The Snowstorm That Wasn’t

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Snow Covered Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, PA after Blizzard Jonas

At 10 p.m. on Feb. 8, Amy Oropollo received a text message from her boss that she had a snow day the next day.

Earlier that day, while the sun was shining and providing unseasonably high temperatures, news channels kept viewers updated with storm trackers showing what was promised to be a big snowstorm the next day.

The amount of expected accumulation kept increasing, giving kids everywhere hope.

A snow emergency was declared in the city.

Even NBC10’s Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz, who grew up going to services at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, blogged about the impending storm, promising anywhere from 4 to 10 inches of snow across the region.

Of course, while Oropollo was home instead of at KleinLife, where she works as director of grants management, the snow day didn’t exactly live up to expectations.

In the end, Philly got just about 2 inches of snow, and only in some areas.

But even if the snow day was more of a snow morning, some organizations were still impacted.

Many schools — 6ABC reported more than 700 school closures or delays — such as Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and Perelman Jewish Day School granted their students’ wishes and announced snow days.

Some institutions remained open, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which showed a snow-covered Rocky statue in its Snapchat story while announcing it was still open for business that day. The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), synagogues’ early childhood education programs and preschools, and others closed for the day.

Though it seemed on the barely snow-covered surface like it was a waste of a snow day, the safety of constituents was still a concern for some agency leaders who decided to close.

“It’s always a challenge for our CEO to determine whether to close or not,” said Oropollo, “because we have a huge parking lot here, it’s almost like a school. And we have a lot of senior citizens [who] come here, plus children — I mean people of all ages come here but since our daytime hours are full of a lot of senior citizens coming through — so we have to make sure that the premises are very safe for them.”

As they watched the weather predictions change, staff and volunteers began preparing for the community center to be closed.

For example, staff members made calls to individuals who benefit from their home-delivered meals program or who come to the center every day and depend on the food served there to make sure they were OK.

“When that happens, our upper management here will contact various seniors to make sure they have food or whatever because it’s not just like a school and you’re going to close it and the parents are taking care of the children,” Oropollo said. “Many of our seniors that come here depend on the food that they get here on a daily basis, a lot of the folks that come for lunch and, of course, we have home-delivered meals and things like that. So when something like this happens, we have to plan accordingly.”

They call to make sure they have meals for the week or at least a few days in case they are closed for more than one day, which Oropollo said is rare.

“If we know we’re going to close the next day or there’s an impending storm and possibly we couldn’t get out there, we call them to make sure that they’re OK,” she said. “And if they’re not OK and they’re not going to be OK on that day, we will run a meal out to them beforehand.”

Social workers and case managers also called to make sure their clients who receive in-home care would be all right during the day while KleinLife was closed, but this was also something that had to be done in advance, Oropollo said.

“The weather definitely hinders us when you’re dealing with the elderly population,” she said.

Some cultural institutions took a look at the weather predictions and called for a snow day.

The NMAJH usually follows the School District of Philadelphia protocol as far as closing.

Of course, the preference is always to remain open, said Jennifer Isakowitz, public relations and digital marketing manager at the museum. But with the museum’s location in a bustling part of town, safety was a priority for staff and visitors as the most precipitation happened during the morning commute.

Some school groups were scheduled to visit that day but it would have been canceled anyway as those schools were closed, too, she noted.

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