Most schools across the Ozarks were closed on Thursday. By 8:30 a.m., Springfield police had issued a warning about deteriorating road conditions. by 9:50 a.m., city officials had announced the closing of Doling and Northview Family Centers because of power failures. By 10:30 a.m., Greene County had decided to close most of its offices at noon.
Springfield Public Schools waited until early afternoon before pulling the plug on the rest of the school day.
By late Thursday afternoon, enough sleet has fallen to convince Ridder to cancel Friday classes and rethink his decision to stay open on Thursday. The News-Leader reports:
"It's my screw up," said Ridder, who previously headed up a district in Colorado Springs. "I think the reason we fell apart is I didn't understand the Ozarks."
Ridder said he and several school leaders were out driving the roads around 3 and 4 in the morning. Around 7 a.m., he was not finding ice. By 8 a.m. in the northern part of the district he saw some ice on trees, and the roads were wet, but he didn’t think they were dangerous.
"I didn't understand how the ice comes in. We don't have equipment to deal with it like they do in Colorado. From my perspective it wasn't bad, but people in the Ozarks aren't used to ice, and I need to keep that in mind ... And the power outage was a nightmare. I’ve never had that before," he said.
•Ridder has been here since Fall 2005, so the "new guy" excuse is over.
•The National Weather Service reported freezing rain starting at 12:52 a.m. Thursday, at least two hours before Ridder reportedly drove the streets with "several school leaders" and decided school was a go.
•Speaking of those leaders, didn't any of them warn Ridder that the Ozarks has had its share of nasty ice storms? Oldsters remember one in December 1987 that paralyzed much of the city for up to a week. Surely someone on the R-12 staff had a clue that the weather was turning bad.
Hey, Norm Ridder: Your comments to the contrary, people in the Ozarks are used to ice. You're the one who skidded out of control on Thursday.