How much snow does it take to close your school? (here's a SAS map!)

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We get very little snow in Wake County, NC (SAS Headquarters) - therefore when we do have snow, it's a big deal and they close the schools. Which made me wonder ... how much snow does it take to close schools in the rest of the US?

Last week we got our first 'big snow' of the year - about 3 inches. (hahaha!) The snow was followed by several days of sub-freezing temperatures, which closed Wake County schools for four days. Here's a picture of the snow on my back deck...

 

Since some of the other states get a lot more snow than North Carolina, I wondered how much snow it took to close schools in the rest of the US. I found a map (created by reddit user atrubetskoy) that did a pretty good job of answering that question, but I decided to create my own map with SAS, so I could make a few enhancements. Click the image below to see my interactive SAS version of the map.

In my version, I made the county borders slightly lighter, and I added html hover-text to each county, so you could see the county names:

 

Feel free to tell us your "big snow" story in the comments!  What's the deepest snow you've seen? What's the most snow you've ever gone to school in?

 

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About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over 20 years, and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book (SAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics).

16 Comments

  1. Growing up in Iowa, I remember the snow plow working our square mile repeatedly until he could punch through to get our rural road cleared so the school bus could come pick us up. Of course this was after repeated snowfalls, but the huge ditches had already been filled, and the snow was piled up(by the snow plough) 10+ feet on both sides of the gravel road. It looked like I was walking through a tunnel. I understand that the weather patterns are now similar, and my mom reports the same snowfall amounts (and plowing) is now occurring again after about 20 years of mild winters. Goodbye "global warming" ! I think 8 inches would have closed our schools.

    • I know this is old as moldy cheese but GW is real just not in some areas because as moisture increases some areas will get heavier snow that borderlines it or heavier rain storms regarding how temp swings go.

      The west coast in general is in a moderate warming trend the last several years and is looking to continue even more.

      GW is mostly a natural trend and this argument of *Global Warming is either real caused by man or a hoax is all based off of false logic and fallacies on BOTH sides due to a manipulating press and a brainwashed public.

  2. Steve Polilli

    When I grew up in NY we used to get so much snow and ice that we had to wrap barbed wire around our feet to get any traction.

    • Well it's an upgrade from those wooden shoes! Did you walk up hill both ways with wolves chasing you to school then as you got to school you threw the logs in the fireplace as your *central* heat?

  3. Barbara Goodfellow on

    I lived in the mountains of NC, late 40's, in a rural area. It snowed for almost a week straight, but when a plow could get through, the school put chains on the busses, and off we went. As long as there isn't ice, chains work pretty well; we even had a set in our first car in the 60's

  4. Frank Limadere on

    Growing up in New Hampshire, the truth was probably between 6" and 12". At UNH, a foot of snow might have cancelled evening classes.

    "...my mom reports the same snowfall amounts (and plowing) is now occurring again after about 20 years of mild winters. Goodbye "global warming" ! "

    Really? One snowy winter negates a 20-year trend? You know this is a stats site, right? I won't hypocritically claim it to be an outlier just yet, but it will take a few more data points to buck this trend. See also: http://www.xkcd.com/1321/

  5. I live in South central PA and the biggest snow storm I've witnessed was in 2010 when we got hit by 2 monster snow storms less than a week apart. Both storms dumped 2 feet of snow so we had 4 feet of snow on the ground. I'd say this map is pretty accurate for my area depending on when the snow falls. if its over night then 3" would get us a 2 hour delay if we're lucky. If we get 4" starting before the buses would come to get us and ending after the time of a 2 hour delay pick up then we'd likely have no school. maybe 3" if it is coming down heavily and it's too dangerous to drive a giant bus. Or if the snow starts after the morning pick up but before the time an early dismissal would let us out. It depends on the timing and how much actually sticks to the roads.

  6. It would be interesting to compare your map to a map showing the average number of snow days per year over a time period similar to the one in your "how much does it take close schools"? I'm not sure whether you could display both metrics on the same plot, but that also might be interesting. Color for one metric and type of cross-hatching for another? Color and printed numbers?

    Here in CT we've had several recent snows so there's about a foot on the ground. Back in NE Ohio two or three feet in one storm wasn't uncommon, but they were lake effect so they tended to be in Nov or Apr and melted within less than a week. I have a photo on my desktop showing a mound of snow with just a tiny bit of my Subaru's side view mirror poking out.

  7. Your snow map strangely looks like the upper air charts of geo heights during a major artic blast (centered over the Mid West)

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