Around 5 a.m. this morning, when decisions had to be made, it had started to snow in many locations and the radar presentation of incoming precipitation was pretty ominous (see below). At least a delayed opening seemed like a prudent course of action. Temperatures were cold and the snow that was falling was sticking.
Not even the most skilled meteorologist could predict with confidence that the incoming band of snow would largely fizzle out and deposit a mere dusting over most of the region. As we said yesterday, the D.C. area was right on the edge of this storm system and it was extremely difficult to know exactly where meaningful precipitation would start and stop. We knew places like Southern Maryland had the best chance of receiving disruptive wintry precipitation, but to the northwest it was iffy.
I would advise schools, when making operating decisions, to consult meteorologists (the National Weather Service provides a briefing for emergency managers and school officials around 3:30 a.m. on mornings with inclement weather) and, based on the current road and weather conditions and the future forecast, make a determination that errs on the side of caution. If temperatures are subfreezing and there is a legitimate possibly of steady precipitation falling during the commuting hours, then at least a delay is a smart move.
The decisions made by many school systems last Tuesday were horrible and difficult to defend. But today, they were reasonable and schools should be given a pass even if the decisions seem like an overreaction in hindsight.