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Snow Day chances more than just a guess

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Posted at 10:49 PM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-27 09:18:31-05

When the flakes begin to fly across Northern Ohio, legions of eager parents, teachers and student flood the social media channels asking me about the hope, the wish, the dream, the possibility... for that most-desirable of Winter Holidays: The SNOW DAY!

By the thousands you wonder: "Will my school get a day off?"

What then follows is my best estimate of snow day chances for as many school districts as possible... As fast as my furious fingers can type.

But, what's involved in issuing the percentage chance that your school will get a snow day? It's actually not just a guess.

The first thing I consider when calculating your snow day chance is the Size and Strength of the Approaching Weather Event. Is it a major snow or ice storm that covers the entire region? Are Winter Storm Warnings issued for part or all of the viewing area? Are wind chills likely to drop below -15 degrees for the morning commute? If the answer is YES to any of those questions, then chances for School Closings the next day go way UP!

The next most important factor is Timing. Snow Day chances are highest when heavy snow falls between the hours of midnight and 6am. There's no time to plow the roads. If your School's Superintendent can't get out of his or her drive-way, then your chances for a snow day are go way up. TIMING is everything... or almost everything.

The 3rd factor to consider when calculating school closing chances: Precipitation Amounts. A major snow storm can drop 8 inches or more of snow in 12 hours or less. If this happens the night before a school day, chances are really good, you'll get to sleep in. If freezing rain accumulates 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch or more overnight, that's a major problem for transportation and safety. You can most likely turn off the alarm clock the next morning, because school ain't happening.

WHERE SQUALLS PERSIST. Lake effect snow is a bit tricky. Heavy snow squalls often drop a half a foot or more of snow overnight. But, there's a problem with that. Lake effect snow squalls are narrow bands that only impact small areas with the heavy snow. Its not uncommon to see blizzard-like conditions in one town, with little to no snow just a mile down the road. Its often very difficult to know exactly where the heavy snow will fall. My Snow Day percentages have to reflect that uncertainty when it comes to Lake Effect Snow Events.

The final consideration has to do with Where You Live. Snow day chances are a bit higher for rural areas than for urban communities, when all other factors are equal. Students often have to travel longer distances to get to school when living in the "country." Schools in larger cities often have neighborhood schools just a few blocks away. And lets face it: The larger City School Districts are often the LAST to close...