It has been more than 20 years since Jackson Hole students had a snow day.
Snowfall from late Sunday through early Monday totaled 8 to 20 inches on the valley floor, according to the National Weather Service, with 20 inches around Wilson and 8 inches around Jackson.
The snow turned to rain Monday morning, wreaking havoc on commutes.
The wicked weather closed Teton Pass and Snake River Canyon, preventing many commuters — including teachers, police, town and county employees who work in Jackson — from making it to town.
Residents and visitors were asked by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson Police Department to avoid any unnecessary travel.
Teton County School District canceled school at 9:13 a.m., following an earlier announcement of a two-hour delay. District Information Coordinator Charlotte Reynolds said road conditions and staffing problems prompted the closure.
“First and foremost, the consideration is for student safety,” Reynolds said. “You have to ask, ‘Is it safe to transport children either on a bus or in a private vehicle?’”
Staffing shortages were also a concern.
“We are certainly impacted when the major routes into and out of the valley are closed, because many of our staff live outside the Jackson area in Victor, Driggs and Alpine,” Reynolds said. “The school district is one of many organizations that are impacted with that reality. Like many businesses and other public entities we are all affected.”
The Jackson Police Department was short-staffed Monday morning due to weather. Some officers couldn’t get to work because of closed roads.
“We had only two officers available for day shifts, and we assigned our school resource officer to the airport,” Jackson Police Department Lt. Cole Nethercott said.
Most officers made it to work by noon Monday. However, the investigations division was short two detectives because they live in Victor.
“We have asked officers to bring items necessary to be here two days in case roads close again,” Nethercott said.
The Teton County Sheriff’s Office was also short-staffed.
“We had to call out two deputies who live in the county that usually do not work today because all of the scheduled deputies could not get here,” Lt. Slade Ross said.
St. John’s Medical Center was similarly impacted due to employees living in outlying areas.
“Fortunately, many other unscheduled staff members that live nearby offered to help out,” said Karen Connelly, St. John’s spokeswoman. “We are currently fully prepared to provide essential and emergency services that may arise.”
The hospital is evaluating elective surgeries and rescheduling where appropriate so it can focus on emergency readiness as the storm continues.
Teton County Road and Levee Division crews worked hard to clear and maintain roads. Many Public Works employees were unable to get over the pass, and all hands were on deck — including workers from other departments — to make up for the shortage.
Many storm drains in town are frozen, causing flooding. Town Manager Bob McLaurin said the ice in the drains had to be broken up by hand.
Road and Levee Division crews and contractors cleared snow slides on Fall Creek Road and Henry’s Road. “Significant amounts of water and flooding” made the Elk Refuge Road difficult for travel, according to a Teton County press release. A contractor used a blade to cut and clear drainages.
Due to treacherous conditions, START bus service to Teton Valley, Idaho, was suspended until further notice. Three routes made it from Star Valley and into town Monday, although they were significantly delayed.
As of press time, the Snake River and Hoback canyons were open, but with travel advisories for black ice in place. Multiple slides occurred in both canyons — some reached the roads, others didn’t — and officials advised no unnecessary travel between Alpine and Hoback Junction.
“WYDOT won’t hesitate to close those sections of roads,” department spokeswoman Stephanie Harsha said.
Teton Pass was scheduled to remain closed overnight on Monday due to high winds and continued snow. Blowing snow made for a whiteout on top of the pass, Harsha said.
“It’s creating unsafe driving conditions,” she said.
An assessment of when the pass might be able to reopen was set for 6 a.m. today. (UPDATE, 7:47 a.m. Tuesday: Teton Pass reopened but is listed as slick.) Check WyoRoad.info for updated road conditions and closures.
Flights coming in and out of Jackson Hole Airport suffered significant delays and some flights were canceled.
Dustin Havel, assistant airport director of operations, said the runway is in good condition, but many airlines may delay or cancel flights due to weather reports. As long as the runway is clear and the visibility is good, the airport will still operate normally.
It’s hard to guess 100 percent, Havel said, but there will likely be delays today due to weather.
Across town, classrooms at Jackson Elementary School experienced partial flooding, but the district isn’t anticipating any prolonged water damage.
“We did have some water getting into the building,” Reynolds said, “but our facilities staff was over there and dealing with it right away.”
Closing schools for winter weather in Jackson Hole is rare. In fact no one working at the school district office could recall the last time there was a full-day cancellation. There are usually a few delayed starts or early releases every winter.
Tiffany Layos, a fourth-grade teacher at Colter Elementary School, has taught in the district for 21 years. This was her first snow day.
Parent Emily Flanagan said she and her classmates remember a snow day in 1992 and maybe 1994. Trustee Bill Scarlett, who grew up in Jackson, said he had only one snow day while he was a student during the mid-1980s. Extreme weather in February 1986 once closed Teton Pass for a week.
“I remember one [snow] day growing up, and it was because the roads were too icy to travel on,” Scarlett said. “We never had a closure because of snow and never a closure because of the cold.”
Conditions could continue to be treacherous today as temperatures are forecasted to drop below freezing — turning slushy roads into ice rinks — more snow is on the way and winds are expected to pick up. A winter storm warning remains in effect until 5 a.m. Thursday morning.
— Erika Dahlby, Emily Mieure, John Spina and Melissa Cassutt contributed to this article.