I'm writing this in mid-March. Despite freezing temperatures right now, there's no chance of snow left on the calendar. Winter precipitation missed Little Rock again.
What a disappointment.
Our capital city is in the middle of the Arkansas no-man's land of weather. It seems the northwest gets all the snow, the southeast gets all the heat, and we ... well, we're in that tepid world of pleasantness.
Don't get me wrong. Tucked safe from the extremes of weather isn't all bad. Other than the occasional tornado following Interstate 40, it's pretty nice to live in Little Rock.
Unless, of course, you're in school.
Little Rock's schoolchildren live in constant fear that winter weather will skip them as that mean borderline of chance lies in the city's path. It often snows in Conway while the misery of cold rain soaks the capital city.
Kids just want playable snow. That's snow that you can actually do something with.
There was a good chance of snow in February. While listening to forecasts then, I scrolled through the impressive Arkansas Winter Storm Database provided by the National Weather Service. Complete with interactive maps and succinct narratives for each event, it's a walk through Arkansas winter history.
The storm of 1988 stood out. I was a senior in high school, just finishing up Christmas break when January brought record-setting snowfall.
Then, there was the February ice storm in 1994. I was in my second year of teaching and Fr. George Tribou, the school's principal, had come on the intercom as sleet pinged dead leaves on the ground and said, "The temperature is too high, there's no way this will stick, so get your noses out of the windows and back into your books. We're staying in school." An hour later, he came back on the intercom to dismiss the student body by classes thanks to the sheer volume of sleet falling.
There's the Christmas ice storm of 2000, when I had three kids at home, all under the age of 5. We huddled in our cold bedroom at night, listening to the limbs creaking above us, hearing crash after crash of ice-laden trees falling in the neighborhood.
It was both beautiful and terrifying. Nothing playable about that.
In 2012, a December snowstorm met Little Rock like a Christmas miracle as hours of snow dropped eight inches on the ground. The next year, in 2013, I stood on a high school track in Bentonville, watching sleet pelt the runners. It was May. We fled the northwest after the last race, beating the storm that left a couple of inches covering spring gardens and green grass.
Of course, the last two years have seen ample playable snow. That word, "playable," has been our operative term in deciding whether to have virtual school or release for a snow day. In February, we endured three days of virtual school--all for a cold rain.
Little Rock remains caught between pleasant and playable. It's not all bad.
Unless you're a kid.
Steve Straessle is the principal of Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys. You can reach him at [email protected] Find him on Twitter @steve_straessle. "Oh, Little Rock" appears every other Monday.