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Cold could force school closings in McHenry County

Bitter temps forecasted as students return from break

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 11:27 p.m. CDT
(H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com)
Steam rises from the Fox River in Buffalo Park on Friday in Algonquin. According to the National Weather Service, Saturday is expected to be cloudy with areas of blowing snow with visibility one quarter mile or less at times in the morning. Snow showers are expected in the morning turning to all snow in the afternoon. Temperatures are expected to creep back into the upper 20s Saturday before subzero weather hits the area again Sunday and Monday.

Bitter cold temperatures expected Monday could force schools to cancel classes the day most students are set to return from holiday break.

District officials across McHenry County are monitoring weather forecasts calling for a high of minus 14 degrees Monday, with most planning to wait until late Sunday night to make a decision about canceling school.

“It’s rare but not unprecedented for there to be school closings due to extreme cold,” said Jeff Puma, spokesman at Crystal Lake District 155. “We haven’t made a decision yet and are monitoring the forecasts, but we like to rely more on real data than forecasts because things can change.”

If current forecasts hold, the bitter cold expected will be the longest period of subzero temperatures since February 1996, according to the National Weather Service in Chicago.

The county remains under a winter weather advisory until 9 a.m. Saturday, with snow expected and a high temperature of 28 degrees. There is a chance of snow again Sunday, when temperatures are expected to drop to a high of 5 degrees before high winds drop temps well below zero Monday into Tuesday.

The freezing temperatures come only a few days after more than 11 inches of snow was dropped on areas of the county, which forced county road crews to work around the clock New Year’s Eve through Thursday plowing snow and salting roadways. 

“We are looking at the weather carefully and considering our options,” McHenry County College spokeswoman Christina Haggerty said. “The way we determine weather-related closures is often based on a series of factors.”

Those factors include discussing conditions with area transportation officials as well as the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and school districts, and consulting with the Crystal Lake-based community college’s resident meteorologist, Paul Hamill, to view weather systems, models and charts.

With all closures, MCC then notifies its students, employees and the community through the use of an alert system, website and social media, to name a few.

Officials from Districts 200, 300, 158 and 15 said they would wait until late Sunday or early Monday morning to decide whether to cancel classes. Most county schools have yet to cancel a day of school this year, and most have built-in snow days that allow the end of the school year to not be affected.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advises residents to limit outdoor exposure, dress in layers, check in on others who may need additional assistance, and bring pets indoors during subzero temperatures.

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