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Schools brace for bitter cold

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Bitter cold weather has permeated the north country, meaning school superintendents must arrive at school early to determine whether students can sleep in.

When it comes to harsh upstate winter weather, superintendents look at a wide variety of factors, like wind chill, snowfall and ice, to determine if school is open, delayed or canceled.

“Certainly, with the falling temperatures, it is a concern in this district,” said Potsdam Central Superintendent Patrick H. Brady. “It is a more difficult call than when we have icy conditions or several inches of snow in the morning.”

He said that many of his students walk to school.

“If the temperatures approaches minus 30, it’s a general rule of thumb to delay or close the school,” he said.

The National Weather Service wind chill warning for St. Lawrence County is in effect until 7 p.m. today. From the morning through the afternoon, the wind chill will dip anywhere from 20 to 30 degrees below zero as 10 to 15 mile per hour winds sail through the region.

Because his buses are housed in a garage, he said, they will start in the morning. He said buses will pick up students no matter how cold it gets.

In Jefferson County, Indian River Central Superintendent James Kettrick does not have to worry about students walking to school. However, the area the district encompasses may offer widely varying driving conditions. He uses a wind-chill chart provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to determine whether to close school for the day.

The chart uses the temperature and the wind to determine how many minutes a person can stay outside before they get frostbite.

According to the chart on www.nws.noaa.gov, a person standing outside when it is zero degrees can get frostbite in 30 minutes if the wind is blowing 15 miles per hour, creating a wind chill of minus 19 degrees.

Mr. Kettrick’s work day often starts at 4:30 a.m. when winter weather advisories or warnings threaten bad weather.

“We try to make a decision by 5:10 a.m. at the latest,” he said.

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