Chicago and a blizzard shut down the city. I had tire chains, put them on my car and was able to get to a motel where my sister was staying. The next morning we proceeded to show her the city. It was amazing the way people had abandoned cars in the middle of the highways. There were plenty of drifts, but we were able to get around without big problems.

I’ve always had pretty good equipment for getting around when inclement weather occurs and I haven’t been held back much. However, there is a need for a bit of common sense to go with the equipment we have.

Perhaps as a result of my experiences, I am very reluctant to cancel events when the weather turns harsh. Today is another morning when I’m facing a decision. I could have made the decision last night. A lot of churches in our community did. There are plenty of cancellation notices already posted. But I knew that the winds would go down overnight. I was right. It isn’t as bad this morning as it was last night. I have the snow cleared from my driveway except for a bit that blew in overnight. I have chains on all four wheels of my pickup, which has pretty high clearance and four wheel drive. We could get to the church.

The snow plow has just made its first run up Sheridan Lake Road and it will be cleared soon.

On the other hand, there is a Whispering Pines rescue truck stuck in the ditch across the road from our home. The car they were trying to pull out of the ditch when they slid in is also still there. It is going to take several hours for our city to dig out after a full day of snow and blowing. The drifts in our yard are the biggest I can remember in 25 years of living here.

I used to say that we trust people to make their own decisions. If I can get to the church, I’ll go there and we’ll have worship for whoever shows up. This morning as I contemplate the right thing to do, I am questioning that approach. Technically, there is still a “no travel advised” order for the city. It is likely that will be lifted before the 9:30 start time for worship. On the other hand, when I think of who might come to worship, I wonder if I want to take responsibility for those who might not have the right equipment to venture out.

We’ve already made the decision to cancel our bus service. The driver doesn’t think he will be able to get the bus out in time. Our choir director lives out in the country and his equipment probably isn’t heavy enough to conquer the drifts. It is unlikely that he can make it. We aren’t likely to have enough people to have a choir anyway.

Yet, when I think of it, I know that the church parking lot is likely to have been plowed well before worship. The plowing bill will be big. It seems a bit of a shame to go to all of that work for a cancellation.

It is easy for me to argue both sides of the issue.

This is likely to be the last winter that I’m the one calling the shots on this type of decision. On the other hand, it is early for us to be contemplating closings to winter storms. There could be a lot more decisions that need to be made before summer comes. We have had to cancel worship in May due to a spring blizzard once before.

Within an hour or so, I will suck it up, make a decision and we’ll get busy getting the word out. I can change the outgoing message on the church phone. I can send an email “blast” to church members who have subscribed. We can post on social media. We can call the various church leaders who have responsibilities. We have already been in touch with the family who have a baptism scheduled for this morning and know what the alternate dates are if we cancel.

If we do cancel, I know that by 9:30, I’ll be a bit antsy. The weather is supposed to be sunny. We’ll be dug out. The snow plow will have made a trip up our street. There will be nothing that really prevents me from getting out.

If we do decide to go forward, I know that attendance at church will be light. 9:30 is just too early to get dug out if you don’t start digging until 8 or so. We probably won’t have a choir. We might not have an organist. I have a clear memory of a day when we proceeded with worship because of a scheduled baptism. The family of the baptized were almost the only ones who showed up. I picked up the organist and give her a ride to church and back home afterward. We didn’t have a choir. It was not one of our grander or most glorious worship experiences. On the other hand the family of the baptized will never forget it.

Either way, I’ll be second guessing the decision that I make. Making decisions is part of my job. It goes with the territory. But it is one area of my work life where experience doesn’t seem to help. These decisions don’t get any easier.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!