A rare winter snowstorm blanketed Texas with snow as far south as Houston. The Dallas-Fort Worth area saw around 6” of snow from the wee hours of Sunday morning to a few hours after daybreak this morning. Snow totals varied throughout the region, but all four counties of the Metroplex saw measurable snowfall.
Thanks to several days of sub-freezing temperatures, the snow from this round of storms will “stick,” particularly on elevated surfaces, for a few days. And the area is looking for more snow on Wednesday. And everyone’s favorite question—will students and teachers, not to mention school staff, get some snow days this week?—has some surprising answers this time around.
And overnight, the Energy Resource Commission of Texas announced rolling blackouts for most of the state. In parts of Plano, blackouts of at least ten minutes are happening every half hour, making it difficult to perform simple tasks like run the coffee maker or file a news story.
How much snow did the Dallas area get?
The suburbs north and northeast of Dallas saw light, steady snow off and on for most of Sunday, with snowfall becoming heavier about an hour before sunset and continuing throughout the early hours of Monday morning. By daybreak on Monday, as snow continued to fall, streets and lawns throughout the region were swathed in white.
A steady, light wind from the north had nudged the snow into small drifts piled up against houses and fences—negligible for a New Englander, but a veritable blizzard’s worth of winter wonder for north Texans. The last significant snowfall in the Metroplex came in March of 2015, and left about 4.5” of precipitation on the ground.
This time around, in the northeastern suburbs of Plano, as well as in Parker and Murphy, Texas, some residents saw snowfall of two inches on the ground, drifts of eight to ten inches on the leeward side of homes and fences.
School systems have no overarching plan
While some local school districts were already scheduled to be closed on Monday—February 15 is President’s Day, a federal holiday—others are cancelling classes or shifting to “virtual class” for the day. Garland Independent School District, in Dallas County, anticipated weather disruptions and announced a full plan for the week of Feb 15-19, canceling all classes and closing all campuses and facilities on Monday—a true “snow day.” Classes for Tuesday through Friday will be fully online and taught remotely.
Similarly, the University of Texas at Dallas, in Richardson, has decided to close the campus for both Monday and Tuesday of this week, with all classes—including online classes—canceled for both days. Even though most students who live off campus are enrolled in online-only classes at UTD due to the Covid pandemic, and could theoretically work from home, the school is giving all faculty, staff, and students real snow days.
Other area colleges decided to simply shift instruction to an online / “virtual” model for all scheduled classes. Texas Christian University in Fort Worth announced it will be “all online” for Monday of this week but did not cancel classes. Collin College, serving the various cities and outlying communities of Collin County, similarly announced a pivot to “virtual” classes for all scheduled class meetings on Monday. However, on Monday morning the college announced that no classes would be held, perhaps due to the rolling power outages wreaking havoc on computers, WiFi, and spaceheaters across the region.
Still, the response of many education systems to pivot all scheduled classes to online mode through some or all of the inclement weather may be a sign of bigger changes to come. Because of the Covid pandemic and the quick pivot to online instruction nationwide last spring, school districts and colleges now expect that parents and students will have the equipment, time, and space at home to participate in virtual or online learning at any time.
This may spell the end of the snow day as a day when school attendance is not required and students and parents are free to enjoy a quiet day watching the snow fall or a rambunctious day playing in it. Measurable snowfall that sticks around long enough to make a snowman is rarity enough in north Texas. But snow days may disappear altogether—not a casualty of climate change, but a relic of a time when there was no such thing as “virtual” school. Of all the changes wrought by Covid in our daily routines, this may prove to be one of the most enduring. When this rare snowfall melts, the tradition of the snow day may fade away as well.
Photo credit L.D. Burnett, February 15, 2021