Chance of Snow

Checking the Snow Day Calculator

Are we having a snow day tomorrow?
Is school going to be closed because of the snow?
What are the chances of no school tomorrow?

When snow is forecast the day is punctuated with the buzz of questions like these.

I love the assumption that, as head of school, I can somehow predict the future and control the weather.

While neither of those are true, I do usually make the decision of whether to close school or have a two-hour delayed opening.

Fortunately help is at hand.

A middle school student shared a link that he swears is highly reliable:  Snow Day Calculator. (Thanks Elijah!)

I entered the zip and the requisite data. (This included a  school policy rating as “harsh”.) And back came the result.

According to the Snow Day Calculator there is a 99% chance there will be no school tomorrow.  (Just to check accuracy, I entered the zip for Miami Beach. Students there may be disappointed to learn that their chance of a snow day is “Limited”.) It says it only refreshes at midday…Hmm, maybe not so reliable,

So, when at the end of the day a few students dropped by to find out the chances of school being closed, I showed them the calculator result. Excitement ensued.

But the reality is we won’t know until later and probably not until tomorrow morning.

What happens is this: Facilities manager Steve Mallet and I both wake up
early, monitor the weather and the local school districts listings as their road scouts  report in on road conditions. And because we have such a dispersed community that information can be very different. Red Hook and Rhinebeck may be closed,  New Paltz and Highland delayed and no problem in Pawling or Garrison. The roads can be too icy in Millbrook and completely clear in Poughkeepsie.

We check in by phone, share what we know,  and make the call. We always try to do this as early as possible once the information is clear. Occasionally circumstances are clear the night before and we activate accordingly.  More usually it means around 5.30-6am.

The worst is when the weather is clearly on the move and  the districts are a patchwork of decisions.  Two-hour delay? Or not?  Convert the delay to a closing? Or not?

Steve contacts the radio stations and I activate the chain that gets a message on the website, on the answering machine and out to all faculty and staff. Do we always get it right? No. But we do our best.

We always encourage families to make their own determination about whether it is safe to travel to school. This is especially true for the parents of our student drivers. Conditions vary so much that even when we declare school  open the roads in any particular home location may  be icy and dangerous.

So – do we have school tomorrow?

I have no idea. But it would be wise to check the website, listen to the radio or call in to the answering machine sometime after 5.30am tomorrow.


  1. Laura Graceffa:

    I am so impressed that you accuracy tested by checking Miami! Sent the particular middle school student a note to read your post. I think he’ll be pleased to see that you looked into the 21st century aid for snow day awareness. I am still chuckling. Of course my science class mini lessons in storm tracking for snow day predictions have just been relegated to archaic…

  2. Julia:

    …and I guess it was very accurate… There is a snow day!

  3. Hi Laura: I am glad you sent his link around. While it was accurate this time I am still not sure how good a predictor it will prove to be over time. The site says it refreshes at midday and if that means only once a day it will miss quickly moving weather patterns. So I still think it is safe to track and predict weather by more conventional means!
    And Julia; thanks for the comment.
    And I hope you both have a wonderful day. Of course – with technology – no more snow days!

  4. Nan:

    I’ll take any snow day that comes our way, however it gets here! Let Elijah know I’m a huge fan of his snow day calculator!! Hopefully we can refrain from walking out in that beautiful peacefulness in the snow long enough to get a couple of reports done!! Thanks for the amusing interlude, Josie!!

  5. And here’s the really funny part Nan – I almost forgot to activate the calling chain!

    We made the call to close school very early. After getting all the announcements out it was still well before most people are stirring. “Let them sleep a little longer,” I said to myself. And then – almost an hour later realized with sudden horror I had not set the calls in motion.
    Enjoy the day.
    Now it’s time for a nap.

  6. Nan:

    I wondered about that, Josie! I actually got up briefly to call the answering machine, where I heard Anita’s reassuring voice saying, “No School Today!” I was back in bed when Bill called!! In the end, none of it mattered except getting the day!!

  7. Ann:

    Living far away down in Garrison, I appreciate the call earlier rather than later as we get up very early during the week. (We get a call because of our Highland Transit van, and it came at 5:35 this morning – perfect!) It can be confusing as to what to do when it seems the weather here will be different than in Poughkeepsie, which I was concerned about last night. Complicate that with an impending 4-5 ice skating trip, and a student who is FIERCE about not missing school, especially with the skating trip in the picture. Adrienne informed me last night that she was going to school no matter what, whether I liked it or not. (Said emphatically with blazing eyes and crossed arms!) So thank you (thank you! thank you!) for calling the snow day so the responsibility for the decision was out of my hands, and thus we avoided a “major blizzard” down here in Garrison!

  8. Hi everyone! This is David Sukhin, maker of the snow day calculator mentioned above. Thanks for using the calculator. I’m glad it gave an accurate prediction. I also had 99% today and had the day off too. Just to clarify, new predictions go up two days in advance at 12pm but update throughout the day with the most current weather information so the prediction stays as accurate as possible. I will clarify that fact on the website. Thanks again for featuring the calculator in this article. If you have any questions feel free ask 🙂

  9. Thanks Ann. We aim to please and sometimes succeed. Loved the story about the crossed arms, fierce determination to attend school no matter what. It was a shame that the skating and ski trips had to be canceled. Next week though…

  10. Hi David – Thanks so much for the clarification about how the calculator is updated. It’s a very clever program you have created. Thank-you. PDS appreciates it!

  11. Liz:

    @ David – thanks for creating this tool! Kids were excited!
    @ Josie – don’t worry about waking us up. The anticipation of possible weather disruption triggers an internal alarm mechanism that has many of us up earlier than usual. It was a good call – the roads were icy and slick by 9:30 up here near the school. Now back to that calculator!

  12. Isn’t it amazing the chain of events and amount of communication that Elijah set off with his snow prediction link…even the maker of the program commented….technology is a wonderful thing!!!

  13. Ann:

    I couldn’t resist with all the talk of the impending storm Tues. into Wed. The calculator says we have an 84% chance of a snow day Wed., and that the percentage is subject to increase. I’m curious about the chances of a snow day being called Tues. night…?

  14. Hi Ann: We have occasionally made the call the night before and given everyone a lie-in rather than an earlier than usual wake-up. Let’s see how the storm develops.

  15. Ann:

    Guess it developed enough! Thanks for this wise (in my humble opinion) call!!

  16. Dear Josie,
    This was a very interesting blog about the chance of snow. I love how you wrote that there was a 99% chance of snow. You had many details that were very interesting and I can’t wait for more blog posts.
    Please visit our blog:

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