Even though there is plenty of advanced warning, the first winter storm of the season takes many aback.

It's often hard to imagine the crisp fall weather where the last vestiges of color are still on the trees can lead to wintry, icy conditions in just hours.

Haywood County School officials have become somewhat novice meteorologists out of necessity during the late fall and winter. You don't just bring 7,000 kids to 15 different schools without knowing they can safely get there — or get home at the end of the school day, said School Superintendent Bill Nolte.

Besides referring to reports of local meteorologists and multiple weather outlets — National Weather Service, Hunter Ward's forecast out of Asheville, Weather Underground and Weather Bug, Nolte said the website called Ventusky shows the temperature, wind speed, air pressure, amount of snow cover and how much snow can be expected hourly.

All the resources are public, so anyone can refer to them, Nolte added.

"It's really a group effort," he said when talking about the decision to call off school. "Mark Sheppard talks to other transportation directors early in the morning. We look at the weather models and you just try to lay it all on the scale and see what way it dips."

Tuesday, for instance, the school system announced a two-hour delay at 5:30 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., the call was made to call school off and have an optional teacher work day.

"It was 43 degrees and raining when I got up," Nolte said. "At 7 a.m. it was 28 degrees and pouring down the snow. It was going to be slick. We just could not run our buses and feel it would be safe. It's one thing for me to load my child into a car and drive them to school, but it's a very different call when you're asking parents to allow you to take their children somewhere."

It other areas, the winter weather delayed many on their way to work, and in some cases, prevented people from leaving their home.

For instance, U.S. 276 South was closed briefly as emergency responders waited for a two truck to remove a vehicle that had flipped over on the icy mountain. 

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