Weather closes South Routt schools for 1st time in over a decade
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — School closures due to bad weather are an extremely rare occurrence in Routt County.
It’s been well over 10 years since South Routt schools closed due to bad weather, according to South Routt School District Superintendent Rim Watson.
But they closed on Monday, Feb. 24, after an early morning squall resulted in whiteout conditions on the roads, with limited to zero visibility and wind gusts as high as 50 mph.
Watson said he was driving his personal vehicle over one of the bus routes at 6:45 a.m.
“At that time, putting students into buses or having them self-transport and asking our employees to report to work was not an option,” Watson said. “The visibility had vehicles at a complete stop.”
Watson said the decision was made based on conversations with the district’s transportation director, with whom Watson debated either delaying the start time or closing for the day. Not knowing how long the weather was going to last, Watson made the call to close for the day.
Shortly before 7 a.m. Monday, Melissa Horn’s three kids were waiting for the South Routt school bus in McCoy, only to be told by the bus driver that school had been cancelled.
Horn found out the driver had already picked up kids in Burns, so had to take the kids back to Burns before returning to Yampa with an empty bus.
Horn delayed her commute into Steamboat Springs by another hour and a half but said it was still “blowing like crazy” during her drive.
“All the cows were snow-blasted,” Horn said. “I felt so bad for them.”
With snow plastered to sides of buildings, “Toponas looked like the Antarctic,” she added.
On his end, Watson said the goal was to make a decision by about 7 a.m. before most parents and staff would be starting their drive to school.
In Hayden, Superintendent Christy Sinner said the decision was made to delay the morning commute by two hours for the safety of the bus drivers, staff, students and parents.
Students were asked to report by 10 a.m., with buses delaying their pick-up times by about two hours.
Because it is so rare, it is hard to pin down the last time schools were closed due to winter weather in South Routt and Hayden.
On social media, several South Routt residents recalled a closure in 2002 for similar weather conditions. Others dated the last weather-related closure as far back as 1996.
Steamboat schools remained open Monday. The last day on record for a weather-related closure for that district was Feb. 2, 2011.
That wasn’t due to snow but rather cold temperatures — 40 below zero.
Before that, it was 22 years since the last weather closure for Steamboat, which was due to a temperature of 42 below in 1989.
Rabbit Ears Pass closed for several hours on Monday morning due to the weather conditions.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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