To err on the side of safety usually makes sense. However, the Tribune Editorial Board has to disagree with Bis-Man Transit’s decision to halt service on Tuesday and Wednesday because of the cold conditions. On Tuesday, especially, it was business as normal in Bismarck-Mandan.
According to Bis-Man Transit, the service makes about 1,000 trips on a daily basis. These riders are going to work, school or appointments and depend on the buses to get them there. In North Dakota you don’t normally skip class or work because it’s cold. You are expected to show up. Bismarck and Mandan schools closed Wednesday and that made sense. Having little kids go out in the cold isn’t wise. Commerce, however, continues with the idea that adults know how to cope with the conditions.
Transit officials were concerned about the safety of people waiting for the buses. They didn’t want anyone to suffer from frostbite and thought they would be safer by staying home. However, the decision had the potential of putting would-be riders more at risk if they tried to walk. If they paid for alternative ride service it created an added expense. We commend the transit system for considering the safety of its riders and staff, but we think it would have been safer to continue service.
North Dakotans are no strangers to cold weather. Temperatures that dip to 30 below or colder aren’t unusual. Daily life doesn’t come to a halt. Children still go to school until the cold reaches dangerous levels and farmers and ranchers just put on more layers before going out to do their chores. That doesn’t mean the cold can’t be life-threatening, it can. Fortunately, North Dakotans are smart about dealing with cold weather. They dress in an appropriate manner, they don’t stay out in the cold too long, they keep their gas tanks full and equip their vehicles with survival kits.
They pride themselves on handling the cold while not being foolish when going out.
On Jan. 19, 1994, the Tribune embraced a cold spell with a front page devoted to a string of days of numbing cold. It noted the wind chills for the last eight days: -35, -13, -42, -50, -45, -64, -74, -43.
In a story on the deep freeze across the state, reporter Peter Salter wrote:
“Even North Dakota, where residents boast thick, winter skin, is yielding to winter. Slowly, in the face of imprisoning snow drifts, double-digit below zero temperatures — and wind chill factors of 70, 80 and 90 below, the state is shivering. And adjusting.”
The story went on to note that two-thirds of the state’s schools had closed at one time because of the cold. North Dakotans did what the conditions required. Fortunately, this winter hasn’t been so extreme. We’ve had cold weather, but it’s been interrupted by warmer periods.
North Dakotans love the outdoors and respect it. Whether snowmobiling, cross country skiing or ice fishing, state residents take the needed precautions. It’s a difficult decision on whether to close schools or halt transit service. It was wise to close schools on Wednesday, but the lack of transit service made life more challenging for some residents.