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Snow squall causes Morgantown gridlock; students up to 6 hours late getting home

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — More than six hours after a snow squall crippled Morgantown and brought traffic to a standstill, Monongalia County school students were still being bused home.

Not until 9 p.m. was Crystal Nantz, the principal at Mountaineer Middle School, advised that all of her students were safely home or headed in that direction.

“We sent out several school messenger messages to our parents to let them know the status that all the students were kept warm and safe,” Nantz said. “It was just a matter of waiting on traffic to clear enough that we could get the students home safely.”

The hours between regular dismissal and when bus drivers were able to make their runs were intense. As much as 2 inches of snow fell in an hour beginning at about 3 p.m. The storm hit when Monongalia County Schools were dismissing and major area employers like WVU, Ruby Memorial Hospital and Mylan Pharmaceuticals were in a shift change.

“It definitely was a perfect storm. Sometimes circumstances are out of our control,” Nantz said. “The best thing to do is meet the kids’ needs and take care of them, make sure they are safe and warm, and get them home as safe and as soon as we can.”

Added to the mix was game night traffic. The WVU men’s basketball team hosted Kansas, the No. 1 team in the country, at the Coliseum. Ice and snow along with increased traffic gridlock.

At one point, MECCA 911 advised all motorists to stay off the roads if possible. The list of impassable roads throughout the night included major routes like Route 705, Monongahela Boulevard, University Avenue and Hartman Run Road. Abandoned vehicles were scattered along city and county roads. Tow truck drivers and highways crews, according to Morgantown police, were unable to maneuver miles of backed up traffic to clear roadways. Drivers complained of ten minute commutes taking up to 5 hours Tuesday evening.

“We had bus drivers that had to pull multiple runs to cover for other people who couldn’t get to their runs,” explained Nantz. “Those are the unsung heroes of tonight because not only did they transport the kids home but they did it safely.”

Mountaineer Middle volunteers maintained social media feeds in addition to the emails, texts and phone calls that are initiated from central office.

“We used twitter, we used facebook. Our PTO assists us and also send out there social media messages. The bottom line is communication, making sure everybody knew they were safe,” Nantz continued. “Our secretary at the school volunteered to stay. She answered the phones to try to ease the minds of the parents who were worried about their children as well.”

In more than one case, parents in some neighborhoods were asked to meet buses at businesses in their community to pick up their children.

Neighboring Preston County called for a two-hour early dismissal Tuesday. Monongalia County administrators, to the frustration of countless parents, did not.

The Monongalia County School system has been place on a two-hour delay Wednesday.

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