With Unpredictable Weather, Deciding To Close Schools Is Not Easy

Northeast Alabama
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GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The recent severe winter weather had a number of north Alabama schools closed down, and EMA officials say obtaining the information that decision is based on can be difficult.

The Situation Room at the Marshall County EMA is command central during any kind of severe weather event. When the weather turns nasty the EMA has to provide the county’s five school superintendents with information so they can decide to keep schools open, or close them down.

Marshall County EMA director Anita McBurnett says that’s a difficult task. “Things change real quickly here in north Alabama because of our terrain, our topography, where we’re located, with regards on how things start coming together,” McBurnett says.

McBurnett says what’s forecasted can change in an instant.  “What models may indicate may come together quite differently when they start arriving in Marshall County, and that happens quite a lot.”

That’s what happened this week. McBurnett says the EMA informed the school systems of the temperatures, wind chills, and road conditions. On Tuesday Marshall County and Guntersville schools closed, Boaz and Albertville schools delayed in opening and Arab schools opened as usual.

Arab City Schools Superintendent John Mullins says the forecast predicted a light dusting of snow, and the decision to stay open or not delay an opening was based on that.

However, McBurnett says the weather took a turn they weren’t expecting and eventually all the systems closed. “In those cases there’s really nothing you can do except try to, as that is happening, make the decisions, try to get the students home safely and make sure the teachers could get home safely,” McBurnett says.

McBurnett says they work to make sure the school systems have the most accurate information possible, so the school boards can make their own decisions about what’s best for the students.

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