A sneak peek behind what happens when decisions are made about snow-related cancellations and closings

A row of school buses after a snowfall.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/onepony)
Unusually cold temperatures this week are a hint of winter weather yet to come and that means the first real snow of the year is probably not far off.

When it’s time to make decisions about canceling school or closing governments in the Metro D.C. area, WTOP has a behind the scenes look at how those decisions are made.

“There are protocols, and procedures and communications strategies,” Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Executive Director Chuck Bean said.

But all that basically boils down to is a series of snow event conference calls.

First up, all the transportation agencies, “get all the nitty-gritty of what’s going to happen,” Bean said.

Then, about 100 people have a conference call that includes representatives from the National Weather Service, Office of Personnel Management, local jurisdictions, local transportation agencies and public works agencies, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metrobus and rail) and State Departments of Transportation for Maryland and Virginia.

When potentially disruptive weather is forecast, that conference call happens at 8 p.m. and/or in more fluid situations at 3 a.m.

“We share the information, what’s the forecast, what are the ground conditions, how it’s going to effect the morning commute,” Bean said.

Questions are asked and answered. Then, OPM decides what will happen with Federal offices and the rest is up to localities.

“They have full information, about what’s the forecast, what will road conditions, what will transit conditions be as they make their own decisions,” Bean noted.

Federal employees can get frequently asked questions answered about leave policies here.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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