Tule fog — the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s home grown safety hazard — is expected to return this winter with a vengeance after being sidelined by four years of severe drought.
Sandy loam soil that’s prevalent in and around Manteca and Lathrop is the ideal base to retain moisture that rises from the ground in the form of fog when weather conditions are right.
The fog presents a significant safety concern for school bus travel.
It is why Manteca Unified has a fog day protocol in place.
“If it drops below 200 feet visibility we don’t want buses on the road,” noted Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer.
The district’s director of transportation is up before the crack of dawn when forecasts indicate conditions exist for fog. He will make a call to keep buses off the road if visibility standards aren’t met.
If there is fog, a mass message is sent to parents along routes notifying them of a 30-minute delay. Conditions are reassessed every 30 minutes and additional delays are called if necessary. At the same time school principals and office managers are alerted by email of delays.
Messer noted fog delays are area specific given the different conditions that exist throughout the district. Fog may delay buses south of Manteca but not northeast of the city.
If fog becomes a problem by dropping below 200 feet visibility when busses are on the road, drivers pull over to safe location, turn off all lights and wait until it is safe to continue.
Manteca Unified buses are all equipped with strobe lights that drivers turn on for all fog days.
Manteca Unified was the second district to add strobe lights to buses in California back in the mid-1990s. The first was near Fresno where fog conditions can even be worse than in the South County.
Parents can also call 209.858.0800 to see if there is a delay.