Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School District, Christian Heritage School and Lowell Whiteman Primary School canceled school today because temperatures this morning dipped to minus 40 degrees. The Hayden and South Routt school districts are open today, as is The Lowell Whiteman School.
Steamboat Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said it's a matter of safety for children.
"I don't want kids standing out at the bus stop," she said. "It's about the kids being safe."
Cunningham said she got a call from the a district transportation employee at 4 a.m. today that the temperature at the district's bus barn had dipped to minus 40 degrees and was continuing to decrease.
She said diesel fuel can gel when temperatures reach that threshold.
According to Steamboat Pilot & Today archives, the district last canceled classes Feb. 6 and 7, 1989. Students missed two days of school because of a temperature of 42 degrees below zero and a heating gas shortage.
Cunningham said she plans to recommend changing district policy so that schools close when the temperature dips to minus 30 degrees.
South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said everything was running smoothly this morning, and there were no problems with the district's buses or kids getting to school on time. The district did, however, cancel its planned ski day at the Steamboat Ski Area. A little more than 100 students in grades three through 12 had planned to attend.
Today's school closure in Steamboat left some families scrambling for day care options.
Heather Martyn of the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat said the facility typically closes whenever schools are closed. The same is the case today. She said it's a staffing issue.
Susan Petersen of the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department said they organized staffing this morning to offer a version of their School Days Off program, which provides child care at Soda Creek Elementary School on weekdays when there is no school. But Petersen said they received only one phone call this morning from a parent interested in the program, so the city ultimately decided not to offer School Days Off today.
"I would have loved to have offered something, but it just doesn't make sense. We haven't received a flood of phone calls," Petersen said.
The city's normal after school care also is canceled today, Petersen said. For more information, call 970-879-4300.
Cunningham said she wasn't sure whether there were other last-minute options for families.
District officials expect school to be in session again Thursday, with today's class schedule, according to an e-mail from Karen Campbell, office manager at Steamboat Springs High School. All previous activities are still planned, including the Snowcoming Dance at 8 p.m. There already is no school for students Friday because it is a planned staff professional development day. Students who were chosen to build Winter Carnival sculptures must build them Friday, according to the e-mail.
Colorado Mountain College remained open today, although some classes were cancelled as a result of professors not being able to make it to campus.
City of Steamboat Springs offices and departments are open and operating as scheduled today, although Kim White says some city employees may be busy arranging child care.
Kim Symalla of Steamboat Springs Transit said all buses were running this morning, but some were falling behind.
At 8 a.m. one bus was about 18 minutes behind schedule, but passengers waiting at bus stops were not being left in cold any longer than necessary. When a bus is that far behind, the next bus has essentially caught it, Symalla said. At that point, the late bus defers to the one behind it and returns immediately to either the Gondola Transit Center or Stock Bridge Transit Center to get back on schedule.
"We're working as hard as we can to keep the buses running on schedule," Symalla said.
Ski area news
The Steamboat Ski Area reported a 5 a.m. mid-mountain temperature of minus 21 degrees. As of noon, the temperature at Thunderhead was minus 2 — minus 16 with wind chill.
The gondola opened as scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Several lifts were on weather holds this morning. As of 1 p.m., all lifts were open except Pony Express. Like most mechanical things, Lane said ski lifts can take a while to warm up and operate correctly in the extreme cold.
He also reminded skiers and riders to be particularly wary of frostbite today. Anyone venturing out into the elements should make to sure to cover all exposed areas of skin. Skiers and riders should take frequent breaks and watch one another closely for signs of frostbite, Lane said.
Today's high temperature in Steamboat is expected to reach 1 degree. Tonight's low will dip to minus 23 degrees. A thaw should begin Thursday, when the daytime high could get all the way up to 18 degrees.
Elk River rancher feeds extra hay to cattle
Clark Rancher Doug Carlson reported the thermometer reached 38 degrees below zero at his home on Routt County Road 62 this morning. The coldest morning he can recall in 27 years of ranching the Stranahan property was about 55 degrees below zero in 1985.
Carlson had just come into the ranch house from feeding 300 head of cattle. Luckily, his tractor started up first thing. He spread enough hay to give each animal an estimated 5 to 10 pounds of extra feed.
“They’re in good shape, but I feed extra to keep their energy up on the cold weather,” Carlson said.
Contract mail carrier shrugs off sub-zero temps
Contract mail carrier Dwight Willman was standing bareheaded while sorting mail into a neighborhood cluster box at about 11 a.m. today when the temperature was still 19 degrees below zero.
“It’s my hands that bother me the most,” Willman said.
The mail truck from Denver was a little late arriving in Steamboat, Willman said, but otherwise, mail delivery was proceeding normally during the coldest morning Steamboat has seen in years.
He delivers mail in downtown Steamboat and in neighborhoods on the city near the east side.
“Fairview is the coldest place on my route,“ Willman said. “I don’t know what it is. The wind just seems to come through there.”
Movie theater opens early
Citing the low temperatures and closed schools, Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas Manager Mark Green said the theater would open at 1:30 p.m. today with its weekend show schedule. The first showing of "True Grit" is at 2:10 p.m., "The Green Hornet" is at 2:20 p.m., "The Rite" shows at 2:30 p.m., "No Strings Attached" is at 2:30 p.m. and "The Mechanic" is at 2:40 p.m. The theater can be reached at 970-870-8222.