Area schoolchildren may get an extension to their Christmas vacations next week, and they’ll have a very brutal Mother Nature to thank if they do.
With temperatures forecast to be in the bone-numbing range Monday and Tuesday, with overnight lows of minus-13 and minus-6 respectively, school officials are keeping a close eye on the thermometer and weather forecasts to help them determine if classes will be called off.
“It’s going to be dangerously cold Monday and Tuesday, so people should avoid going outside if possible,” Karen Clark, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Friday.
If people must venture outdoors, they are advised to wear layers of clothing and to try to keep all skin surfaces covered.
“When it gets that cold, you start seeing the potential for problems (such as frostbite) start after 10 to 20 minutes,” Clark said.
A minus-7 record low temperature set Jan. 7, 1884, could be eclipsed thanks to forecasts of 11 below Monday night into Tuesday morning, Clark said.
“The range of record lows is around minus-7 to minus-10 for Jan. 6 to 8,” Clark said.
A winter storm watch is scheduled for 4 a.m. Sunday through 1 a.m. Monday, with forecasters calling for a storm that could dump more than 6 inches of snow across the area starting Sunday afternoon and continuing into early morning Monday, Clark said.
The highest amounts of snowfall are expected to fall between Toledo and Cleveland, Clark said.
A wind chill watch is in effect 1 a.m. Monday through 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“The big story may be the wind gusts combined with record cold,” Clark said. “We’re supposed to get a lot of wind with gusts of 15 to 25 mph.”
The combination of the two looks to produce “extreme wind chills Monday night and Tuesday that could see readings of minus 20 to 35,” Clark said.
Elyria Schools spokeswoman Amy Higgins said the district will take a wait-and-see approach on decisions to close schools next week. “We’ll be watching the weather very closely. Bitter temperatures would obviously be very concerning.”
Monday is slated to be the first day for classes to resume for most area school systems after a two-week holiday break.
In Lorain, Superintendent Tom Tucker is keeping tabs on conditions in hopes of making a decision in a timely fashion. “The earlier the better.”
That would mean calling classes off late Sunday night or very early Monday morning, Tucker said.
In an email under the heading “school closing procedures,” Oberlin Schools Superintendent John Schroth said he planned to make a decision whether to cancel school Monday before 10 p.m. Sunday night or by 6 a.m. Monday.
Parents would be notified by the districts’ “phone blast” alert as well as messages posted to the district’s website and notifications sent to area TV, radio stations and newspapers.
With the coldest weather predicted for Tuesday, Schroth said parents should expect schools to be closed that day.
Bill Greene, assistant superintendent of building services for North Ridgeville Schools, discussed prospects for shutting schools Monday with Superintendent Jim Powell and other officials during a Friday meeting.
“Given the temperatures forecast for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s very possible we’re going to close,” Greene said. “We’ll be watching the Weather Channel and Mother Nature.”
Whatever decision is made, no school district wants to be the odd man out, Greene said.
“If 99 percent of schools call off, you don’t want to be that 1 percent that doesn’t because you’re likely to catch some guff from parents upset you put their students at risk,” Greene said.
A decision on closing schools Monday should be made by late Sunday night or before 6 a.m. Monday “when the first buses head out,” Greene said.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.