Sunday, March 4, 2018

Twin Cities Schools Close Ahead of Storm - Appropriate for the Bold North?

As I write this, it's approximately 12 hours before rain is expected to change to snow in the Twin Cities. Also as of this writing, Twin Cities school are closing like dominoes. It started with St. Paul Public Schools; other systems have followed. Even St. Kate's, whose students wouldn't have the same childcare complications to consider, announced it will be closed.

We all know that this is in response to what happened in St. Paul during the storm in late January, when some students didn't get home until well after the dinner hour. Vigilance is obviously appropriate but it's shocking that so many schools aren't at least waiting until the morning to decide.

From this weather enthusiast's perspective, a heavy snow doesn't appear to be a lock, particularly given the unknowns regarding precipitation changeover. And when you factor in the relative warmth of the last several days and the fact that temperatures are forecast to merely flirt within a degree or two of the freezing mark (meaning chemicals should work well), it just doesn't feel like the potential for a crippling storm (such as what we experienced on Jan. 22) is high enough to merit school closing the night before the event.

The real question is what this means for the future. Despite climate change, it's still going to snow in the Twin Cities. Traffic congestion will only get worse as the area continues to grow. And liability concerns aren't going to go away any time soon. Is it possible that this scenario will play out more often in the future? Will we look back on the Jan. 22 storm as some sort of a tipping point when an abundance of caution surpassed the we-can-deal-with-this attitude on which so many Minnesotans pride themselves?

Put more succinctly: is this still the bold north?

96 comments:

  1. Well stated. This is truly a “back in my day” moment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. And now the latest winter storm warning statement calls for 4-7". Hardly massive.

      Delete
  2. If they get it right they'll probably continue doing this, and if they get it wrong they'll probably dial it back next time. They always seem to react more to the outrage of the loudest parents rather than the actual situation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if I see raindrops falling out my window past the noon hour. It's always good to side with safety, but this storm isn't it because of all the factors Bill laided out. Warm ground/rain first/slightly above freezing/working chemicals. The NWS plays a big role in this as well, districts look at their timing of precip, whether there's a warning vs. advisory, when the warning went out the school dominoes fell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well the warm ground isn't the problem as much as the onset of the storm. I would expect dynamic cooling under a moderate to heavy band of precipitation change it over to snow rather quickly. Problem is now models are showing any heavy band of rain or snow being delayed till the mid afternoon... Expect totals in the 3-7 inch range at best.

      Delete
    2. The rain could actually be worse. The side streets near me were very icy this morning. If the conditions are similar this afternoon and it stays rain ice could be a much worse problem than snow would have been in regards to driving.

      Delete
  4. Moderate sleet currently in Golden Valley....pinging off the windows.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This sucks. Time to get all my stuff together for the drive to the south metro to take care of a child all day. May the car get buried. :+( If not, Jeepers. I mused on FB last night about all the schools calling it quits in anticipation of this storm. And yeah, with more people, more traffic, more kids going to schools far from home, this may become the norm. Unfortunately. What a scramble for all the people needing childcare. Here's to the storm and Mother Nature/Old Man Winter.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm a teacher so I have some additional perspective. There are a few things to consider here. First, in January we had a disaster situation for schools. After multiple underachieving storms this year, in the east metro didn't close because it wasn't snowing in the morning. Some closed early, but others didn't. Kids were stranded and delayed HOURS. The other half of the metro prepared for 2-4 inches starting early afternoon and got socked with almost a foot of snow that started at 10 am. This led schools and parents scrambling over a storm that overachieved. So...some of these decisions come from that mess.

    Another consideration: the wind. My school district is pretty conservative about closing, but being outside the "loop," if there is anything that will close us, it's a warning that includes wind gusts over 30 mph. Paired with a few inches of snow, rural roads become impassable in just a couple hours and buses can't get kids home.

    Third consideration: a much larger number of families now have two working parents. It makes early releases a much more complicated issue than 30-40 years ago, when many families had a parent at home or lived near other relatives. Most parents - when faced with a likely 1-2 hr early release - would rather close for the day and know the night before so they can better prepare. It makes it less likely that they have to leave work or scramble in the morning to make adjustments.

