Map: How Much Snow Does It Take To Shut Down Schools Across The U.S.?

Spoiler: About an inch of snow can shut down the entire South!

With so many polar vortices running amok, schools have been taking a lot of snow days this year. But even with equal amounts of snow fall, a snow day isn't a snow day for everyone, because there are no hard and set national policies around winter weather; schools are allowed to make the decision district by district.

The result is the map you see here. By redditor atrubetskoy, it’s built with regional school closure information from hundreds of user comments, interpolated using NOAA’s average annual snowfall map.

As you can see, the results look a lot like the NOAA average snowfall map! (In other words, the more snow you usually get, the more snow it takes to shut down a school.) And school closures mostly play to stereotypes, like that yes, a dusting of snow will shut down most of the South. Northerners can make fun of that, but of course, the South doesn’t have the snow removal budgets, infrastructure, or hearty beef-stew blood that the North does.

There is just one substantial catch: School closures are often based more on the cold than the snow. Take a look at Chicago, where I live. The map implies that it takes two feet of snow to shut us down. And while that figure may or may not be accurate, in reality, we don’t get that much snow very often, and we close more because of the cold--when we close at all. (The teachers union had to protest for closures this year, citing dangers that windchill posed to the faculty and students.)

Even still, it’s a fun map to contemplate, from the warmth of a corporate cubicle.

See more here.

[Hat tip: FlowingData]

[Image: School bus in snow via Shutterstock]

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2 Comments

  • Heidi Saueressig

    Here in the Indiana/Kentucky region of the Ohio River Valley it only takes a dusting of snow at times to close schools, government offices, and some businesses. It's not so much the snow, though, that causes havoc, but the resulting icing on very winding, hilly, narrow roads. This makes it very dangerous for school buses. After living in North Dakota for decades, it took me awhile to understand the local rationale here, were winters are much less severe. But in the Northern Plains roads are straight and much wider, with barely any hills.

  • Tina Nielsen Yeagley

    Here in UT I only had one or two snow days growing up, and my 6th grader has had only one snow day ever. We sometimes get two feet of snow dumped on us overnight, but the schools are still open the next day. Back in December we had single digit temperatures all day for a week, but the schools were still open. I guess our district doesn't care what the weather is like, the kids have to attend school anyway.