EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 6, 2014

Wimps or safer? Residents give storm response mixed reviews

Some say people are too cautious

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — Wayne Dumas of Hampstead said he has seen a big change in how people deal with big snowstorms.

“People used to come out in snowmobiles and sleds,” said Dumas, 63. “Now, everyone is inside. I yearn for the old days.”

As another significant storm hit Southern New Hampshire yesterday, many people remarked on how differently snowstorms are now viewed.

“We’re wimpy,” said Ray McGowan of Chelmsford, who was in Londonderry on his way to see his grandchildren in Hampstead.

They were home from school because of the snowstorm.

“When I was young, we walked to school in this,” McGowan said.

Ray Rentas of Derry, who was shopping in Londonderry, agreed people react more to snowstorms now, but he thought the school cancellations were a good idea.

“I think it’s necessary,” Rentas said. “You don’t want a bus crashing into anybody. It’s being safe.”

Dan Small of Londonderry said he thinks people are wimpier about snowstorms, but that the decision to cancel school made sense.

“They had a right to cancel. They knew what was coming,” Small said. “They made the right call.”

Timberlane and Hampstead Superintendent Earl Metzler canceled yesterday’s classes late Tuesday afternoon.

“We are usually ahead of the curve,” Metzler said. “I thought we’d be one of the first to cancel, but I stuck my head out of a budget meeting and lots of other schools had already canceled.”

He said it benefits parents to know the status of their children’s schools as early as possible.

“It gives the parents the opportunity to have childcare,” he said. “That’s really the driver for me.”

Although yesterday was clear cut, on more borderline days, Metzler said he will often hear from parents for and against canceling school.

“It’s mixed,” he said. “Some parents still have to go to work while their child doesn’t have to go to school. But they understand it’s not an exact science.”

A lot has changed in Metzler’s 20-plus years as a school administrator.

“There used to be a time in Boston where you were going to school, no matter what,” he said. “But now it’s changed quite a bit. I think there’s more emphasis on safety now. You don’t want to put anyone at risk.”

But some of the diehards braving the storm over breakfast at MaryAnn’s Diner in Derry yesterday felt differently.

As the heavy snow fell outside, they weren’t about to let the inclement weather interrupt their plans for the day.

Longtime Salem resident Pat Friel said she didn’t understand why schools were canceling classes the day before.

She spoke of a day in January when schools were postponed and it didn’t even end up snowing.

“They start to cancel school the day before now, which is ridiculous,” she said. “I don’t think they should jump the gun.”

Friel and her husband, Jim have lived in Salem for 34 years. She said she still doesn’t understand why some Southern New Hampshire residents can’t take a little snow and cold.

“This is so beautiful, it’s winter,” she said. “I laugh at people here. This is a great day to go shopping; nobody is out.”

Former Derry resident Shawn Donovan, 46 recalled that school was never canceled early when he was growing up in Methuen.

“We would have to wait in the morning and watch on TV,” said Donovan, who now lives in Litchfield. “Methuen never canceled school.”

Meg McGuire, 35, agreed times have changed.

“They give them too many days off from school,” she said.

She had driven two hours in the snow from her home in Worcester to visit her niece, Maggie Fahey, 14, of Derry. The eighth-grader had the day off from Hood Middle School.

Rick Masiello, 53 of Derry said he thinks people are smarter when it comes to snowstorms than they used to be.

“We put a little more priority on the things in life that are really important,” said Masiello, who was told to stay home from work yesterday. “That’s safety and taking care of your family.”

He said technology plays a role, too.

“We can now better anticipate the storms that are coming,” Masiello said.

Cleo Hurley and Herbert Little of Hampstead were pleased to see their favorite coffee shop, The English Muffin, stayed open through the storm.

“I’ve got four-wheel drive,” Hurley said. “We go out for coffee, no matter what. That’s got to take place.”

Little said in the past nothing ever closed.

“Probably 40 or 50 years ago, everything started to close and people got off the roads,” he said. “I don’t know what changed.”

Staff writers Doug Ireland and John Toole contributed to this report.