    Frankly, I was surprised by the number of schools that closed last night. I thought it seemed hasty. Even at 5:00 this morning, NWS forecast suggested it was hasty. That said, it's 8 am and in central Carver County, we have heavy snow falling and very slick roads. Right now, those superintendents look like psychics.

    ReplyDelete
  7. For anyone thought that the roads were too warm...LOL Just from this morning roads are already icy and the little frozen precipitation that fell earlier is definitely not going anywhere so far.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if it does melt (which it won't due to wind blowing it across roads), it was falling during busing times, validating the school closures.

      Delete
    2. The side streets for me were very icy. The main roads which had been treated were very good, some were almost dry.

      Delete
  8. I who posted re: lucky I can do daycare today... I was also a teacher for over 30 years, so I know it's a hard call. But many businesses don't think about letting the employees be home with the kids. It's kind of pouring something white out of the sky in Bloomington right now, and it was icy in St. Louis Park early after sleet in the night..... and so it goes. Wish I were locked away at home with the car in the garage....... It will be fun to read updates here on the blog. Sincerely, weathergeek

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My daycare is open too - lucky I don't have to bring my child in. You are right, most businesses don't just let parents stay home. That's why closing the night before is invaluable to many families. It gives them time to find someone to take their school-age children so they can go to work. When the decision is made at 6 am, it takes time out of their hands.

      Another consideration for schools is teenage drivers, whose car ownership has also risen sharply in the past couple decades. When my district closed early in January, it was unexpected because actual weather was far worse than forecasted. The time it takes to coordinate busing and drivers is more time for conditions to deteriorate. The district sent high schoolers with cars home before the actual closing so they could drive in the best conditions possible. Having them on the roads today when you KNOW it will be bad before 3:00 (and it was actually bad for morning driving too) would be irresponsible.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, AB. I appreciate your perspective. I don't have kids so I'm not in touch with the issues you mention.

      Delete
  9. The little bit of freezing rain that fell this morning is making the schools that closed look brilliant. Roads are rough already, precipitation is already all snow, and it is quite windy. Great call so far!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm not getting all this "roads are bad", "great call" stuff I live in the core and it's absolutely fine. Maybe it snows later but closing schools for cloudy skies? , I'm calling AM bust, let's see what the PM brings!

    ReplyDelete
  11. It may be slick in some places this morning, but how many times does that happen in a Minnesota winter? Where does the call get made as to how much snow/ice is too problematic for schools? I grew up in northern Virginia where any amount of snow was considered too much for schools... but it doesn't snow nearly as much as here.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My daughter's school district is closed -- and they're on spring break this week. Which means she was supposed to go to the after-school care all week, including today. It gets her out of the house and playing with friends. She likes it!

    We pay for this service. No buses are used because it's not school. They closed this service today ahead of 5-6 inches of snow. In Minnesota. In winter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that’s extreme. Take a vacation!!

      Delete
  13. It is ridiculous for Minneapolis/StPaul metro area to close schools for 6 inches of snow (assuming we even get that, as I am a bit skeptical).
    We are in Minnesota, not in Florida.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part of the problem is that the largest school districts are unable to close school early. Once the school day starts, they are committed to keeping schools open because of transportation. Minneapolis staggers start times of elementary schools so the buses can be shared. The earliest start time is around 7:15 and the latest start time is 9:40 with additional start times in between. This means that school release times for the district begin around 2:30 and the last schools don't get out until after 4pm. When those buses get backed up because of poor road conditions it has a domino effect for the rest of the day. My kids go to a school that ends at 4:10 and even on a day with just a couple inches of snow it's not unusual to have a few buses running 45 minutes late. Maybe 'back in the day' there were more buses available so schools didn't have to make decisions on cancelling school for 7 inches of snow. Districts were unprepared for the last big snow in January. I'm sure you heard in the news how kids were stuck at school in some cases until 9pm at night. This is stressful for families (and consider that some of the kids who are bused the greatest distances and had the longest delays were the more vulnerable special needs kiddos). This storm may turn out to be a bust but given the information school districts had last night, I think they made the right call to cancel.

      Delete
    2. Thanks SWMpls Girl. Good info to factor in.

      Delete
  14. My goodness. For not supposed to be snowing yet, it is an absolute blizzard out. Wind is whipping everything that is falling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where do you live @ Tim Jager?

      Delete
  15. So ask yourself this question: are you willing to pay more in property tax to fund more school buses? Because that is where the problem lies.

