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Frigid, slippery weather prompts St. Lawrence County school closings

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POTSDAM - Standing water from overnight rain on icy secondary roads, gusty winds and forecasts of plummeting temperatures convinced nearly all of St. Lawrence County’s public schools to close Monday, despite a lack of snow.

Only Hammond Central School kept its doors open the entire day.

“It’s weird to be the outlier,” interim Superintendent Randy C. Richards said. “The temperature was the big thing for us. It stayed warm. We’ve salvaged a day. I feel pretty fortunate.”

Superintendents at some of the schools that closed for the day decided conditions were not adequate for buses to travel safely.

“No matter what you do, you’re going to be criticized,” Canton Superintendent William A. Gregory said. “It’s so tough. I wish I had a crystal ball. I think discretion is the better part of valor.”

Superintendents generally make their first decision on whether to close or delay about 5 a.m.

At that point Monday, many back roads were flooded.

“The main roads were in good shape, but the secondary roads were not,” Potsdam Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said.

Potsdam, along with many other districts, originally went with a delay, then decided to close for the day after consulting with highway officials. The icy conditions were compounded by forecasts that temperatures were going to drop dramatically in the afternoon, accompanied by high winds.

“It’s not just about getting students to school but getting them home. It really is all about how district buses are going to do,” St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Thomas R. Burns said. “It’s such a large county you do get some different weather patterns. I don’t think anyone who does it takes it lightly.”

Fickle weather conditions are a factor.

Early Monday, Gouverneur Superintendent Lauren F. French learned of standing water from rain and a partial thaw that was covering ice-coated secondary roads.

“Parking lots and sidewalks were just treacherous,” she said.

There was so much standing water in certain areas that it looked like the wind was creating waves on it, Mrs. French said.

Conditions had not improved by 8 a.m., when a decision was needed on whether to close.

“We had almost a whiteout at 9:30,” she said. “Who knows what tomorrow is going to bring? This is one of the most unique winters ever.”

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