Winter Storms

(ALERT) All WCPSS schools closed on Monday, Jan. 24

As winter trudges forward, messages like these are increasingly familiar to students, parents, and teachers alike. The reasoning behind these academic closures and delays is largely due to hazardous weather conditions that plague the later months of the season. But how do these weather conditions affect the school’s community, and how can we grow to understand them better?

To grasp the impact of this inclimate weather, it is crucial to examine the array of factors that lead to its creation. Luckily, this information is readily available through the Apex High Weather Station, run by Kerry Piper, who teaches Earth and Environmental sciences. The weather station has sat atop the roof of the school for about three years and is visible from the third floor. This piece of machinery measures conditions such as air quality, temperature, air pressure, wind patterns, precipitation, and humidity through a Bluetooth system that automatically uploads the data to the cloud (an upgrade from its original radio technology). According to Piper, the hazardous winter weather is the product of low temperatures and high humidity, “If you have a low pressure system coming in, that means you have air that’s trying to get higher in the atmosphere. The higher into the atmosphere that air mass gets, the colder it will be. Then you end up with cloudy, rainy, or snowy weather.” 

In response to tempestuous conditions, the county has a few options: they can have schools remain open, delay, or they can cancel classes altogether. According to the Wake County Public Schools website, they choose the two latter courses of action “in case of snow or other potentially hazardous weather or emergency situations.” The board then broadcasts the decision through radio and television, as well as county and school websites. Usually, delay or cancellation decisions come out at 4:45 a.m., however, in the most extreme winter storms, the county will announce “the day or night before, we (the county) will do so in time for the 11 p.m. newscasts,”. 

But how do these changes affect development in the classroom? Math teacher Lauren Huntley states, “I love snow days, but when you lose days of school, it just means you have to get through the curriculum that much faster.” Huntley goes on to express that this problem weighs heavier on her AP students, “The AP exam is in May, whether there’s snow or not. Any days that you’re out of school is just less time to get through the curriculum.”

As for the fate of the winter season, when asked about the number of remaining snow days, weather analysts such as Apex’s own Ms. Piper are truthful. “I don’t know”, she says, “But I think we’ll get at least one more snow day before we head into the spring.” In general, predicting winter weather long-term is extremely difficult. Luckily, there are resources available to help students feel more prepared in these times of uncertainty. The county is working to ensure student safety, teachers can restructure lesson plans, and the school’s weather station is just a click away. Unease is normal in the wake of white, fluffy chaos, but try to enjoy the day off, and be sure to watch the skies.

Link to weather station website: https://ambientweather.net/dashboard/5c764dff81c2c3cfd58a3c1d4c049061/graphs 

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