Several Lancaster County school districts said they were caught off guard by reports of icy roads early Wednesday.
"I apologize for the late notice of the two-hour delay today," wrote Brian Bliss, superintendent of Solanco School District, in a letter posted on the district's website and social media.
Superintendents are the ones who make the tough call on how and when the school day should operate. Many districts already had days off or modified schedules Monday and Tuesday.
A few districts said they got new, late reports about hazardous conditions and had to call delays later than normal Wednesday. Several apologized in social media and website posts.
INFORMATION FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT CONCERING TODAY's 2-HOUR DELAY - https://t.co/8IFbUQ7jOr— Solanco SD (@SolancoSchlDist) February 13, 2019
Bliss said road conditions are checked starting a 4 a.m. Temperatures looked fine then, but 5:45 a.m. was "a much different story," he said. They called a delay around 6 a.m. Some buses already on the road had to be turned around, Bliss said.
Just before 7 a.m. state police Trooper James Spencer, the spokesman for Lancaster County's troop, said in a tweet that roads were very icy.
Roads are very icy in Lancaster County this morning. Take your time and watch for ice— Tpr Spencer(Lan/York)Tpr MacIntyre/Kochka(Chester) (@PSPTroopJPIO) February 13, 2019
Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst said patchy icy spots after a winter storm are not uncommon, but they are tricky to pinpoint.
"It catches people by surprise. Your driveway can be wet. You drive a mile or two away and hit an icy patch," he said.
Horst said localized temperature drops can happen if clouds break right before dawn, allowing radiational cooling. That can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. He tweeted a map that showed temperatures at 6 a.m. ranged from 32 to 37 degrees in Lancaster County.
At 6:00am, temps are btwn 32- 37 across Lanco...and will rise only a few degrees today with a West breeze and partly sunny skies. Thursday & Friday will be milder with highs of 42 & ~50, respectively. Then, a cooler weekend and a brush with some snow or "mix". Developing... pic.twitter.com/Z920HhdTpY— E. Horst, MU WIC (@MUweather) February 13, 2019
Penn Manor School District Superintendent Mike Leichliter apologized for the late call on Twitter.
"Roads were fine at 5 am but temperatures dipped causing black ice in many spots," Leichliter said in a tweet just after 6 a.m. announcing the delay.
He responded to a few tweets about students who had been waiting for their bus before the delay was called.
"I'd prefer to have children at the stop for ten minutes and come back into their home as opposed to being in an accident while on the bus," Leichliter said.
Wednesday, February 13: Two-hour delay with modified kindergarten. Roads were fine at 5 am but temperatures dipped causing black ice in many spots.— Mike Leichliter (@mleichliter) February 13, 2019
Lampeter-Strasburg School District said in a tweet that they received "multiple reports of black ice at 6 a.m. and decided to err on the side of caution."
Robin Felty, superintendent of Manheim Township School District, sent an emailed apologizing for the last minute delay and thanking families for their patience.
"We know that last minute notifications like this morning may cause disruption to the schedules of many families if forced to make untimely changes to their morning schedules," Felty said.
Conestoga Valley's superintendent Dave Zuilkoski apologized for the late notice in announcing a two-hour delay at 6:50 a.m.
"Reports have just come in that travel conditions have become hazardous," said Elizabethtown Area School District in a tweet announcing the delay around 6:20 a.m.
Nearly a dozen public school districts had a delayed start Wednesday, but a few ran schedules as normal.
We already have students out waiting at bus stops and being picked up by buses. Please use caution and travel slowly this morning! We will excuse any lateness due to road conditions. We are also consulting with maintenance to ensure our sidewalks are free of ice.— Hempfield SD (@hempfield) February 13, 2019
Hempfield School District tweeted around 6:30 a.m. that it would stick with its decision to have a regular starting time. Students were already waiting for buses, the district said.
"We have been in close contact with transportation and emergency management services and are getting reports that roads in our district are fine with some icy spots in the western portion of Hempfield," the district said in a tweet.
The district also said it would excuse lateness due to road conditions.