You don’t see this too often, but some schools may decide to close in the Washington region on Friday because of high winds.
The National Weather Service is predicting a “dangerous wind storm” with gusts up to 60 to 70 mph. While peak gusts in the range of 50 to 60 mph are more likely, some schools may decide that the risk of placing students in these conditions is too high.
Branches and other loose objects (trash cans, lawn furniture, outdoor signs) could turn into projectiles.
School buses may have difficulty keeping their steering in stronger gusts.
When Superstorm Sandy come through in 2012, we had similar winds, and most schools closed for the day. Of course, Sandy also presented the hazard of flooding rain — which this storm will not.
The forecast for strong winds is on the radar of school systems. Prince William County schools sent out a message to students and parents stating they are monitoring the situation. We exchanged emails with officials at Fairfax County Public Schools, who also said they are watching this and will relay any change in operating status early Friday morning.
Taking all of this into account, we think there is a chance that some schools will close. Because such wind storms happen so rarely, we have little to no experience to help us evaluate what schools will ultimately do. As such, the percentages presented below are conservative.
The schools with a greater chance to close are those well to the west, where some higher terrain will increase wind speeds, and near the Chesapeake Bay, where winds may be stronger.
Public schools in D.C. are closed for students Friday, but parent-teacher conferences are scheduled, and there is an outside chance that those could be called off.
We tend to doubt that the Office of Personnel Management will close down the government for these winds, but if it’s really blowing early in the morning and it seems hazardous for motorists and pedestrians, it can’t be ruled out. More likely, but no guarantee, the unscheduled leave/telework option will be activated.