Schools plan for snowfall

A dusting of as much as a half-inch of snow could be in store for the Augusta area late tonight and early Friday.

School systems began planning Wednesday for making a decision on whether to close on Friday.

Part of the determination in Richmond County will involve handheld infrared scanners that maintenance and facilities workers use to take the temperature of asphalt, sidewalks and driveways.

Benton Starks, the school system's facilities director, said he'll be out as early as 4:30 a.m. Friday using a scanner to take readings. If it shows paved surfaces near freezing, he could make a recommendation to delay classes.

The school system's transportation director also makes a recommendation about the condition of roads. Ultimately, the decision is Superintendent Dana Bedden's.

Typically, Mr. Starks said, a decision is made by 5:30 a.m. that day, but it could come earlier.

In Columbia County, Superintendent Charles Nagle said he and his staff intend to determine today whether to call a two-hour delay in opening school Friday.

They will take a look at road conditions Friday before deciding whether to close for the day.

They rely on condition updates provided by Pam Tucker, the Columbia County emergency and operations services director, and the National Weather Service.

In Aiken County, deputy superintendent David Caver said such a decision is typically made before 5 a.m. He said the school system stays in touch with Aiken County Emergency Preparedness workers and can send out area assistant superintendents to check road conditions. Superintendent Beth Everitt will make the call.

Mr. Caver said decisions have been made the night before a storm, but "unless we see something happening, we'll probably hold out until early morning."

COLD SNAP

January's average temperature, including highs and lows, was 12 degrees below normal as of Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. The organization didn't have information to show if the stretch of below-freezing nights lately is a record. Already, there have been several days of lows in the teens and 20s. Tonight's low is expected to drop to 25, and lows should again dip into the teens over the weekend.