How much snow it takes to cancel school, by county


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Not pictured: The amount of cold it takes to cancel school. We’ve had five days out this month for cold. (Which I pay attention to now, because my daughter’s daycare closes with school.) I kind of wish it had been a 12-inch snowfall, instead. That would have, at least, been a little fun.


It’s interesting that there is a band of counties with higher snowfall requirements that track the Appalachian Mountains. You would think people who live in the mountains would have a tougher time with snow, but apparently that just makes them tougher.

Or maybe they just invest in more snow removal equipment because their roads become so dangerous otherwise, and it allows them to handle moderate snowfalls better? It would be interesting to figure out what that is the case.

The same thing happens out west with the Rockies too.


Very cool. This argument was just going around with my friends right now (started by one who had recently moved from Colorado to Louisiana).

It’s interesting to see my county as one of the “any snow” ones. I still fondly (and I use that term loosely) remember the time snow started falling early in the day, and the school board assumed it wouldn’t amount to anything. My 5th grade class patiently sat and watched PBS. Every half hour the teacher would send a lucky kid out with a ruler, and we tracked the accumulation on the blackboard.

When the buses finally started taking us the roads were covered. We spent several hours on the bus, and many of us had to walk a pretty good distance home because there was no way the driver could get up the hills.

The bus driver took down the home number of every one of us as we got off the bus, and when she got home, which was after ten o’clock, called every parent to make sure we made it home. If there’s an award for dedicated bus drivers she earned it.


Yup: places which have snow-removal equipment are better equipped to clear the roads safely and thus keep schools and businesses running, whereas places which only get a freak snowstorm once every decade or so aren’t going to tie up resources on such things so there’s nothing they can do when the snow does arrive.

That’s why Chicago registers with Alaska and Canada rather than with most of the rest of the country. We simply cannot afford to not have adequate snowplows.


Yeah, I’m in south east Wisconsin (working this month in northern Illinois) and there have been more cancellations this past month than I’ve ever seen in the 20 years I’ve been living in the area. Mostly these aren’t for the snow - we’re used to that here! - but rather for the bitter cold.

It’s funny to me: I grew up in one of those bands where they close for any amount of snow. I recall my high school closing for several days for what was probably about six inches of snow. Here we’d consider the same amount a minor inconvenience and might be a few minutes late getting to work.

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Not a lot of money in poor, rural mountainous counties.

I’d assume that the more snow you usually get, the more you are used to (and prepared against) it.

For example: I live in Northern Germany, which rarely experiences serious snowfalls. Drivers are often unprepared and unfamiliar with even the mild challenges 5 cm of snow poses. They also don’t get to keep their experience, because even if snow and ice are there for a couple of weeks, the next couple of years are usually mild.


When I was a kid growing up in Southern California we’d occasionally have “Smog Days” when the air pollution was so bad that school would be cancelled for fear that we kids would collapse from exerting ourselves in the poisoned outdoors (this was before leaded gasoline was outlawed, among other anti-pollution measures). Try building a fort out of THAT.


[quote=“chgoliz, post:6, topic:21383”]…places which have snow-removal equipment are better equipped to clear the roads safely and thus keep schools and businesses running…
That’s a great theory. Unfortunately, even states that should know better end up with crappy snow-removal, thanks largely to the actions of the no-taxes/cut spending crowd. Here in my corner of Indiana, a heavy snow can be a disaster because of the lack of equipment and materials, especially at the rural county level.


In Hawaii, snow occasionally falls above the 10000 foot level. Only the tallest mountains get it, and families declare a snow day where they go up the mountain to the snow level and play in it, then go back down to bake on the beach. We just had a NY hiker who had to be rescued from Mauna Loa; he didn’t expect to get a snowstorm.

It’s not about “knowing better”, it’s about having enough equipment to quickly clear hundreds of miles of roads just sitting there for years at a time. It doesn’t make any sense.

There also seems to be some difference in areas where people will have to be used to icy side roads.

When I lived in Fairbanks the temperature rules for elementary school were:

  1. Warmer than -20F? Recess is outdoors.
  2. Colder than -50F? School is optional (parent’s choice) but not closed outright
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Note that even though Canada is coloured in with the highest snowfall amounts on this map, I believe this is actually a “no data” colour. Because it takes FAR less than 60cm of snow to cancel school here in the Toronto area.

Edited to respond to this:

That is CRAZY. Thank god my kids’ daycare doesn’t do that. Is it because it’s considered too dangerous for the daycare workers to get to work?

I grew up in Denver in the 60’s and 70’s and in my whole school career from kindergarden to 12th grade we only got one snow day in 1973 when it snowed over 2 ft with a blizzard. Anything less than that didn’t even faze anyone. Now they close school at the drop of a hat with practically any snow and the local news makes it sound like the end of the world any time it snows. It’s ridicules. And they do this now even though most people in the Denver area either have SUVs or all wheel drive vehicles. In the 60’s and 70’s when they didn’t close anything and they didn’t make a big deal about snow, hardly anyone had 4 wheel drive vehicles and most cars were rear wheel drive which are bad in snow. But people did buy studded snow tires back then. We just had a snow storm this morning and the way the news hyped it, you would have thought it was the storm o the century. When it stopped we only got about 3 inches.

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Weather porn seem to be becoming a thing.
Also people seem to constantly forget that 4WD go =/= 4WD stop…


It isn’t even about snow removal. Growing up in Denver in the 60’s and 70’s, They rarely plowed the roads. They would let the roads get snow packed and then spray sand on them. And yet they never closed the schools (once in 73). Now they have mag chloride that if sprayed right before a storm, snow won’t even stick and if they don’t get it down, they now plow like crazy and have main roads cleared fast. But still they close schools with minimal amounts of snow.

Six inches for Blackhawk County, Iowa? Not in the sixties when I went to school there. I walked to grade school with two+ feet of snow on the ground at -15 F. One winter it got to -37 F, then school was cancelled.

Our principal had a saying, “if I can see the top of the flag pole, we have school.”

My how times have changed.

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Growing up in northern WI, the formula for closing was somewhat dependent on the time of year and whether there were any previous closures. I.e. we would close for stuff in March that wouldn’t normally warrant a closure.