Light Snowfall Surprises Falls Church City, Fairfax and Arlington County School Officials

One of the City of Falls Church's first morning pick ups, 7:20 am, Daniel Batchelor going to Jessie Thackrey.  (Photo: Eva Riera Carol)
One of the City of Falls Church’s first morning pick ups, 7:20 am, Daniel Batchelor going to Jessie Thackrey. (Photo: Eva Riera Carol)

Although it stopped around noon, a light snowfall that started Tuesday morning led to transportation woes throughout the region and surprised school officials in Falls Church City and Fairfax and Arlington counties, who elected to open schools on time. Early reports estimate 1-3 inches of snowfall throughout the region, but the forecast of a light dusting by some meteorologists yesterday led many to be surprised by the accumulation that occurred throughout the morning.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said at 8:40 a.m. that there were 600 trucks out plowing areas with more than two inches of snow and that the main roads in Northern Virginia were treated prior to rush hour. At 10:21 a.m., the Virginia Department of Transportation announced the 30 – 40 minute closure of westbound I-66 at Fairfax County Parkway at 10:20 a.m. so that a jackknifed tractor trailer could be cleared.

According to the live flight tracking website Flight Aware, there have been 85 delays and 23 cancellations of flights at Washington International Dulles Airport.

Alexandria City Schools elected to open after a two-hour delay, but Falls Church City and Fairfax and Arlington County schools opened on time, leaving many students and parents miffed that they had to make the trek to schools despite the weather.

There were parts of Northern Virginia that had two inches of snow at 8:40 a.m. this morning. (Photo: Twitter/@mgoffee)
There were parts of Northern Virginia that had two inches of snow at 8:40 a.m. this morning. (Photo: Twitter/@mgoffee)

Some Falls Church City Public School buses were late to school because of the snowy, icy roads. Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones issued a statement in the last hour to apologize for the weather.

“I apologize for the messy roads and late buses today. It was a challenging snow call this morning, and I got this one wrong. On days like today, I wake up early in the morning and must make a decision. Please know that I check the weather, drive the roads, walk the sidewalks and talk with our colleagues in school divisions neighboring Falls Church. We also coordinate with Falls Church City to check on their road clearing status,” Jones said in a letter to Falls Church City Public School families. “The weather changed on me today after I made the call. We had a greater accumulation and intensity of snow than predicted, and the consistency of the snow changed to mix with some ice which made for much more difficult travels this morning than expected. Again, my sincerest apologies. Please know that student and staff safety is always my number one priority.”

This afternoon, City of F.C. Schools announced that all afternoon and evening activities as well as sporting events have been cancelled for today.

Reports came in to the News-Press of the need to gather students in a gymnasium at one Fairfax County school because teachers were caught in traffic. Students and parents in Fairfax County used the #closeFCPS hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to push Fairfax County schools to close – the campaign trended worldwide on Twitter at one point this morning.

(Photo: Carol Crace Anderson)


Fairfax County Public Schools issued a statement about the decision to remain open despite the weather: “We apologize for the difficulties the weather caused this morning. Please know that significant area government entities were coordinating at a very early hour. The decision was made with the best information we had very early this morning. Needless to say, the conditions were far worse than anticipated. Weather conditions are expected to improve around midday. At this time, we are planning to dismiss schools at their normal dismissal time, however, we are continuing to closely monitor the situation and will keep parents apprised. We are aware that people are asking us to cancel school. Students are safest at school when parents have not had a chance to make alternate plans for their child’s return home from school. However, should you wish to pick up your child early, we will accommodate you. Again we apologize for the difficulties experienced this morning and we thank you for your patience.”