    I would be shocked if even 5% of people answered "yes."

    ReplyDelete
  16. Plymouth Weather LoverMarch 5, 2018 at 11:27 AM

    My goodness! Where is the snow? Bring it!

    ReplyDelete
  17. So far it is a total bust.
    However, I'd rather have it busted this way (the storm basically does not show up) than a situation where it kept raining and raining and it would never change to snow...

    ReplyDelete
  18. So sitting here looking at radar and seeing a lot of intense precip southwest of the metro stretching in a line along Morris, Willmar, Mankato, Albert Lea....... is that what is coming? This is making me nuts, the waiting for it. NWS still has 5-9 inches from St. Louis Park to Bloomington......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tweet this question to @NWSTwinCities.
      They have been excellent at responding to evne individual questions...

      Delete
    2. Correct that is what is coming, should be here by 3 pm if everything goes to plan.

      Delete
    3. 3pm you say, so at worst the kids would be driving home on buses to let's say a dusting? half inch? maybe an inch?...both of my kids school let's out at 2:45pm! WRONG decision to cancel schools they didn't heed the arrival time of the worst conditions by the NWS.

      Delete
    4. The storm has slowed down. Only became a trend on models this morning. Not the schools fault that models mishandled it up to less than 12 hours out.

      Delete
    5. Yup... to be fair though models were indicating it starting at 9 to 10am until the 0z run last night.

      Delete
    6. I don't see how that makes a difference. Schools aren't going to send kids to school at 7:30 if the forecast is for a blizzard by 10.

      Correction: districts outside the loop aren't going to do that. Until yesterday, that's exactly what the inner ring districts did...only to claim they didn't know a snowstorm was coming. I'm looking at you, St Paul.

      Delete
  19. Tim, once inch of snow with these winds is worse than 4 inches of light snow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Truth. My backyard is a sheet of ice and the snow that fell this morning has been whipping around, first from the SE and now from the north. Sleet starting back up as well.

      So ultimately, schools here could have bused the kids in ice and heavy snow at 7:30 today, had them do a full day of class with no weather outside, then send them back out in heavy sleet, wind, and possibly snow at 3:00pm.

      FWIW, has my district not closed already last night, they probably would have closed this morning anyway considering how nasty it was at 6 am matched with the forecast for the day. So second-guessing even in hindsight probably doesn't change the outcome where I live.

      Delete
  20. Guessing schools will be closed again tomorrow in many areas, including the metro. It's 'pouring sleet/rain/ice/something' here in Bloomington, now. Reminds me of two weeks ago on Pres. Day when the 'can't get it off the windshield' mist descended. Here.It.Comes. Good luck everyone. Stay safe.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Forecasts/snow totals are changing for the metro. Temp is too warm for snow until later this afternoon/early evening? Snow totals are dropping 'somewhat'.........

    ReplyDelete
  22. Drizzle and Ice pellets on the East side of St. Paul.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wall of white in Faribault right row. Snow is light to moderate but the wind is pushing it aggressively.

    ReplyDelete
  24. My kids get home from school at 2:20 in Mpls, so this school cancellation was kind of funny from our vantage point. No snow as of 3:22pm - at least no snow sticking. Some crunchy pellet spots, but that's it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. School cancellations today: ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Near whiteout conditions in Waconia. Moderate snow started around 2:00. For our district to have gotten kids home before it hit, dismissal would have needed to be at 1:00 at the earliest. Like I said before, it was nasty at 6 am too. The lull here was from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm, when kids wouldn't need transportation, so from my vantage point, while closures weren't necessary in most of the metro and a full closure was probably not necessary here, the roads were bad on both ends of what would have been our busing times. I suspect a 2 hr late start tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to say they would have needed to dismiss at 1:00 at the latest. That is also the time they dismissed in January, which was too late IMO, but that's the earliest they could get busing coordinated.

      Delete
    2. Sorry guys, fine to disagree (after all that is why there is this blog where everyome can post their opinion) but I am not buying it.
      It is Minnesota, it is winter. It snows. You do not close schools for an amount of snow that will be stretched to reach 6 inches at most.
      If there is a locale that should be prepared, it should be this area of the country.
      Do not buy it. Sorry.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    4. Sorry the word should have been 'arrogance'

      Delete
  27. Ramsey County Library is closing early due to "snow conditions"

    LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps you have not gotten the good stuff yet. It is basically a no travel situation down south right now.

