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Travis DeNeal: Cold weather was time to reflect on good things

By Travis Deneal
Editor, Harrisburg Register
updated: 2/24/2021 11:13 AM

As I write this column, the temperature is close to 60 degrees and sunny, contrasted with few days ago when we had a heavy blanket of ice and snow and single-digit temperatures.

There wasn't a whole lot going on, because not a whole lot could go on. Just when a few events were starting to take place after nearly a year of not being able to do much, we had to wait a little longer because a lot of us couldn't get out.

With any challenge, though, a person either can lament the situation or find the silver lining, and looking around there were several positive things I noticed.

First and foremost, just because we have bad weather doesn't mean fire departments, police departments, paramedics and other first responders stop responding. The weather will be a challenge, but they always answer the call. Equally important is the work of every township, city, county and state employee who risks life and limb to operate snowplows and salt trucks.

Also, several communities in the area experienced power failures, but thanks to the dedication of power companies and their line workers, power was restored fairly quickly.

Tow truck workers were able to get out and haul in the cars who ran off into ditches, and in some cases where towing temporarily wasn't allowed, neighbors with four-wheel drive trucks offered a hand (and a tow rope).

At the same time, campaigns to brighten the lives of others also stood strong. State Sen. Dale Fowler made good on his promise to deliver Valentine's Day cards to residents of area nursing homes and assisted living centers. Volunteers from across southern Illinois, many children from school classrooms, contributed thousands of homemade cards. Many included messages of love and caring.

Sen. Fowler a day later kicked off his canned soup drive, in which he's seeking donations of cans of soup to be distributed to area food banks. Fowler and his volunteers, whether through the Fowler Bonan Foundation, Heaven's Kitchen or just independent good-spirited people, have spent countless hours working to help keep people in southern Illinois from going hungry.

Another positive take-away from our snowy weather is the adaptability of both our schoolteachers and our students. Many schools already had remote learning options in place. Most K-12 age students have a computer provided by the school district for remote learning. The upshot of this is that some school districts were able to have full remote learning days instead of snow days so that the end of the school year won't be delayed.

I realize that probably kills the fun of a "snow day" for schoolchildren, and I know for various reasons some school systems did use a snow day here and there. However, it also shows that as technology advances, there are going to be changes in the way education is administered. I'm sure most of the kids who had remote learning days rather than snow days still had plenty of time to play in the snow, because it sure was here for a while.

I know there are other volunteers and programs I've overlooked, but one thing I like to do is highlight people who help people. If you know of a person or organization who you think deserves a pat on the back for their efforts, please email me at so I can take the opportunity to mention their work.

• Travis DeNeal is editor of the Harrisburg Register.