Education

Record snow, sudden warming damages 25 Treasure Valley school buildings

As of early evening on Monday, the Boise School District was still waiting to decide whether school will reopen on Tuesday morning. The district will make the determination between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., according to district officials. Monday was the fourth snow day in a row.

If schools do open Tuesday, all buildings will be able to accomodate students despite storm damage.

At least 25 area school buildings suffered damage ranging from roof leaks to broken pipes from the record winter storm that blew through the Treasure Valley in the past week.

Crews totaling 20-30 people are out surveying the damage at Boise schools, clearing gutters, making repairs and prepping the buildings in hopes they will be ready for students on Tuesday, said Tom Willis, facilities and operations manager for the Boise School District.

Many of the problems are just coming to light, as pipes thaw, said Willis.

In the Boise District, Les Bois Junior High appears to be the most seriously affected. District officials report “serious” roof leaks with tiles coming out of the ceiling and some flooding in the main and counseling offices.

Three schools in Boise District reported flooding: Maple Grove and Shadow Hills elementaries and Boise High School, according to an initial damage list provided by school officials. Three classrooms at Trailwind Elementary suffered water damage after pipes that are part of the fire sprinkling system broke.

Nine schools reported roof leaks: Adams, Amity, Liberty, Pierce Park, Roosevelt, Whitney and White Pine elementaries, and Fairmont Junior High and Fort Boise.

Borah High suffered frozen pipes, including the main water line in the school main building and in the boiler room.

Maple Grove suffered flooding from a broken pipe that affected the physical education office, gym, stage, hallway and a classroom.

A first floor heating and air conditioning unit at Boise High School froze, causing flooding in two classrooms. It is drying out. The high school’s old gymnasium, built in 1936, was also experiencing roof leaks due to its drainage system.

“Despite very, very good efforts by our custodial crew to keep it in tip-top shape, at some point things just get old,” said Boise High principal Robb Thompson. He said if leaks aren’t stopped, there’s concern that the water could warp floorboards.

Thompson said there is also a “huge mess” in the school’s main building, along with some leakage in its basement and some classrooms due to an HVAC system that sprang a leak.

“It’s like every time we stick our finger over a hole, another leak pops up,” he said.

He added that Boise High is dealing with outdoor issues — the majority of its students park on the street and walk between the campus’ many buildings. Ice buildup and flooding in the streets and sidewalks surrounding the schools could complicate things.

Besides Boise, West Ada School District reported burst pipes, roof leaks and drain blockages at several schools, and West Middle School in Nampa incurred minor damage when a pipe broke a custodian closet at the south end of the building. Nampa is also reporting some water damage at Columbia High School, gym roof leaks at Central Elementary, several roof leaks at Centennial Elementary and broken pipes that led to flooding at Endeavor Elementary.

A note to parents of West Ada’s Heritage Middle School students from the administration called the flooding there “significant.”

“At this time, our library and 8th grade hallways are not accessible. Disaster relief has been in the building since Saturday afternoon and they are reporting the building will be safe for students on Tuesday, Jan. 10,” the email read.

Officials said they expected to give 8th grade students time to get necessary items from their lockers on Tuesday, but those students would need to carry backpacks to classes.

West Ada School District spokesman Eric Exline said he still expects school to be back in session at HMS on Tuesday. In addition, he said, Meridian Middle School and Ponderosa Elementary have had burst pipes. Exline said he didn’t know the extent of the damage at either building Monday morning, but expected neither incident would cause closures Tuesday.

Mountain View High School and Peregrine Elementary were both dealing with blockages to their drainage systems, leading to some displaced water. The Meridian Schools Clinic, a health care center for children located in a portable building, also had a roof leak, Exline said. He said there may be more building issues reported later in the day.

As of Monday morning, it was unclear how the extended run of snow days would affect Treasure Valley school districts as the school year moves forward. Exline said West Ada’s policy is to make up a day on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day if the district exceeds three snow days by Jan. 10. If four snow days are called, the policy is to call school into session on President’s Day. Beyond that, makeup days are added to the end of the school year.

Exline said officials were meeting Monday morning to decide whether to follow policy “or make a different recommendation.” Part of the problem, he said, is scheduling makeup days in such a way that they are beneficial to students and teachers alike, particularly in secondary schools when finals and advanced placement tests may take place before the makeup days.

“Putting days back in June doesn’t help students with big tests in May,” he said, adding that officials also have to take into account the possibility that more snow days could be called this winter.

“The forecast is not particularly encouraging,” he said. “We’ve never had four days of school off in a row in my 19 years here. It’s definitely unprecedented.”

Boise School District spokesman Dan Hollar said, “At this time, we are within the State required instructional hours and do not need to make up the last four snow days. If there is a need for additional emergency closure days, we still have a couple more days available for flexibility.”

Nampa School District officials also said they’re unsure of how they will make up the days off.

Road conditions

Commuters Monday should see wet roads with some big puddles and minor flooding, but higher-than-expected temperatures late Sunday melted much of the icy glaze that coated streets and sidewalks earlier in the day.

Still, the mess left by repeated snowfalls prompted numerous Treasure Valley schools to stay closed Monday, giving students a rare series of snow days.

The National Weather Service in Boise advises Treasure Valley drivers to expect light rain during the Monday morning commute, with large puddles from melting snow in some roads and black ice possible west of Caldwell. More snow and ice are reported on Canyon County commuter roads than on their Ada County counterparts.

Sunday brought snow, then freezing rain, then plain old rain as temperatures surged past the freezing mark, a dramatic turnabout from record subzero temperatures two days earlier.

The icy glaze on roadways took a toll. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office reported 18 slide-offs, 43 stalled or stuck vehicles and 41 crashes, including two with injuries, on Sunday afternoon. “Nampa=sheet of ice,” the Nampa Police Department tweeted.

