Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed tomorrow as a spring snow storm sweeps through the region.
Although snow fall is mainly over, the risk of refreezing is possible tonight.
Photo by Michael Piper
Even though a few flakes to a few inches are predicted to fall Thursday evening, most of the precipitation in Reston turned to intermittent sleet and cold rain throughout the day.
Fairfax County Public Schools announced at 4 p.m. there would be an additional snow day on Friday as residents continued to dig out.
So how bad was it? National Weather Service trained spotters (and a few unofficial residents with rulers) put the snowfall at about 13.5 inches, give or take a little drifting.
That makes the Wednesday night-Thursday night storm pretty bad, but not the worst one-day total we have seen around here. It was, however, the most that fell in one day since Dec. 19, 2009, when 15 inches fell at Dulles. The “Snowmaggedeon” storm of February 2010 dumped 32 inches at Dulles, but that was over a three-day period.
The 13.5 inches ranks this storm No. 6 in one-day totals as measured at Dulles.
An additional one-to-three inches of snow may fall Thursday night. The Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 1 a.m. Friday.
Many people heeded officials’ warnings to stay off the roads, but some ventured out. Virginia State Police reported 78 traffic crashes, 172 disabled vehicles and 510 calls for service through noon on Thursday.
There was one death reported, when a Virginia Department of Transportation contractor was hit by another truck in Ashburn.
Others just had fun. There were dogs playing, snowmen sprouting — and this guy “waterskiing” down Ridge Heights Road.
Many Reston businesses were closed Thursday as crews still had not plowed some streets. Want to know when your street might be plowed? Visit www.vdotplows.org.
FCPS has already used seven snow days, and Friday will be the eighth. Makeup days will be held Feb. 17 and April 7. According to the school calendar, the school year may be extended a day to June 23 in exchange for today’s snow day, though FCPS has not made an official announcement. Friday’s snow day may not need to be made up.
Check out a gallery of great Reston snow photos here.
Photo of Reston Town Center Thursday morning by Ed Scheudel vis Twitter.
On Tuesday, schools were closed as the first snowstorm of 2014 dumped snow onto Fairfax County streets. On Wednesday, they were closed again as plows and shovels still had work to do. On Thursday, still closed, leading many parents scrambling for child care and wondering if the 2013-14 school year will indeed go into late June.
Fairfax County has now used six snow days this school year. There will be make-up days on Feb. 17 and April 7, but tacked-on days to the school year may be a real possibility now.
In years with lots of snow, the snow days issue becomes a perennial source of frustration. With more than 180,000 students and a footprint of 406 square miles, size is part of the issue. The county is so large, even the climate can be different. The same storm can pile six inches of snow in Reston but only two in Lorton — yet the communities (and the 1 million-plus people who live in them) are in the same school system.
School Board at-large member Ryan McElveen said Wednesday night the decision to close schools for a third straight day was made because of road conditions and extremely cold temperatures in the forecast.
“Back roads are dangerous, particularly with the freezing overnight,” he told Reston Now. “After a week of not being used, our buses are going to have major issues starting up.”
While FCPS will probably never break into school systems run by each town/jurisdiction (the way it is done in places such as New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio), what can be done to make weather impact more “local” and manageable?
FCPS already operates in eight clusters, with each area under the supervision of a cluster superintendent. Would going to a cluster system for weather impact be a viable system for Fairfax County?
“Breaking decisions up by cluster would be just too difficult to manage,” says McElveen. “Loudoun is in a very similar situation as we are, where the eastern part of the county is so different geographically from the western part.”
FCPS outlines the decision making process on its website.
“Fairfax County Public Schools is aware of the implications of opening school during less than perfect conditions and of delaying or closing schools when poor weather conditions exist or are predicted,” says the school system. “The school system understands that its students are better served–both academically and socially — by being in school.”
“On the other hand, the school system knows that it operates within an area whose transportation system has difficulty operating efficiently even when the weather is perfect. Fairfax County’s transportation system includes high speed, high volume roadways such as Route 66, Route 495, Route 95, the Fairfax County Parkway, and others. The county’s transportation system also includes narrow, winding roads in still relatively rural parts of the county such as Clifton and Great Falls.”
Fairfax County Public Schools students will have another snow day on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
School is canceled for the second straight day, FCPS officials announced about 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday. About five inches of snow fell Tuesday in Reston, and snow was still falling at nightfall.
Adding to the snow cleanup, temperatures are expected to be in the single digits Wednesday morning.
Fairfax County students have now used more than the allotted number of snow days built into the school year. Tuesday’s snow day will be made up on Feb. 17, which was supposed to be the President’s Day holiday. Wednesday’s snow day will be made up on April 7, a previously scheduled workday.
Photo of Lake Fairfax Park in snow by Robbie Nolan via Twitter