      Delete
    2. It is pretty much a no travel situation southwest of 494. My husband left downtown at 2:45 and hasn't madeit to the Chaska bus stop yet. Speed of traffic on 212 is maxing out at 5mph and he says it is an ice rink.

      Anybody who thinks this is "just six inches" needs to read up on how rate of accumulation and wind affect the severity of a snowstorm. It's been whiteout for over 2 hours.

      Delete
  28. 4:05 pm still wet roads in metro= metro schools should never have closed in a state called Minnesota that sees snow potential 6 months out of the year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The "metro" goes 20 radial miles outside the 494/694 loop. There are near blizzard conditions in the metro and severely ice covered roads.

      Delete
  29. It's gotten pretty bad here in Roseville, and all within the past 30 minutes.

    This winter can die now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen! I'll be on a beach in 17 days. Can't come soon enough.

      Delete
  30. These seem like blizzard conditions to me here in Golden Valley....maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile visibility with strong winds and heavy snow...I went from wet roads to snow covered in 10 minutes and everything turned white....1" down in driveway.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The snow is pretty. I'm in the Minnetonka area and with the exception of a short period of time the snow has not come down heavily. Now I am listening to Kare 11 say that the heavy snow will be over by 9 PM. When is it going to start? We will surely get a couple inches from this storm, but unless some very heavy snow comes in and stays a while, there is no way will we get even close to the 6-9 inches plus that has been predicted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am in Maple Grove. We haven't picked up a lot of snow here either. I thought the northern/northwest burbs were supposed to get the most. The NWS graphic this morning had us in the 8-10 inch range. That is NOT going to happen! I am watching the dark green radar echoes lighten considerably as the snow moves from the southeast burbs to the northwest burbs.

      Delete
  32. Plymouth Weather LoverMarch 5, 2018 at 6:00 PM

    I have never said this, but this could be a bust????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No emoji support?!^ (sad face)

      Delete
    2. Possibly at least a partial bust, PWL. It is clear that the big boy accumulations have been from around Little Falls/St. Cloud and southwest through Willmar. It looks like anywhere in the immediate metro will be fortunate to get 3-4 inches. The models have been moving the heavy snow band west over the past couple of days. It appears that it continued to move just a little farther west today, which will result in the metro receiving much lower totals that many, including the NWS, were predicting. Time will tell, but it's not looking promising.

      Delete
    3. Out of curiosity, what do you consider the immediate metro? Inner ring suburbs, loop, core 7 counties?

      Delete
    4. Roughly the metro area that is bordered by the loop.

      Delete
    5. I have 4" ....in the loop in Golden Valley...still coming down hard and radar looks promising!

      Delete
  33. This storm is far from over. You will notice some snow totals getting out of hand by midnight, especially in or just south of the MSP metro where the trowal (deformation band) sits for awhile.

    ReplyDelete
  34. It's coming down hard in Golden Valley....looks like Novaks trowal is on top of us! A little premature with the bust @PWL(plus you should know better, snowlovers like any snow....boom or bust!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right. Snowlovers love all snow. I for one am a snow junkie and can't get enough during November through March....then it's time for sunny and 70 degrees until next season!

      Delete
  35. Yawn. 3 inches at best in south minny.

    ReplyDelete
  36. 6" now in Chanhassen. Blowing snow and bad roads.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I'll round it up a little and call it 3" in Brooklyn Center not far from Crystal Airport. There's a lot of blowing going on so maybe a little more fell but didn't stick on my boards. There's not much on the radar either. I'll be real impressed if we get another 2" tonight to get us to the 5" that was the 90% likely forecast this morning even.

    It'll be interesting to read the post storm write-up from the NWS and with their new grading system. I think anything over 60% would indicate the system is too lenient.

    ReplyDelete
  38. If you love big snowfalls this may be a bust—but it’s been one weird combo of precip. Been on MN roads since ‘84–never seen this before: from downtown St Paul to E Praire around 3:30 on 494 I saw: heavy sleet, then rain with slush accumulating alongside the freeway. After the airport sneet and finally by the end it was blowing snow in EP. It was as if I cut through a swath of the temperature gradient.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Plymouth Weather LoverMarch 5, 2018 at 10:08 PM

    Ok. So maybe not a busy but must have been challenging to predict. Southwest minnesota was suppose to be dry slotting and I saw Marshall got 10 inches or more. They weren’t even in the warning area and then for a while they were in a blizzard warning. Either way, I love snow-always!! Hope for more tonight. Bring it!!

