This is one of the more difficult decisions on school to make. It seemed clear, but a few private pre-schools around the area already announced that they plan on opening at 9 AM tomorrow, lowering my confidence in widespread snow days. I am not exactly sure how they expect to open with a foot of snow in some areas, and there is a good chance they change their calls tomorrow, but this led me to believe that this will really be a localized event in the way that schools are impacted. For the first time I’m going to break down the school forecast my region, start with coastal, and then moving one back from coastal, etc. and listing all the towns and precent chances in that region. I think that is the best way to account for the very high variability in the school forecasts. Because each town has different snow removal operations, works at different efficiencies, and has different criteria for what should warrant closing vs. delaying schools. Weigh that against differences of up to 3-4 inches within towns in snowfall amounts and even more between towns and you have a scenario where one district could close and make the correct decision and an adjacent decision could open and also seemingly make the decision. I’ll do my best to break down what my thoughts are on school closings and where potential errors could be. I’ll have an additional update at 11 PM adding additional details as well.
Coastal Plane (includes Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, Bridgeport, and Stratford): 75% Chance Snow Day, 25% Delayed Opening. This region has been hit hardest by the most recent storm, with accumulations of anywhere from 8-11 inches fairly widespread. Though they are typically the toughest to close/delay, I see it difficult that roads will be safe enough in 11 hours for schools to safely open. There is definitely a chance, and a few school districts, like Westport and Fairfield, have proven especially hearty in the past and tend to not like closing in these scenarios where it is more determinant on their Departments of Public Works than on the actual weather whether conditions will be safe enough for school. So there is a very real chance that these school districts delay, but given the volume of snow that has fallen and the fact that coastal areas will see another 1-3 inches of snow overnight tonight I think that realistically these districts will have to close tomorrow to cope with the amount of snow we got this evening. Either way, I see no way these districts open on time unless their Departments of Public Works are able to clear a foot of snow from all the roads in a record amount of time.
One-Removed Inland (includes New Canaan, Wilton, Weston, Easton, Trumbull, and Shelton): Snow Day 70%, Delay 30% Similar to the coastal plane, this region has been hit hardest by the banding, even though it was not as expected. Snowfall amounts reach as high as 10 or 11 inches in areas, and that is hard to clear. Along with that, roads in these towns are more hilly, and wind chills tomorrow morning could get as low as -15 degrees as temperatures will be in the single digits and winds will be gusting into the 20 mph range. That makes me confident that in this zone delays are basically a guarantee, especially as some additional snow will fall tonight. The real question for snow days again is how quickly these towns will be able to clear a lot of snow from all the roads. I find it fairly unlikely that roads will be cleared in time for school, and thus I think conditions will be too dangerous for schools to open. An additional few inches of snow tonight along with the large amount already covering everything, as light as it, is still not easy to completely remove and make for safe travel, and I would recommend that the town take the day tomorrow to focus on removing it and prepare for Thursday and Friday, both days where I do not expect weather-related issues with schools. Some of these towns have had to delay 2 days after snowfalls of 18 inch snow storms, and so I would expect that they will generally not be able to open the day after a snow storm that brought close to a foot, even though it ended a little early.
Removed from I-84 (includes Ridgefield, Redding, and Monroe): 55% Snow Day 40% Delay. This is where calls begin to get even harder, as these towns have quite a range in terms of snowfall accumulations. I believe that generally these towns say anywhere from 6-9 inches of snow, but some had as little as 3-4 inches farther north. I am confident that every town had at least one 6 inch reading in it with many seeing more. These towns are notoriously very hilly and any snow on roads can make them extremely treacherous. Even though they have not gotten the volume of snow that towns further to the south have, I do not think that roads will be cleared enough by tomorrow for schools to open. There is a higher chance that they are than further south, which is why the delay percentage is higher though. I see a very small chance that roads open on time, especially with the wind chills and the blowing snow that I have mentioned, but it is almost as likely that schools delay as that they close. Still, I am leaning towards closing because of the volume of snow that the southern parts of these towns have seen and because it will be so cold and there will be so much blowing snow that keeping roads in safe enough conditions to transport students to school will be an extremely tall task.
Along I-84 (includes Newtown, Bethel, and Danbury): 45% Delay, 40% Snow Day. This is a very difficult decision indeed. These districts almost always delay or close whenever there is a threat of inclement weather, making me believe there is a good chance that they close. At the same time, most of these towns only got at most 5-6 inches and many only got 3-4 inches in further north zones. The weather will be fine for going to school tomorrow, it is just a matter of residual impacts left over from the snow that has fall thus far this evening. With effective plowing tonight I think there is a real chance that these school districts just delay instead of close because they don’t have nearly as much snow to deal with as the coast does. In many cases, they only had half the accumulations, if not even less. Now, the terrain here is extremely hilly too, so there is a very good chance that roads are not prepared in time, especially because it is so difficult to melt any snow on roads due to the absolutely frigid temperatures. Between those two things I am fairly confident that schools in this zone also will not open on time, but I think they have a better chance of delaying than schools further south do. This really is a toss up and it comes down to how well the crews in each town treat and prepare the roads, which is impossible for me to predict. One other thing to note is that further east areas, like Newtown, received slightly more snow than further west because of the orientation of the banding, so there is a slightly higher chance that Newtown will end up closing.
North of I-84 (includes Brookfield, New Fairfield, and Sherman): Delay: 40% Snow Day 15%. These three towns saw maybe 3-4 inches of snow from the storm and it is unlikely that there is enough snow to cancel school. Delays remain possible because of extremely icy conditions that will exist tomorrow due to melted snow on treated roads as temperatures approach 0 degrees. I think delays up here are more likely because of the temperatures and the icy roads than because of the amount of snow. Similar to the zone just to its south, a lot depends purely on how confident the superintendent is that roads are safe. This zone has the most real chance of just a normal day at school tomorrow, though I still think a delayed opening would be the way to go because of icy roads and absolutely frigid temperatures with extremely cold wind chills. I don’t typically focus on this region, so I do not have much experience knowing how strict their superintendents are or how often they close, but I can imagine that they are not overly strict as there are numerous storms that force them to close.
So that’s my zone-by-zone breakdown of school tomorrow. As I’ve said, this is an EXTREMELY difficult decision that is based purely on my experience making these calls in the past. Very little of this is based on basic weather knowledge because the weather won’t have much impact any more besides maybe another 1-3 inches of snow along the coast. What this comes down to is how quickly towns can prepare and treat their roads for tomorrow, something I have no real expertise in. However, I do not that with temperatures in the single digits to the coast and wind chills possibly at or below -10 degrees roads will be very icy if they are treated and it will be difficult to remove the snow tomorrow. This is why I am fairly aggressive with the snow day chances. Along with that, I think additional snow falling tonight at the coast could slightly disrupt some cleanup operations, and as winds pick up blowing snow will cause problems as the light fluffy snow blows all over and blows into the roads, making them icy all over again. Of course I am not the most informed on road conditions, but for most my percentages can be taken as recommendations, as I recommend that districts play it safe tomorrow unless they are certain that roads are safe. Temperatures this cold following snow can spell a nasty recipe for black ice, and that is something we won’t know until the morning. I’ll have one more update just past 11 PM where I may edit a few small things, but generally these are my thoughts for the night regarding schools. The 11 PM update will address schools but will focus more on the weather aspect as well regarding the additional snow. Stay tuned for the latest.