Snow Day

Snow Day We’ve got about four inches out there, and somewhere between another 0″ and 4″ is supposed to fall. If it turns into freezing rain or sleet, the rest may just be a very unpleasant 1/4″ of ice. The kids have been sent home from school, and the dogs — or at least my dogs — are frolicking in the snow. It’s our first decent snow, three weeks into winter. Enjoy it while it’s pleasant.

55 thoughts on “Snow Day”

  1. It sure is pretty and fun for the kids. I will snark just a little bit that my son spent almost longer on the bus coming home from school (1-1/2 hours to go from Stony Pt Elementary to Key West subdivision) than he spent at school itself, and one wonders (eternally, I know) why they didn’t just cancel at the outset….

    Then again, I stupidly thought I could run to the grocery store (Giant Pantops) real quick before the snow came, and found myself returning home at about 9 a.m. and spending fully an hour making the drive from Rt. 250/Stony Point Road to the first Key
    West entrance. Too many cars were going off the road or spinning their wheels helplessly — everyone else had to wait for the stuck cars to get moved before crawling forward. I’m so glad for my Subaru wagon with AWD — so glad.

  2. The forecast was obvious last night so what are the schools trying to play tough guy now after so many years of wimping out? The buses end up driving all over tarnation in the midst of the late-morning traffic snowup?

  3. Thanks for that news, Cecil. That’s the route that my wife and I take to town (we’re just down the street from Stony Point Elementary), and we’ve been wondering if we did the right thing staying home. We have no regrets now. :)

  4. I’m working from home and it’s fantastic! My two-year-old daughter had her first real trek through the snow, accompanied by her first face-plant! Now we’re sitting at the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate, eating tomato soup and corn dogs, while I write my story for today!

    You gotta love the Internet, really.

  5. 4″ here in Fluvanna, now sleeting on top. Funny how more of my work gets done from home than at the office. Car is parked-i’m sure the roads out here are treacherous by now.My neighbor even came and shoveled my steps (gotta take care of the old lady nxt door ya know). Cats are piled up on the quilt.
    Life is good.

  6. Cecil,
    If the kids go to school, however briefly, they do not have to make up a day. On the plus side, I did get a nice auto phone call from ACPS transportation reassuring parents that students would be late getting home. Whoever made the decision to have school today blew it. I have been uncomplaining for many years when the school system waits (forever) for every mountain road to melt but I don’t like it when they err on the other side of student/staff safety.

    It is lovely though!

  7. The nutty thing is that probably a third of the cars on Stony Point Road (sliding into the ditch etc) were on their way to the elementary school to pick up their kids since we’d been told they’d be sent home on buses at 10. I was nervous at the thought of my son’s bus ride home, but WAY more nervous at the thought of me driving up to get him and driving back.

    I do think the school system blew it this time — if you looked at the radar at 6 a.m. this morning, it was very clear that a huge mass of precipitation was bearing directly down on us. They couldn’t have thought it would miss us! Maybe they just weren’t prepared for how quickly it snowballed (so to speak) — I went into Giant while there was just a light dusting of sleet on the ground, and when I came out 20 minutes later the parking lot was completely white and even the freshest car tracks were being rapidly covered with snow. It escalated pretty quickly. I still can’t believe how stupid I was — I had my toddler in the car, too.

  8. Anyone else see this link from the DP’s website? It’s a kinda cool Google map that shows where the accidents are!

  9. It was completely predicted by the Nat’l Weather Service last night before 6:45pm when I left my office. They called for precip starting after 4am with a very high probability, going 4 to 8 inches of snow then sleet.

  10. I plug NWS and the next thing I know the data center goes down in an ice incident.

    …Central Region Web Servers Down…

    Ice has damaged a cooling compressor fan at the Central Region data center, resulting in several major systems overheating. Temporary backup pages have been implemented for much of the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Upper Mississippi Valley. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working to restore full services quickly as possible.

    The radar is still available here:
    And the Zone Forecasts here:

  11. Th second quote above wasn’t a quote.

    WINA has a pic of the gas tanker that went ditchwise in Shadwell. It’s on the home page not the usual WINA news page that links to (old ‘355). All I can say about that picture is, I’m glad I’m not in that tow truck trying to wedge out a tanker full of gasoline.