Some residents used Sunday to catch up on shoveling driveways and porches. Many churchgoers stayed home as dozens of churches canceled services.

The rain and melting brought some flooding to Boise late Sunday, including water at the River Street exit of the I-184 Connector and at the main Boise Public Library.

The freezing rain followed an ice storm warning for the lower Treasure Valley from the National Weather Service. Meteorologist Les Colin said cold rain would mostly be absorbed by snow, making him optimistic that major flooding that had worried authorities could be avoided.

“I don’t think it will produce a flooding event,” he said Sunday morning, and by Sunday night no major floods were reported.

A warm front pushed temperatures in Boise up nine degrees in 10 minutes around 12:40 p.m., the National Weather Service said. The thermometer peaked at high 43 degrees at 6 p.m. — about 10 degrees higher than expected. The high represented a 54-degree climb from Friday night’s record-low -11.

“As long as we keep the cloud cover, and we expect we will, and with the southeast winds we should stay above freezing,” said Joel Tannenholz, another National Weather Service meteorologist, on Sunday night.

The rain-on-snow fell as high as 7,900 feet elevation across southern Idaho. It melted part of the mountain snowpack but had not caused rivers to rise or led to serious landslides by Sunday night.

Th weather service predicts the Treasure Valley will get rain and snow for the next few days. By the end of the week, the Valley will receive “a surge of cold air, but not as cold as it was (last week),” Colin said.

School and other cancellations

Sloppy roads and other weather-related problems caused many school districts to close Monday.

▪ Bishop Kelly High

▪ Boise School District

▪ Caldwell School District

▪ College of Idaho (Late start: 9:30 a.m.)

▪ College of Western Idaho (Late start: 10 a.m.)

▪ Emmett School District

▪ Fruitland School District

▪ Gem Prep

▪ Heritage Middle School

▪ Homedale School District

▪ Horseshoe Bend School District

▪ Idaho State University, Meridian (Late start: 10 a.m.)

▪ Kuna School District

▪ Legacy Charter

▪ Marsing School District

▪ McCall-Donnelly School District

▪ Melba School District

▪ Middleton School District

▪ Nampa School District

▪ New Plymouth School District

▪ Owyhee County Courthouse

▪ Payette School District

▪ Riverstone International

▪ Rolling Hills Charter

▪ Rose Hill Montessori

▪ Sage International School

▪ Vallivue School District

▪ Victory Charter

▪ Village Charter

▪ Weiser School District

▪ West Ada School District (Meridian, Eagle, Star)

▪ Wilder School District

Zoo Boise also was closed on Monday due to icy pathways.

Meet Me Monday, a weekly health walk sponsored by Saint Alphonsus, cancelled its Monday event.

Do you know of a cancellation we’re missing? Email us at newsroom@idahostatesman.com and we will update our list online.

Plowing and local roads

Parking remained free Sunday in Downtown Boise garages owned by the city’s Capitol City Development Corp. They were scheduled to return to normal paid operation at 5 a.m. Monday.

A state of emergency remains in effect Monday in Boise because of the snow, though major streets by Sunday had been plowed and most residential streets had received at least one pass of a plow from the Ada County Highway District.

Emergencies also remain in effect in Ada County and Meridian. Eagle Mayor Stan Ridgeway said he expects the Eagle City Council to declare an emergency when it meets Tuesday.

Emergency declarations let cities bypass some time-consuming purchasing and other procedures, and they let counties activate disaster plans and seek emergency aid from the state

The Idaho National Guard assisted ACHD in the snow cleanup through Sunday, using the opportunity to train personnel in snow removal for state emergencies. Some residents answered authorities’ call and pitched in to help clear snow from the openings of storm drains to reduce the threat of flooding.

Idaho and Oregon highways

Idaho’s 511 road-report system reported critical disruptions Sunday on State Highways 51, south of Mountain Home, and 78, which runs from Marsing east to Hammett. The state also warned of packed snow, icy patches and slush on Interstate 84 between the Treasure Valley and the Oregon border.

In Oregon, I-84 was still closed Sunday night from the Oregon-Idaho line to LaGrande westbound and from Pendleton eastbound, “due to extreme winter conditions (blowing snow, white-out conditions, slick roads, and snow drifts), several vehicle slide-offs, and people stopping in the roadway because they can't see ahead,” the Oregon Department of Transportation reported.

Power outages

A power outage in the McCall area Sunday affected about 5,500 customers, including Brundage Mountain Resort. Idaho Power said the outage, whose cause was not immediately known, also affected customers in New Meadows, Lake Fork and Donnelly.

Brundage said it still had power from its backup system.

More than 3,000 people were without power late Sunday night in several outages near New Plymouth and Emmett.

The utility also reported an outage affecting 300 customers in New Centerville near Idaho City before power was restored Sunday afternoon.

Advice for residents

▪  Clear snow away from fire hydrants so first-responders have clear access to that equipment.

▪  Clear gas meters and furnace vent areas. A buried or iced-over natural gas regulator can become clogged, affecting the supply of gas. When the snow melts and becomes more wet and heavy, it can put pressure on the meter and piping, warns Intermountain Gas.

▪  Rake, brush or sweep snow off roofs — from the ground, reaching whatever you can reach safely, not by climbing atop roofs — to curb the risk damage from water and ice backed up by ice dams at gutters.

Find more information

Boise mayor declares state of emergency due to snow, potential flooding.

Analysis: Buy more plows? Put private contractors on retainer? What’s ACHD’s best snow policy?

▪ Check the Ada County Highway District cameras for current conditions.

▪ Check here for statewide road conditions.

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