Winter Closures at LTCC

February 28, 2019

Heavier than usual snow and more frequent winter storms are affecting the Lake Tahoe Basin on a regular basis this season. Lake Tahoe Community College and its leadership team has a set of guidelines and processes it uses in deciding about winter closures that reflects our concern for student, staff and faculty safety, while keeping the educational needs of our students firmly in mind.

The college leadership team strives to make the call on whether to open or not by 6am, unless rapidly changing weather conditions or a quickly evolving forecast in the early morning hours make that impossible. When the decision is made to close, that information is shared via LTCC’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), on the free Coyote Corner app, on the college website (www.ltcc.edu), and on the college’s main phone line message (530-541-4660). We also notify local media in the event of a closure. Lastly, all current LTCC students (and any parent or community member who wishes to) can enroll to receive free text, email or phone messages automatically via the LTCC Alert system. The college actively notifies about campus closures only (if you do not receive a notification, LTCC is open).

Below is a list of considerations and resources LTCC’s leadership team uses to determine whether the college should open or not.

Information Sources We Use

  • Research is conducted using multiple weather sites (NOAA, Weather Underground, Open Snow, weather.com).
  • Traffic/weather camera check-ins for live conditions (Ski Run, the Y, etc.).
  • Communication with local partners (City of SLT, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Tahoe Transportation District, several local and regional public safety agencies).
  • News reports & information from the Sierra Avalanche Center.
  • Updates from on-campus snow removal crew members.
  • On-the-ground intel gathered from a nine-member leadership team who lives throughout the community (The Y, Meyers, Christmas Valley, Sierra Tract, Incline Village, etc.).

 

Major Considerations

  • Forecasted snow amounts. Feet falling on top of feet of snow or multiple days of snow accumulation are typically impacting factors.
  • Weather warnings: winter storm watch versus winter storm warning versus blizzard warning. A winter storm watch is issued when there’s a potential for significant and hazardous weather within 48 hours. A winter storm warning is issued when significant and hazardous winter weather is occurring or is imminent, with snow amounts of at least 5” predicted within a 12-hour period. A blizzard warning means snow or blowing snow that reduces visibility, making travel treacherous, is occurring or expected within 12-18 hours. LTCC heavily considers blizzard warnings.
  • Differing conditions around South Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin. Conditions can be quite different within the Basin, and even within South Lake Tahoe due to micro-weather systems.
  • Forecasted snow amounts for 6,000 ft. versus 7,000 ft. and above. Sometimes the heavy stuff only falls up on top of the mountains, not down at lake level where campus is located.

 

Making the Decision

  • Input is considered from nine different campus leaders, a mix of administrators, communications staff, and maintenance/operations crew members.
  • We strive to strike a balance of safety requirements along with instructional needs and the need for ongoing snow removal operations during longer storms.
  • We consider parents who rely on LTCC’s Child Development Center for child care. If LTCC closes, it creates a hardship for working parents

 

Common Misperceptions

  • LTCC is not the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. We make closure decisions separately from LTUSD.
  • LTUSD must consider the safety of young children who wait at residential school bus stops, often deep into neighborhoods with compromised roads, early in the morning during inclement weather. That is not a concern for LTCC, which has adult learners who don’t rely on LTCC-run school buses. LTCC communicates with TTD during weather events about their bus availability and schedule.
  • Funding does not play a role in our decision to open or close – we are not funded for being open.
  • LTUSD can make up class days lost to snow closures at the end of the school term in June. LTCC does not have that option, and cancellations create lost instructional time for students that cannot be easily made up. This is lost classroom time that our students are paying for, unlike LTUSD students.

LTCC's administration recognizes that this is an imperfect science, and weather can change quickly. Forecasts are often imprecise and can change rapidly in an alpine environment. There is an expectation that adult college students will take personal responsibility for preparing for snow events, and using their own best judgement when necessary. When forecasts call for snow, students should plan ahead and be prepared for compromised travel conditions. If a student determines that it isn’t safe for them to travel due to local conditions, then it’s best to communicate that ahead of time with instructors to make other arrangements. Lastly, if any student finds themselves stranded on campus during a snow event and in need of help, they should ask for help from any college employee. LTCC is working on an emergency taxi service program, to be available through the One-Stop Office located in the Main Building Commons. This will be an option for any student stranded on campus due to inclement weather conditions.