The Farmers’ Almanac released their prediction for the winter of 2019-2020 only a few weeks ago, and if the recent storm that shut down most of North Dakota is anything to go by, they were right on the money.
By Melissa Anderson
Snow falling in October does happen, with a lightweight storm passing through the area just last year and the heaviest snowfall for the entire month of October taking place in 1959 with just 23 inches. Residents of the state are all to familiar with the blizzards of a Dakota winter but having one occur in early October that closes schools and roadways is very unusual.
“I have not experienced a snow day this early in the calendar,” Langdon Area School District Superintendent Daren Christianson said.
Cavalier County has gone through a whiplash of mother nature speeding through seasons, as the first few days of the week of October 7 had temperatures in the upper 60’s. The dreary Wednesday of October 9 lead to a snowy Thursday on October 10 before the bombardment of winter that took place on Friday, October 11. The storm that was described as a winter cyclone by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Forks dropped well over two feet of snow in the Langdon area and had winds gusting up to 55 miles an hour at times.
“The cyclone over Minnesota wrapped warm, moist air from the middle portion of the atmosphere from the Mississippi River valley region north and westward around the center of the low. The advection of this mid-level warm air brought widespread snowfall across north central and northeast North Dakota through the day Friday and into Saturday morning. This combination of persistent, moderate to heavy snowfall and strong winds brought widespread blizzard conditions to central and eastern North Dakota,” NWS- Grand Forks said in their overview of the storm.
The area schools of Langdon, St. Alphonsus, and Munich released early on Thursday, October 10 and did not hold classes on Friday, October 11. The school administrators are now hoping that the unseasonable snow fall will melt quickly and are not a sign of the winter to come. During the recent state legislative session, the pressure that the volatile winters of North Dakota have put on schools to meet the number of instructional days was addressed.
“Because of a change in the North Dakota Century Code, most schools have more flexibility in terms of making up hours. Essentially if your high school is longer than a six hour instructional day, a school can “bank” that extra time. In terms of education, of course, any day lost is has a negative impact,” Superintendent/Principal Robert Bubach of Munich Public School explained.
What all the administrators can agree on is that each day of education is valuable and important. There must also be an understanding that when weather poses a danger, there may be missed school days. For this reason, if there are multiple days of missed time that use more than the scheduled snow days, the ability to consider the hours served option for the schools provides a bit more of a cushion.
Local schools face challenges in making decisions any time there is bad weather. From late start, early dismissal or canceling school entirely, the administrators are usually in contact with each other, transportation supervisors and the local Sheriff’s Department to determine what the best course of action is. There are times when part of the school district may have worse weather than others.
“Our first and most important concern is our students’ and staffs’ safety. To release early like we had to on Thursday is nerve wracking because you are worried about everyone safely getting home,” St. Alphonsus School Administrator Carrie Hope said. “We watch storms like this very closely to make sure we do what is best for our families. Mr. Christianson does a great job communicating with me so that I know what the plan is for early dismissals and no school due to weather so everyone is on the same page.”
It is not just the schools that have to deal with loss of time. Locally-owned businesses can face loss of revenue when forced to close due to the weather. Employees will miss that day’s work causing them to have even more to do later. The United States Postal Service had a substantial backlog as the storm halted delivery from Friday until the following Tuesday, October 15. For those that depend on the postal service to deliver their product, such as the Cavalier County Republican, the delay in delivery causes major headaches.
“Although storms are out of our hands, the additional delay with the holiday right after a major storm added an extra day to an already late paper. We do value and appreciate everyone of our customers and their understanding that this was beyond our control,” Lori Peterson, Cavalier County Republican publisher said.
The snow may be melting, the kids back in school, and mail delivered on time for now. One thing that residents of the state know for certain is the weather rarely matches the season.