Preparing for Old Man Winter

Photo by Sylvia Owens

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

Whether winter is your friend or foe, you can’t deny the beauty it adds to our little county.  According to this year’s Old Farmer’s Almanac, the entire state of West Virginia is expected to have above-normal temperatures as a result of a weak El Nino.  As for precipitation, the Almanac predicts more rain and less snow than our typical winter amounts.  Regardless, if you’ve lived in Tucker County for any length of time, you know there are preparedness measures to be taken before the milk and bread go flying off the shelves.

Alicia Lambert, Tucker County Schools Superintendent, shared information pertaining to the schools and what the protocol is for determining how the school handles inclement weather.  Lambert explained that the Board of Education Transportation Director, Harry Poling, takes to the roads in the early hours of the morning to see the conditions first hand.  Obviously Poling is unable to drive each and every road in our rural county, so for those he cannot check the status, he contacts The Department of Highways.  “The decision for a two hour delay versus a complete cancellation is based on the amount of accumulation we are to get during a certain time period.  If weather patterns indicate that it will slack off in time for the state road to get the roads clear prior to a bus run (by having a two hour delay) and it will then be safe to put our students on the buses, then we will go that route”, Lambert explained.  Sometimes a two hour delay will also be issued to allow temperatures to rise on frigid mornings as well.  “If the accumulation is showing an increase throughout the day with road conditions getting worse, then we will cancel school.   Our first priority is student safety”, she reiterated.

There are also the occasional circumstances that safety measures require an early dismissal. “ If the weather pattern is showing accumulations getting worse during times that our buses would normally be in route, but there is a window of time for us to safely transport the students home (earlier than usual) we would call for an early dismissal,  however, if that window isn’t present, we will not risk sending students home early in poor conditions” Lambert informed.  There are also times when a bus driver may feel it unsafe to travel down a particular roadway on their normal route.  Lambert stated in these situations, it is up to the bus drivers discretion whether they feel safe to continue. If this should happen, the bus driver will radio headquarters to alert the schools which children were not picked up and they will be excused.

One hundred and eighty days are the state requirements for school to be in academic session.  The week of April 15 through the 18, spring break, can be used as make up days in addition to May 23 and 24 as well as May 28 through June 28, with the exception of June 20, can be utilized.  Lambert further explained these requirements. “You can start as early as August 1and go as long as the last day in June to make them up.  We also have five Snow Packet Days built into the calendar.  Students can remain at home and work on their snow packets while staff reports to school.  These days do not have to be made up.  These will typically be frigid weather days (instead of snow accumulation days).  That way roads are still safe to travel on and students can still come to school to get lunch or teacher assistance if needed during the specified hours”.

John Davis, crew leader for the Tucker County Department of Highways, was contacted and asked the preparation tactics they are implementing before the worst weather reaches the area.  “We make sure we have an abundant supply of salt, abrasives and brine”, Davis began.  “We make a dry run with the trucks to make sure things are working properly, calibrate the amount of materials put down per road mile, and ensure the hydraulics are working”, he added.  Typically beginning the week after deer season, the state road employees are put on three rotations with three employees on second shift, four on midnight, and the remainder of the crew on day shift.  Of course if the need arises prior to the typical twenty four hour shift date, that will be accommodated.  The DOH also pre-treats the roads with brine prior to the onset of a potential icy condition.  This should help keep the roads from freezing over as opposed to untreated roadways.

Office of Emergency Management director Kevin White also had a few tips for locals when it comes to the winter months. “Having anything you feel would sustain life in your family for seventy two hours”, is what White really stresses, including food, water, prescription meds, as well as necessary items for pets and livestock.  White explained in a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy’s brutal blast, it can take that long for help to arrive.  “Check your heating source, clean out the flues, check carbon monoxide and smoke alarms”, White suggested.  He also mentioned the importance of preparing your vehicle in addition to your home.  “Checking the anti freeze and tires and having a kit within your vehicle is also a good idea”, he continued.

White also serves as a volunteer firefighter for the Parsons station.  From this standpoint, he wanted to reassure the community that they are always ready to serve, no matter the time of day.  “Anytime anyone is unsure of their situation, be it an alarm or detector, or not sure if they’re experiencing a flue fire, no matter the time that’s what the Fire Department is for”.

Hopefully this isn’t something any of our beloved residents will encounter, but if this misfortune arises, please do not hesitate to call 911 and seek help.  Utilize what decent weather we have left to take these recommendations. Sign up for the automated phone calls from the Board of Education and follow these entities on social media to stay current on school status, weather alerts, and road conditions. Allow for extra traveling time to adjust speed according to road and weather conditions.