  12. colfer (and the rest of you guys and girls), it’s my theory that NOT ONE PERSON associated with the school system nowadays wants to be held over when the summer break comes along. So they load the kids up, get them to school, then cancel school. They still get credit for the day and don’t have to make it up. They pulled this same identical thing last winter. Then they appear on the various TV news channels making up excuses why they endangered the kids. All anybody had to do was look at the radar map on at 6:30 a.m. and they could see very very clearly what was just starting to move into the area.

  13. I imagine school officials believed we’d get in a half day of school before having to send the students home. No one involved in the school system wants to send students home the way it was done today – in that kind of weather. I agree that they should have erred on the side of caution, but people are going to complain no matter which way we go. It’s a difficult line to walk for all involved.

    It’s the common belief in the school system (I don’t know if it’s true or not, but this is what I’ve been told) that if the students don’t eat lunch it’s not considered an ‘official’ school day and will have to be made up, regardless of how much time the students may or may not have spent at their individual schools. Charlottesville started releasing students at 10:30, I can’t imagine lunch was served.

  14. Cvilleyankee,
    I have had children in the ACPS for 2 decades and it has always been the policy that if the kids get to school it counts as a full day. Ask your superintendant. In Albemarle, they seem to be trying to have as few days as possible after SOLs (aka film literacy days by the irreverent adolescents who have grown up in my house). Whatever considerations may weigh on school officials, it was not a very safe morning to have thousands of kids on the local roads.

  15. I used to work in the city schools and I also heard the lunch rule, but I would imagine that it applies to situations not related to weather events. More likely it’s related to the definition of what a half day of school is as opposed to a full day in the regular schedule.

    Either way, it’s costly to close school, because it usually means adding more days later. So, yeah, that was a gamble this morning. I wonder if they were waiting for an official report of dangerous road conditions before making the decision to close. Seems backward.

  16. Maybe they have low self esteem and keep making the wrong call to get attention :):) because there is no way roads are going to be dangerous tomorrow morning. Temps are not going more than few degrees below freezing overnight way out in the county, and in town not at all. That is my confident, esteem-ful prediction. Two bad calls in a row by the skoolz.

  17. I just have to laugh reading this. We lived in CVille for 4 yrs and didn’t get much snow( or at least that’s what I thought). We have since moved to Alaska and all of our friends laugh everytime we talk on the phone. Today I talked with one that was talking about the snow and school being out. Currently we have about 18 inches of snow/ice. A very low amount for us so far. Our school does not even offer snow days. Kids go to school everyday no matter the weather and they go out for recess as long as it isn’t below -10 and they take sleds/ice skates to school. They are required to keep a pair of snowpants and boots at school during the week also. I see how we get around up here and I remember how we were just last winter and I think wow. They just have snow removal down to a science up here. No one thinks twice about going out after a snow and we survive. I don’t think the kids like not having snow days but boy do they love the make shift ice rink that has been made on the playground basketball court.

    So, my advice, enjoy the snow you have. Play with the kids building a fort or snowman. Yours will melt a lot quicker than ours and then you will miss it.

    Katrina S
    Former Greenbrier area resident

  18. Carol Hastings was terrible, in my opinion, previously as a principal at Hollymead Elementary School and I see that she is spreading the wealth now as the transportation decision maker with the school system. Kids were being picked up by buses long after the decision was made to close schools. They were placed at risk by her decision…for what to count the day? She, as well as school administration, should be called to task on this decision. To say the storm came in faster than expected is not acceptable….as like I said, the school continued to pick up students long after a decision was made to cancel school.

  19. According to a story in today’s DP, “the decision to open schools on time was made around 4 a.m. At that time, [Hastings] said, the Accuweather forecasting service was projecting a 50 percent chance of 2 inches of snow and a 50 percent chance of no snow. The forecast also projected that the major part of the storm would hit in the afternoon, meaning that at least half a day of school could be completed.”

    My question is, is Accuweather very good? Because when I looked the night before, it said 100% (literally) chance of precipitation, and it also said the precip would start in the morning. Maybe Accuweather is outdated.

