Amarillo College students and staff may be in for canceled classes this week as a winter storm moves across the Texas Panhandle and brings the chance of almost a foot of snow.
Nicholas Fenner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Amarillo, said the area has a 60 percent chance of rain and snow for the rest of the Wednesday.
The full transition from rain to snow is expected to occur about 6 p.m. and snowfall will continue to around noon on Thursday. Amarillo and Hereford students and staff may see 6 to 8 inches of snow, while those in Dumas may get up to 10 inches, Fenner said.
Melissa Bates, assistant director of academic affairs at the Moore County Campus in Dumas, said snow began falling steadily about 9 a.m., but didn’t seem to be sticking. Staff at the Hinkson Memorial Campus in Hereford reported light rain as well.
By early afternoon, light rain began falling at the Washington Street Campus, creating slick surfaces and prompting AC police to restrict access to the West 24th Avenue bridge. Still, administrators said it probably wouldn’t be enough to cancel evening classes at most of the campuses.
“If evening classes were to be canceled (in Amarillo), that notification would be made by 3 p.m.,” said Joe Wyatt, communications coordinator.
Bates said an alert regarding the cancellation of Dumas evening classes would be sent after 3 p.m. Students would receive an alert by email and text depending on the campus or campuses they attend, Wyatt said.
Alerts are used only in the event of a midday change to schedules, Wyatt said. In the event of a Thursday cancellation, an alert would most likely not be used. Instead, he said students should watch for the notification on Blackboard and the AC website and social media channels.
Wyatt said the call to cancel Thursday classes may not be made until after dark on Wednesday, and could come as late as 6 a.m. Thursday.
“We follow Amarillo Independent School District’s game plan,” Wyatt said. “Whatever they do, we do.”
Like administrators at the Amarillo campuses, those in Hereford and Dumas follow the lead of the local school districts.
“If we wake up in the morning and they cancel classes, we’ll cancel classes,” Bates said.
Students and staff can also listen for cancellation notices on local radio stations, including AC’s FM90.
“We have a recording that will kick in bright and early at 6 a.m.,” said David Lovejoy, FM90 program director and mass media major.
The recording can be activated remotely, he said, so even if disc jockeys can’t make it in, students will stay informed, Lovejoy said. The announcement will run three times an hour at each break and will include a number to call for additional information, he said.
In addition to snow and ice, wind gusts between 20 and 30 miles per hour could decrease visibility and make driving even more dangerous, Fenner said.
“Road conditions are always difficult to predict,” Fenner said. “Check road conditions and if it’s too hazardous, just stay home.”
Even if classes aren’t canceled, Bates said the choice to drive to class, whether a few blocks or many miles, will be up to students.
“They have to make the decision not to travel if they don’t feel safe or if they feel uncomfortable,” Bates said.
Fenner said temperatures will drop into the 20s Wednesday night and then warm up to about 30 degrees Thursday. Temperatures will rise again on Friday, reaching the high 30s to low 40s in most of the Texas Panhandle, he said.