Bad timing prompts city ‘snow’ day

Posted: March 27, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — A sneaky weather event that yielded precipitation in some local areas and ignored others caused a strange pattern in school hours Wednesday.

Students in Winchester ended up with a day off, while Frederick County lost two hours of its morning session and Clarke County kids passed through the doors of their buildings in time for a normal first bell.

The snow squalls arrived after dawn, accompanied by gusty winds. And it was that timing that caused officials to call off school.

Division Superintendent Rick Leonard said the original plan was a one-hour delay, but when the snow increased the administration decided to close.

“There’s a window of time,” he said, “and the timing of the snow didn’t allow us to safely open our buildings.”

The icy conditions on many city streets caused concern about sending out the division’s 60 buses, said Leonard, who noted that the safety of the students is the governing issue when such decisions are made.

“We didn’t feel like we had a choice,” he said, adding that the snow squall line took direct aim at Winchester, while missing other areas in Frederick and Clarke counties.

In Frederick County, school officials looked at the weather forecast at 5 a.m. and decided to delay classes by one hour.

Steve Edwards, the division’s coordinator of policy and communications, said before that time was up snow squalls began popping up in different parts of the county.

“Conditions didn’t improve as quickly as we’d hoped,” he said, so the delay was extended for another hour.

After that, “as we hoped, there were no major issues.”

Transportation superintendent Randy Trenary said there were no weather-related issues in Clarke County.

“Things went well,” he said. “We did not get hit as hard as Winchester.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation had treated the roads, so, “we went on time,” Trenary added.

Only one bus was late to school, Trenary said, but the issue was not the weather. A cross arm at a railroad crossing was stuck down, he said, and the bus had to wait for a repair crew to fix the problem.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com