    ReplyDelete
  40. coming down hard in St louis Park again.....11:30pm!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I see the yellow pixels around there on Weather Underground's radar. Enjoy!

      Delete
  41. Hello from Grand Forks ND Our forecast for Grand Forks was for 4-6 and the University of North Dakota closed for the day. We ended up with 6.2 a heavy wet snow no wind here, which is rare. I did find that UND closing was a surprise. NDSU closed as well in Fargo.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hard to tell because of some drifting, but looks like 4-5 inches in SE Mpls. I know the totals are sporadic, but for me this was WAY overhyped and underperforming. Winter Storm Warning, schools cancelled the night before, most people saying about 8+ inches for my area. But in the end a light 4 inch snowfall (albeit windy) that wasn't even that hard to shovel this morning. Not as concrete as I was expecting. Bust for me, but if others got more, great.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Re: the school situation. Just so backwards that today my kids are getting ready for school on a decently snowy morning. But yesterday - and throughout the day - they had a "snow day" with basically NO snow during the school day. In Minnesota. I've lived here my whole life. I literally can't remember the last time that happened. Maybe ever?

    ReplyDelete
  44. As a few people mentioned yesterday:
    Ridiculous. And not just because the storm was mainly a bust (3.5” officially at MSP as of midnight, although sounds a bit low, is hardly a storm), but because Minneapolis and St Paul should not close schools even with 10 inches of snow.
    It is Minnesota, it is winter, you should be prepared!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It appears the real issue is out of control arrogance. The argument...we are from Minnesota! We should be able to handle it! bla bla. Common sense completely out the window.

      Delete
    2. Ok so we shouldn’t be? 4-6 of snow?
      Is that what you are saying?
      Hope you are joking..

      Delete
  45. So my thoughts:
    the NWS issues warning, advisory, watches etc in order to try and alert the public about potential weather related hazards.
    However, there is inconsistencies about how these are actually interpreted.
    County wide warnings are sometimes impractical (in situations which tight gradients, rain/snow lines etc.), and I know the NWS is experimenting with localized winter warnings as they do in summer with severe weather.
    So my idea: shouldn't the NWS attach some sort of 'school' recommendations to their warnings/advisories to help school districts inform their decisions? I feel like a winter storm warning is not specific enough.
    Something like winter storm warning.. and recommend school closings, or recommend delaying activities until xxx..
    Wouldn't that make common sense?

    ReplyDelete
  46. So is winter over?....No more snowy escapades?

    ReplyDelete
  47. RIP Winter 2017-18, better then the last few years. But yet did not reach average at MSP. Maybe a surprise snow can tip us over average but temps/pattern not looking in that favor thru the rest of March.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After the dumping of a foot of snow in May a few years back I would never say that

      Delete
  48. Plymouth Weather LoverMarch 17, 2018 at 5:33 PM

    I propose a new thread as we look to the next possible powerful storm for later this week/weekend. Bring it!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I second that motion! Snow Meister can we get a 3rd?

      Delete
    2. Hey snow geeks, if your talking snow mischief with next Fri/Sat. it's simply way too warm too support a significant snowstorm, temps well into the 40's leading into the event and near 40 for event. Cold rain with wet flakes sure!, all out snowstorm that ship has sailed!

      Delete
    3. Sorry bigdaddy, I have been out of town and offline. I know that Bill started a new thread, but for the record I would have definitely brought that third motion!

      Delete
  49. Growing up in southern MN during the late 60's to late 70's when we talked about the state tournament it was always about basketball, hockey really didn't exist down there as a varsity sport. So the old wise tale of a March snow storm effecting the State Tournament was always impacting the basketball tourney.

    Look out next weekend!!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Jonathan Yuhas this morning on KSTP, "bigger storm potential with heavy snow accumulation central and northern MN".
    Sorry metro snow geek residents like I said earlier just too warm anyway you slice it!

    ReplyDelete
  51. Started a new post -- for what it's worth.

    ReplyDelete