    The story says that the county and the city pay $3000 a year for the Accuweather forecasting service — does that subscription give them anything more than you can get by going on the Internet? Honestly…

  20. Cecil, I just read that and had the same thoughts. It sounds like in that case, the service was not very accurate. I was paying attention to the National Weather Service’s site and they were right on – winter storm warning, 90 percent chance of precipitation likely to measure 4-8″, likely to begin after 4 a.m. Thursday. Why pay for a service when they can get internet forecasts for free?

    Cvilleyankee, let me get this straight: the only reason why Albemarle sends kids to school is to meet some federal requirement about how many days they have to be there? We’re not concerned about them actually attending classes or learning anything once they get there? Why don’t they just trek the kids to the school parking lot in buses every day then, sit them there for two hours, take them home, and call it a school day – no need to actually have classes or hire teachers. It’d save the county quite a bit of money.

  21. That’s the point I am making. In planning my Thursday I looked at at midnight and again at 6:30 A.M. Their animated map of the east coast was all I needed to see in realizing this storm was real and was going to hit the area during the morning commute. Somebody needs to teach these school officials how to use the Internet and tattoo on their forehead. Or at least convince them a one or two day disruption in beginning their summer plans is not worth endangering the children. First, it’s the police endangering the public at crosswalks. Now it’s school officials endangering our children! Dammit, enough is enough! Next time this foolishness happens I am going to screenshot http://www.wunderground every hour, all night long, and let Waldo post the saved images here. I’ll send copies to all the TV stations too. So they can display them right after the school officials appear on the TV screen with all their half baked excuses why they kept schools open.

  22. Apparently they subscribe to Accuweather for CYA! Ipso facto, eh.

    The NWS has text archives. I don’t want to pick on anybody, but NWS does not issue Warnings lightly (as opposed to Watches). The morning vs. afternoon thing may stem from this forecast, right after the word “THURSDAY”:

    941 PM EST WED JAN 16 2008


    20 PERCENT.

    The switchover from an Advisory to a Warning happened between the
    235 PM EST WED JAN 16 2008
    forecast, and the one above from
    941 PM EST WED JAN 16 2008.

    Here are the links, I found them by changing a “5” to “15” in the URL. In each case just can search down to “CHARLOTTESVILLE” using control-F, or whatever your browser understands.

    Zone Forecast

    Winter Storm Watch/Warning/Advisory:

    Baltimore/Washington covers Charlottesville. I prefer Blacksburg, which covers up to Nelson, and Augusta, since the weather usually comes from the west. The normal NWS forecasts are not textual, they schmancy, but the archives I found were textual. Now can I have my $3000 :)

  23. I hope the school boards are paying attention to this discussion! They can save $3000 AND get more accurate forecasts by using the National Weather Service for free!

  24. I guess the teachers need to be “Highly Qualified” but none of the bureaucrats that nag and moan them to no end were considered to be? I have sat in on some of my children’s school meetings and listened to some of the things these “leaders” come up with and to think that they couldn’t make the call on Thursday morning to cancel school tells me what I thought all along; they have run all of the people with any damn sense out of here and brought in a bunch of phony big shots with big resumes and big ideas that, unfortunately, can not get out of their own way. Those of us who have seen the changes taking place around here for the past twenty years were not surprised one bit at the incompetence and lack of judgment shown Thursday. If I were them, I’d fear losing my job with a call like that but I don’t see that mindset here in this area, poor decisions seem to be met with understanding and a pat on the back.

  25. Apparently, they were paying attention to parental complaints. Got this via e-mail:

    January 18, 2008
    RE: Weather decisions and school closings

    The decision to close schools or remain open when wintry weather is
    predicted is not an easy one, especially when the timing and nature of
    the approaching precipitation is unclear. Changes to the normal schedule
    are made after careful study of the best information available from
    weather services, VDOT, police, City transportation and road maintenance
    crews, and staff members who check the roads in distant areas. Our
    choices are made to ensure the safety of students who ride buses or walk
    to school each day.

    Generally, when the decision is made that schools will be closed or
    will open late, announcements will be made by 5:30 a.m. if possible.
    When schools close early because weather is getting worse, the
    announcement will be made by 10:30 a.m. whenever possible. In some
    circumstances, decisions have to be made as the situation develops. Such
    was the case yesterday; we believed we could open schools and conduct
    classes as light precipitation fell.

