LWSD closed Monday due to snow; Redmond plows working to improve road conditions

District-wide closures can be complicated due to LWSD’s 76-square-mile footprint and varying microclimates.

Many Eastside residents woke up to a winter wonderland on Jan. 13, and snow continued to fall throughout the day.

Some Eastside cities received more snow than others, but the Seattle Weather Forecast Office of the National Weather Service (NWS), as of noon Monday, predicted there wouldn’t be much more accumulation that day, maybe up to an inch in some localized areas.

According to NWS meteorologist Gary Schneider, Redmond received three to five inches overnight Sunday and into Monday morning:

He also explained that there was not as much snow reported south of I-90 and that south Seattle received very little.

School update

Due to inclement weather, Lake Washington School District (LWSD) closed Jan. 13. All programs, activities and building use were also canceled.

In emergency situations, such as snow and icy weather conditions, the top priority is the safety of students and staff. The district also recognizes that snow days disrupt family schedules and extend the school year. The decision to close schools is not an easy one, according to the LWSD website.

It’s also complicated by the fact that the district covers 76 square miles, including low-lying areas next to Lake Washington as well as higher altitudes at Finn Hill, Education Hill and the Sammamish Plateau.

The decision process for closing or delaying school follows a strict guideline, the website state.

To help make the best possible decision, the district gathers a lot of information first. A meteorologist is on contract to provide pinpoint predictions for the specific micro climates around the area. The meteorologist helps the district understand which areas may be affected by upcoming weather and which may not, the website states.

Predictions are one thing. Actual conditions are another. That’s why LWSD’s transportation department staff is on the roads around the district at 3 a.m. if it looks like a school closure might be in order, the website states. They report real road conditions. Custodians may be asked to report to work early at schools so they can report on conditions at the schools themselves.

Once all the information is collected, the support services staff forwards it to the district’s administration, based on their best analysis of the situation, according to the district website. There are three options available: leave schools open, start late or close schools. Late start is used when conditions are borderline. The extra time and daylight make it easier for students to get to school safely.

For communication and administrative reasons, it is not possible to close just some schools in the district while leaving other schools open for district-wide weather events, the website states. So the decision has to be the best one for the safety of students in all areas of the district while at the same time avoiding unnecessary disruption.

Once the administrative staff gets the information from support services, they make a recommendation to the superintendent, who makes the final decision, the website states. If there is a closure or a late start, the staff begins the communication system to get the word out to parents, students and teachers.

When there is inclement weather, residents can learn about school closures or late start by 5:30 a.m.

If school is closed or starting late, there will be a pop-up alert box on www.lwsd.org.

Families can also go to www.flashalert.net, which lists schools all over the Puget Sound area. They can also sign up to receive text alerts or emails from this service.

Families can also call 425-936-1200 to listen to a recorded message. After 7 a.m., they may talk to a district receptionist. LWSD also uses the SchoolMessenger automated calling system to let parents know if school will be delayed or canceled. Calls will begin at 5 a.m.

City update

A residential neighborhood in Redmond at about 9 a.m. Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Betty Glez

A residential neighborhood in Redmond at about 9 a.m. Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Betty Glez

According to the city of Redmond website at 11 a.m. on Monday, city staff has been treating and plowing roads around the clock to keep Redmond’s roads safe.

Residents can visit Redmond.gov/SnowIce for more details on Redmond’s snow and ice response program. As part of that program, the division conducts snow and ice response to mitigate the conditions during a snow and ice event.

The city uses a preemptive approach whenever possible, the website states.

“When an overnight freeze is forecast that could result in slippery roads for the morning commute, crews apply liquid calcium de-icer to prevent frost from adhering to the road surface,” according to the website.

Redmond has four large snowplows that are used to clear arterial roadways while applying mixtures of calcium chloride, road salt and sand, depending on surface conditions, the website states.

“We would like to remind people to not drive in the snow unless their vehicle is properly equipped and they know how to safely deal with these conditions,” Andrea Wolf-Buck, spokesperson for the Redmond Police Department said. “We recommend staying off the roads if possible.”

She said the city is posting all closures, important updates and helpful links at www.redmond.gov/weather.

As extreme cold weather is predicted for several days, the city website recommends residents be prepared by stock up on food, water and medications for themselves and their pets now; having flashlights, new batteries, and a snow shovel on hand; packing emergency supplies in their vehicle such as warm clothes, blankets, a flashlight, jumper cables and water; putting new batteries in their smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms and clearing storm drains around their home or business to reduce flooding.

City facilities are also open as warming locations. City Hall, 15670 NE 85th St., and the Marymoor Village Community Center, 6505 176th Ave. NE #4930, are open and available as warming locations till 5 p.m.