MoCoSnow predicts school closings due to weather forecasts

CHS students often check MoCoSnow through the Twitter and Facebook apps on their phones.

CHS students often check MoCoSnow through the Twitter and Facebook apps on their phones.

By Daniel Miyares, Business manager

Senior Allison Yang decides enough is enough and puts the homework away. Right before going to bed, she crosses her fingers, and opens up MoCoSnow’s Facebook page.

Until very recently, predicting how MCPS would respond to inclement weather was little more than pointless guesswork. Now, however, Yang has newfound confidence in the possibility for delays and cancellations due to MoCoSnow, a website which predicts the unpredictable with impressive accuracy.

“I’m definitely happy it exists,” Yang said. “It’s the most accurate thing out there. I check whenever the weather forecast says there will be snow.”

Yang, along with many members of the CHS community, has a local Physical Education teacher to thank. Alex Tsironis, a student of MCPS from kindergarten to 12th grade, predicts snowfalls and cancellations and shares them through the website, as well as the Facebook and Twitter pages.

“I look at forecasts from various local meteorologists and compare them to what I see on the weather models,” Tsironis said. “From there, I choose what I think will be most accurate and go with it. I usually provide projected snow totals from four to six sources just before a storm.”

According to Tsironis, he also takes trusted local sources into account for assessing the snowfall and traffic conditions in the area, allowing him to arrive at a final prediction the day before MCPS decides whether to cancel. The task is challenging to say the least, but the results have far surpassed any of the varied guesses students make.

“This year, we’ve been wrong 1.5 out of about 25 predictions,” Tsironis said. “The .5 is because I called for a delay, which ended up happening, but was then changed to a full day off.”

Adding to the challenge is the feedback he receives from students and teachers, whom he always cautions to prepare for a full day regardless of his predictions.

“It’s easy to make a call when you’re talking to a friend, because if you’re wrong, nobody remembers,” Tsironis said. “With MoCoSnow, not only does everyone remember, but they let me hear about it immediately.”

Accuracy aside, the now-iconic pencil predictions which over 10,000 combined Facebook and Twitter followers view on their computer screens on snowy days had humble beginnings.

According to Tsironis, MoCoSnow evolved from a paper posted on the bulletin board of Montgomery Village Middle School to the blog it is today.

“It started back in 2007 at Montgomery Village Middle School when I posted my prediction on a bulletin board for a couple of my students that were interested,” Tsironis said. “Eventually it became a Google blog in 2011 and grew from there.”

While the predictions’ accuracy remains fairly consistent, the format of MoCoSnow has changed several times and will change again.

According to Tsironis, an app which will offer “a lot more specific” predictions is in development and will be released next year.

And for those wondering what will happen to MoCoSnow during the warmer months, Tsironis promises something entirely different with a familiar name.

“The last 4 years have been fairly busy in the winter, but pretty dead during the other seasons, so we’ve created The MoCoShow,” Tsironis said. “It’s a podcast that will be coming out in March about all things MoCo: places to eat, things to do… We’re going to try to have something for everyone, from students to teachers to parents.”

For now, however, the part-time meteorologist will enjoy the newfound popularity. No matter how successful his predictions have been recently, Tsironis makes no guarantees.

“Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen—even I do, so I try my best to give the most accurate prediction,” Tsironis said. “Ultimately, they are just predictions. No matter what the prediction may be, everyone should always prepare for a full day.”