    We have heard from several parents and staff members about the process
    and we will make every effort to accommodate those suggestions and
    feedback. We greatly appreciate the concern that you share for our
    students’ safety.

    Jim Henderson
    Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services

  26. Okay, to continue snarking — in today’s DP, I read this: “after shutting down early on Thursday, Albemarle County schools were closed Friday while Charlottesville schools opened two hours late.

    ‘We’ve heard that back roads in the county were still extremely icy this morning, so we know we couldn’t have had school,’ said Carole Hastings, Albemarle’s principal leader for transportation services.”

    I would just point out that they announced the cancellation on Thursday afternoon: I got that email at 3:51 p.m. On Thursday afternoon they did not know that the back roads would still be extremely icy. So they made the call regarding Friday without having any metereological data — just guessing that the roads would still be icy.

    My husband grew up in a small town in a rural area in far northern New York — country roads, lots of them winding and hilly, and LOTS of snow. He said that if the weather got particularly bad, school would stay open and the buses would run, but they would just leave out the kids who lived way, way out on dangerous roads. They would get the ones they could and not risk trying to get everyone. Apparently it was an understood thing — if you lived on one of the dicier roads, you just understood that you wouldn’t be going to school on a given day. Maybe they got a phone call too, I don’t know.

    I often wonder why we don’t do a version of this in Albemarle County. It’s a HUGE school district, with a wide variety of terrains. Some elementaries are serving areas that are close to town, relatively flat and straight, and some are serving areas that are way out, long distances, semi-mountainous. Why do we have an all-or-nothing approach to snow days? It’s like everything is geared towards the most mountainous, remote, treacherous road in the county, and if that kid can’t be gotten safely to school, then NO ONE will go to school. Does this seem kind of crazy?

  27. Cecil –

    That we have a “one-bad-road = no-school-for-everyone” policy is ludicrous. The County is 700 square miles; surely a more sane and reasonable policy could be created that would account for that.

    Besides, it’s tiresome being ridiculed by those from Alaska and Buffalo for our schools closing because of 1/4 inch of snow.

  28. How does one account for the missed education of those children on rural roads? It seems canceling school and making up that day later on in the year does far less to risk endangering the education of rural school kids.

  29. Dan – anything after the schools finish SOLs is something akin to daycare.

    Better to get the educating in while you can, even if it is only for most of the kids, if not all.

  30. Despite the somewhat extreme emphasis on attendance in public schools, I have noted that somehow kids achieve an education even if they miss a bit of school for sanctioned trips or the flu. Some of the problem is just due to a lack of flexibility and creative thinking.
    Thursday would have been a no school day if Ms. Hastings,etc had used the National Weather Service and Friday could have certainly been a two hour delay. I just accept days like
    Friday as part a living here (though I wonder how families with childcare issues manage) but I felt cranky about the safety issues on Thursday.

  31. I don’t think it’s really fair to compare a student who is out sick, an absence initiated by the student, to students who are subjected to a forced absence by the school system itself.

  32. Do you guys find it interesting that students were not in school on Friday, yet there were a handful of basketball games held Friday night, including ones that we covered?

    No school during the day, but hoops games at night. What’s the thinking there?

  33. Just because school wasn’t officially cancelled Thursday morning doesn’t mean you as parents have to send your kids to school. If you thought it was dangerous to be on the bus, why did you put your child on it? Did someone force you? Take some responsibility. Stop always trying to blame someone else.
    And by the way, only picking up those who live on “safe roads” is ridiculous. Suppose someone decided YOUR road wasn’t safe and the bus didn’t pick up YOUR child. I bet the comments would burn up the computer.
    I’ve noticed that all anyone does on this blog is complain.It is really a negative place. I read it just to see who or what is currently being bashed and I usually get a good laugh or at least a good OMG out of the comments.

  34. RRK, while I agree with you because of the safety issues involved in bad weather, it’s not quite as simple as you make it sound. Virginia Code § 22.1-254 requires parents to send children to school when school is in session. After dropping a child off at school on Thursday morning, and then seeing how slick the roads were becoming, I knew damn well I would be driving back to school shortly after they cancelled classes for the day. As a matter of fact, a Charlottesville police officer called dispatch and asked them to notify city yard that the hill on Park Street at Melbourne Road was tracherous and needed immediate and extra attention. His exact words were cars were sliding into each other. There was no excuse for having school buses out on these roads. I still believe the administration didn’t close school because they themselves didn’t want a makeup day tacked onto the end of the year. It might interfere with their summer plans maybe.

