As snow began to fall Feb. 8, schools in Jefferson County announced early release times for students.
The Port Townsend School District put all three of its schools on a two-hour early release Feb. 8, with buses running on regular routes but arriving at their stops two hours earlier than normal.
The district announced early release times of 12:30 p.m. for Salish Coast Elementary, 12:50 p.m. for Blue Heron Middle School and OCEAN, and 12:55 p.m. for Port Townsend High School.
The district also cancelled all morning and afternoon preschool, and all district events planned for Feb. 8 and through the weekend.
Although all of Chimacum’s schools started their day at their regular times Feb. 8, the school district announced early release times of 12:15 p.m. for grades 3-12 and 12:30 p.m. for Chimacum Creek Primary.
The district asked parents who normally pick up students to be timely and has pledged to monitor weather forecasts and road conditions to update the schedules on its website and Facebook pages.
The Quilcene School District announced an early release time of 1:15 p.m. for Feb. 8, and it relayed a message from Superintendent Frank Redmond on its website.
“We understand that changes to the school schedule or bus routes impact our families,” Redmon wrote. “Our top priority is the safety of our students and staff.”
Redmon said the decision to delay or cancel school typically is made in the early morning
“We look at the most up-to-date weather forecasts and have staff, including our superintendent and transportation supervisor, driving local roads to assess conditions,” Redmon wrote. “We try to have any changes to the school schedule posted on the district website by 6 a.m.”
Redmon promised to send updates to local media, including Seattle TV stations, as well as send automated emails and phone calls.
The Brinnon School District posted notice on its website that it would conduct early release between 11 a.m. and noon on Feb. 8.
The Jefferson County Emergency Operations Center has issued a winter storm warning for this weekend.
The advisory, from noon Feb. 8, through 4 p.m. Feb. 9, warns of heavy snow with accumulations of 4 to 6 inches for areas that include Port Townsend and outlying areas of the county.
The snowstorm on Feb. 3-4 resulted in 132 9-1-1 calls and 52 collisions investigated in two days for Washington State Patrol District 8, public information officer Chelsea Hodgson said.
Three tips to follow when driving in snow is to adjust traveling speed, increase following distance, and plan escape routes as you are driving to prevent yourself from being involved in a collision,” Hodgson said
“When it comes to winter driving, the first thing motorists need to do is ensure their equipment is ready to handle the elements,” Hodgson said. “Ensure you have the correct style of tire on your vehicle, and check tire and tread depths.”
Studded tires are one option but an expensive one, she said. Hodgson advised motorists who bring along chains to practice putting them on their car at home so they don’t have the added stress of being stuck in the snow for their first attempt at using them.
“Before you try and drive, bring along some extra supplies, just in case,” Hodgson said. “Bring along food and water for whomever is traveling with you, as well as an extra change of clothing, coats or gloves. If you get stuck and end up getting wet and cold trying to put on chains or dig your car out, you need something dry and warm to put on.”
Leave headlights on even in the daytime when it is snowing, she added, so it’s easier to be seen.
Jefferson County’s Road Maintenance Division of the Public Works Department provides snow and ice control for all county roads.
The department prioritizes major arterial routes, such as Center Road, Discovery Road and Irondale Road for plowing and salting.
Secondary and collector arterials along with hillside residential areas come second, and rural access roads and residential streets are third.
Public works issued a news release last month, asking drivers to slow down around working crews.
“When our crews are working on a section of road, either with flashing lights on their vehicle or with alternating traffic, it is a work zone and carries risk to our personnel and to drivers,” the news release stated
“Please give our equipment operators plenty of room, especially in icy and snowy conditions," Road Maintenance Superintendent Matt Stewart said. "Driving a truck with a wide snow plow while spreading salt or sand is a demanding task, and other drivers being careful around those trucks helps keep everyone safe.”
In Jefferson County, the state Department of Transportation handles state Routes 19, 20 and 101.
To see the county road department’s online map of snow and ice control, go to their website. For the latest road conditions, call 5-1-1.