Surprise snowstorm causes schools to close | RecordCourier.com

Surprise snowstorm causes schools to close

by Andy Bourelle

As if to remind everyone that winter is not over yet, Mother Nature dumped a surprising amount of snow on Douglas County Thursday night and Friday morning, resulting in 14 inches of accumulation in some areas. Carson Valley schools closed for the first time since 1997’s flood.

While Douglas County Lake schools remained open, students in the Valley had the day off.

Rick Kester, Douglas County School District director of business services, said the district makes two separate decisions concerning school closings in the county. It is not necessarily the amount of snow the areas receive, but rather the road conditions.

There are fewer roads and fewer areas which affect the transportation to the Lake schools. The Valley schools have students coming from many areas, ranging from Topaz Ranch Estates to the north end of the county. This causes more factors which have an impact on the closures.

School buses give rides to more than 3,000 students in the Valley, Kester said, and if the district feels the buses can transport the students safely, school will be in session.

“It’s basically a transportation and safety issue,” Kester said Friday. “If we can get them to school safely, then we’ll have school. This morning, it would have been extremely difficult to do that.”

Another factor, Kester said, is the amount of time the district has to make the decision. The school district must decide by 6 a.m., because classes start at Douglas High School by 6:40 a.m. for some students.

Two days of school were canceled in 1997 because of the flood, but Kester said this is only the second snow day he remembers since 1990. The Lake schools typically have two to three snow days a year, but have not had one yet this season.

Although Valley students may enjoy the day off, they have to make it up.

Superintendent Pendery Clark said the state requires students to attend school for 180 days, 176 for multi-track schools. Either way, however, students will have attend one more day.

Most of the schools have designated make-up days in case a day is canceled. For the Valley’s middle school students, who were going to be finished on a Thursday, they will now have to attend school on Friday, the make-up day.

Replacing the day for the multi-track school is more difficult, Clark said, but the district plans to work with the schools to find the best solution.

When a day of school is canceled, Clark said, people often wonder if Douglas High School graduation will be affected. It won’t.

“Because it’s just one day,” Clark said, “we’ll be able to keep graduation at the same time.”

DHS seniors’ last day of school is normally on a Thursday, and graduation is held Friday afternoon. This year, Clark said, something will be worked out where seniors attend school briefly on Friday, possibly allowing their graduation practice to count as a day of school.

n What happened.

Weather watcher Ted Hendricks said snow started falling Thursday evening, and by Friday morning, 9- 1/2 inches had accumulated in Minden. Weather watcher George Uebele said 14 inches collected in Sheridan. Both men said the snowfall was a surprise.

“It just kind of surprised everybody,” Hendricks said Friday. “The weather service was saying we would have 1 to 2 inches overnight, so it caught them by surprise, too. We got considerably more than anticipated.”

Uebele said the 11 p.m. television newscast Thursday indicated the storm would clear out within two hours. At 9:30 a.m. Friday, it was still snowing in Sheridan.

Although the Valley has not received a lot of snow this season, it has received a lot of moisture. Hendricks said the 9-1/2 inches Minden received amounted to about 1/3 inch of water. Already, since October, the Valley has received an estimated equivalent of 6-1/4 inches of water. The Valley’s average, from October through September, is 9 1/2 inches.

“We’re sneaking up almost to our yearly average,” he said. “We’re having another wet winter – no question about that.”

He said the moisture accumulation is good, because about one-third of an inch of water evaporates per day in the summer.

“Anything we get to raise the water table is good, anything we can get to overcome our evaporation in the summer,” Hendricks said. “We’re already blessed here in Carson Valley with a high water table (compared to the rest of the state). That’s why those valleys are so lush and green.”

Another storm system is expected to come Sunday, bringing rain or snow.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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