  35. Administration is on 12 month contracts and work no matter how many days are missed. You mean to say that you’ve never taken your child out of school for a long weekend or a trip somewhere? If you have then, I guess you broke the law.
    I still say, if you didn’t think it was safe, you shouldn’t have sent your child. I don’t think anyone would have held it against you or your child.

  36. Demo, you’ve got no evidence for your belief that admin just didn’t want an extra day at the end of the school year — nothing beyond you just seem to think that’s just the kind of people they are.

    I would point out that you must know as well as anyone that when there are snow days, the first days used to make them up are the in-semester holidays and teacher work days. I read in the DP that AC schools will have classes on Feb 18, President’s Day, to make up for the snow day (this past Friday). So it’s not a simple case of “call snow day, have extra day in summer.”

    Moreover, your theory falls apart when you take into account the number of snow days we’ve had over the past three-four years when school was cancelled for what turned out to be hardly any reason at all. I can remember FAR more “why the hell are they cancelling school for THIS” days than “I can’t believe they didn’t cancel school” days. This past Thursday is only one of two that I can think of (over the past five years) when I thought they needlessly endangered kids. Usually it’s the other way — overly conservative responses to weather.

  37. When I was a high school student taking honors and AP classes, my classmates and I did not miss school, unless we were seriously ill. Missing one day would mean spending a week trying to make up the work. When I went to college some of my friends there talked about how they’d taken a week or even two weeks off high school to go on vacation or visit colleges – that didn’t happen at my school, and from what I’ve heard of Albemarle high schools they sound equally rigorous. Furthermore, if an assignment was due on Jan. 17, it was due Jan. 17. Being sick, bad weather, etc., wasn’t an excuse for not having it in that day – if you couldn’t be in school, then you were expected to have a friend/parent take it in for you. I don’t have a problem with these policies; they enforce accountability.

    I’m guessing there’s at least one teacher in Albemarle, probably more, with similar policies, and so suggesting that a parent could keep their kid home from school at their discretion, when school wasn’t officially canceled, would open the door for all sorts of issues with late work and making up work. That’s not to say that I don’t think parents shouldn’t keep their kids home when bad roads are a concern – but they shouldn’t have to be the ones to make that decision. I do agree that administrators generally seem to lean on the side of overly cautious, but in this case they blew it.

  38. OK, now that we are sooo smart, what is our call for school tomorrow? Stick your neck out, if this forecast stays the same, would you cancel city school? County school?

    Tuesday: Periods of snow before 10am, then periods of rain, freezing rain and sleet. High near 35. Calm wind becoming southwest between 4 and 7 mph. Winds could gust as high as 22 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New ice accumulation of around a 0.1 of an inch possible. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

    My answer: stay open.

  39. Cecil, you are correct. I can’t prove a thing. Just like I can’t prove several city employees went out drag racing new city cars one night and demolished one of them in the process. No big deal, taxpayer money replaced the car. But placing the children in danger twice in as many years is twice too often. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Thursday’s storm was indeed real and that it was going to hit this area during the morning school commute. As I left my house to take a child to school I told my wife it was crazy as hell, that I would be going back in an hour to pick the child up. She stated, “it’s OK, at least they get credit for the entire day!” She too knew most likely what it was all about.

  40. colfer, it all depends on which weather forecast you subscribe to. I never pay attention to any weather forecast unless it’s coming from , they are always pretty damn accurate. And they predicted Thursday’s storm by type of precipitation, when to expect it, and the accumalation amounts. Their foreast for Tuesday Jan 22 is “Snow in the morning. Rain…freezing rain and sleet. Little or no snow and sleet accumulation. Ice accumulation of less than one tenth an inch. Highs in the mid 30s. Southwest winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 80 percent. Low Monday night, 18 degrees.” Cancel schools with this forecast, nope. Because their is NO accumalation expected. If they had stated accumalations of 3″ to 4″, yes, cancel schools. Let’s watch and see how accuarate they are tomorrow.

