Winter Storm Hits Orcas Island

Cascade falls enveloped in the snow / Photographer: Ellie Wright

The month of January brought Orcas Islanders a significant snowstorm. With many islanders unable to get to work and school, this cold snap produced a myriad of struggles and excitement.

This snowstorm was a result of an unusual phenomenon due to strong winds of freezing temperatures arising from the Fraser River Valley, which runs from British Columbia down to Washington State. Certain meteorological conditions cause these cold Canadian winds to drift south, in this instance directly hitting the San Juan Islands.

With most students unable to leave their homes, Orcas Island School District closed all schools from Jan. 16 to 18. Contrary to snow days in previous years, the Orcas Island School District chose not to continue regular classes through online learning, with all classes being completely canceled for these days. This is the first time school has not continued online during snow days since the COVID-19 outbreak, and is certainly a momentous occasion for all students and staff.

“We are no longer able to use remote learning as an alternative for snow days,” said Kyle Freeman, principal of Orcas Island Middle and High school, “…from now on we’ll have snow days off, and make up the days at the end of the year”.

A large number of students were excited about this total lack of school, using this time to have fun and relax from the usual stresses of the school week. Freshmen Tommy Sprenger and Hazel Mckenzie spent this time sledding and making snowmen, while others such as Mirah Guzauskas and Orlando Ljubic were immobilized by their more rural location but still managed to have a fun time. Many locals were able to enjoy this break from their usual lives, and use it to spend quality time with family and friends.