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Early Friday Morning Storm Made Commute Difficult

Some question decision not to close or delay schools, school rep says snow came too late for delay.

When an early morning storm hit the Loudoun County area just before 6 a.m. Friday, high school students and parents were left driving to schools (and work), despite the wintry conditions that resulted in dozens of accidents in Loudoun.

The fast-moving storm left just enough ice and snow to create some unsafe conditions, at just the wrong time.

“At 4:30 to 5:30 a.m., when we usually make the decision about school closing, there was no snow,” said Wayde Byard, Public Information Officer for Loudoun County Public Schools. “By the time the snow started, it was too late. The buses were already out, teachers were already commuting to work, there was no way to call them back.”

Snow was on the ground by the time many residents were waking up, prompting many – who were as yet unaware of the school system’s dilemma – to expect delays if not closings.

“I think it was a mistake not to have at least delayed school,” said Tammy Consani, a mother of two Loudoun students. “I have a high school teen who drives and it's extremely dangerous for them to be on the roads as teenagers in that kind of weather.”

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Consani said that while the county’s main arteries were clear, the neighborhood street remained dangerous through the morning commute.

“Although the main roads weren't as bad as the side roads, even SUVs were sliding around in my Ashburn neighborhood,” she said. “I just wonder if it was worth the additional two hours of instruction to warrant the many fender benders that occurred on my way to school.”

On a local Facebook page, many parents expressed concern about sending their children to school this morning. 

One parent on the social networking website said, “I would rather deal with parents who gripe because a delay was called and nothing happened than dealing with a parent whose child was injured or worse on the way to school in snowy or icy weather. They should always err on the side of caution.”

At 10 a.m., the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office released a reminder to use caution during Friday morning’s commute. At that time, deputies had responded to more than 50 crashes and 20 disabled vehicles.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles become another target of parental venting.

"This would be considered ‘good’ weather in Chicago,” one person wrote. “Is there a lack of funding for sand/salt? Again, I know weather here is mild, but you must anticipate snow and ice. Kids should be in school. Why aren't the roads treated?"

Byard emphasized that the school system uses many methods to determine whether school should be delayed or canceled, and even with all of that science, sometimes there is no way to predict the outcome.
“We always err on the side of caution,” he said. “But no matter how we call it, people will be upset.”

Share your comments with other Patch readers below.

Sherri Isbister February 02, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Most all teachers and students have text messages sent to them as to when school is delayed. Employees and buses were in car accidents on Friday. It took students over an hour to get to school. The parking lots and side streets were all ice. Even an hour delay that day would have made a huge difference. Loudoun does not treat their roads so that needs to be taken into consideration the next time a decision is made and err on the side of caution because that is not what happened on Friday.
Sterling Sunset February 03, 2013 at 03:02 AM
If this happened in New York, it would be considered no big deal. People there know how to handle snow and ice. People here don't, simply because we do not get extreme snow around here very often. Yes there should have been a delay, but I do understand what the County is saying. This shows that people are imperfect, and it shows that us as a county needs to learn from an unfortunate happening here and work on improving to prevent this kind of situation from happening in the future. Perhaps some emergency system should be set up. You will get some angry people, but what needs to get done should get done with no hindrances.
Sherri Isbister February 03, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Because in New York they know how to treat the roads. We had visitors staying with us from Boston that day and they could not believe the condition Loudoun allows it's roads to get in when it snows or there is ice. Loudoun has not treated it's roads (except for major roads) since I moved here in 1997. In places where there is snow after the main roads are cleared the crews begin working on the side roads. I know this because I have lived places that get snow on a regular basis. Your pickle juice only works for some conditions not all. If you can not treat the roads then school closures must be made. There were other school systems that called school off way after 5:30 am. When schools are open there are thousands of inexperienced drivers trying to make it to school on time. LCPS staff, Parents and students are all on a call list at most all of the schools. There is Loudoun Alert and the televison. This is the day and age of Technology.

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