  41. Demopublican votes stay open (assuming WU forecast stays the same :) ).
    I was using NWS,, by the way.

  42. Cville Eye, the best would be a very cold boarding school. With gruel for dinner. Minimal gruel.

    Waldo, the serial-post bug is still happening (in Firefox 2 anyway). Can’t reply to my own reply. Lose all my typing in a JS grayed textarea, can’t even copy it. Workaround: reload the page first. Not that I *should* reply to myself…

  43. Demo, I agree with you about Thursday’s noncancellation (if you’ve read any of this thread, that should have been clear to you). Where we disagree is that you apparently believe school system personnel have an utterly callous disregard for the safety of the children — that the only reason they did not cancel school on Thursday was because they personally did not want to spend an extra day in school in the summer. You’re pretty much saying they knew the roads would be awful, but they didn’t care because sending them home at 10 would count for a day in school and that was their overriding concern. I’m saying you’ve got no evidence that this was the decision-making process and I’m also pointing out that if your theory were true, if all they cared about was getting the day of school counted, then they wouldn’t have cancelled needlessly on Friday and on all the other days they’ve cancelled with no real bad weather. I’m left wondering why you send your child[ren] to schools run by people who by your account are practically criminally negligent in their duty — honestly, it seems kinda negligent on your part if you really believe that.

    Me, I think they’re guilty of relying too much on bad data (their Accuweather system) rather than of pure selfishness. That’s where we differ.

    And I think that if the WU forecast stays the same, I’d like to see them cancel school because freezing rain coming on top of snow after 10 a.m. with wind gusts up to 22 mph does not sound like good weather in which to send children home on school buses. Now, whether they will cancel the day at the outset or not, I don’t know. I do know that I’ll look at NWS and WU myself and think seriously about keeping my son home myself if necessary; Thursday was way too stressful for me as I waited for him to get home on his bus.

  44. Cecil votes: close school.

    The stock market is closed today for the holiday. The overseas markets are crashing, seriously, so tomorrow might be pretty bad here. Maybe we should keep the kids home for the crisis. :(

  45. “I’m left wondering why you send your child[ren] to schools run by people who by your account are practically criminally negligent in their duty — ”

    Only because St Annes – Belfield is now $17,850 for grades 9 and 10, and $18,150 for grades 11 and 12. And of course they will go up again by the time next year rolls around and my child goes into a higher grade. It’s a damn shame private schools aren’t more reasonably priced. I guess the price structure is to keep all the riff-raff out though. The same riff-raff our kids have to go to with in the public schools. I can save the $75,000 I would have to pay St Annes – Belfield for my child’s college education. Combined with the fact I’m already paying for public schools anyway, whether I like it or not.

  46. Waldo, the serial-post bug is still happening (in Firefox 2 anyway). Can’t reply to my own reply. Lose all my typing in a JS grayed textarea, can’t even copy it.

    That bug finally nabbed me about two weeks ago, after I’d typed a long, long response to somebody. I had to take a screen capture of the text area and retype it. That certainly gave me a strong incentive to fix it. :) It turns out that I can solve it with an upgrade to WordPress and K2 (my WordPress theme), but apparently those upgrades often go badly, and require a few hours of cleanup. So I’m just waiting for a chance to carve out a few hours, just in case things go badly.

  47. “Only because St Annes – Belfield is now $17,850 for grades 9 and 10, and $18,150 for grades 11 and 12. And of course they will go up again by the time next year rolls around and my child goes into a higher grade. It’s a damn shame private schools aren’t more reasonably priced.”

    Have you ever even asked about financial aid?

    There are numerous options out there that offer a quality education, both public (some if not all public schools offer dirt-cheap tuition for out of district students) and private, and the private schools all offer some kind of financial aid program. If you were simply scared out of the process by STAB’s admission and fees web page, then your kid could probably teach you a thing or two about doing your homework.

  48. If you want to see snow, come on up to Massachusetts. We don’t close schools up here until it reaches 10 inches. Ask your dad how many times he had to walk to school with snow up to his knees. And it was uphill both ways.

  49. Dan, my wife and I do not qualify for any type of aid. I even looked into sending my daugter to Albemarle County schools. They are no longer accepting city students.

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