Officials around the county and the state were preparing for what was expected Wednesday to be the first significant snowfall in almost a year.
The western portion of Kansas was expected to have the heaviest snowfall and strongest wind gusts from a system that was to move in to the area with rain Wednesday night and turn into snow and sleet between midnight and 3 a.m. Thursday morning. According to the National Weather Service, the chance for precipitation in Leavenworth County on Wednesday was 100 percent, with between one and three inches of snow to fall as a result of the storm that was to last through Thursday morning.
Moving in from the west, the storm brought Interstate 70 to a close in Goodland, Kan., on Wednesday afternoon, the Kansas Department of Transportation reported.
Being the first significant snowfall of this winter season, Kansas Highway Patrol officials were anticipating a higher than usual number of accidents, and offered tips to motorists, like the importance of having an emergency kit with blankets, water, a flashlight and first-aid supplies; having a full tank of gas; and allowing oneself more than enough time to get to a destination. KDOT reminded motorists of its free 511 phone number alerting drivers on road conditions and announced that drivers could sign up for personalized text or email messages on road conditions by subscribing at www.kandrive.org.
Area public works crews were also getting prepared. They’ve had plenty of time and have ample resources on hand, according to Leavenworth Public Works Director Mike McDonald.
“We hardly used anything last year,” he said of salt and chemical supplies due to the dry conditions last winter. “This will be the biggest storm of 2012, we think.”
Last winter, Leavenworth County Public Works Director Mike Spickelmier said his department also used little of its salt and chemical supply, meaning that the salt storage units needed little in the way of resupply.
“We’re all full and we’re prepared for the storm,” he said.
Though to what extent they are prepared depends somewhat on the nature of the storm, officials said. Lansing Public Works Director John Young said perhaps one of the biggest challenges will be shifting from the other paving work that the department has been able to do as a result of continued dry conditions.
And Young said, the forecasts call for high-speed wind gusts in addition to the snowfall.
“We may see a little bit of drifting. That would probably be the main issue with this storm,” he said. “It’s going to get nasty.”
But given the advance notice of the storm — forecasts were calling for snowfall as far back as last Thursday — McDonald said the city started preparing beforehand by getting plows fitted with spreaders Tuesday, reviewing the routes with crews and giving newer members of the department some practice.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’re kind of preparing for two to three inches,” he said.
McDonald said Public Works will take the primary role in clearing the streets. However, he said personnel from the Parks and Recreation and Wastewater departments have also been trained on the snow plowing equipment and will be on call to take a portion of the work, if needed.
The first shifts were scheduled to be called in that night to pretreat roads if conditions allow, McDonald said. Until the system actually moves in, he said, crews would be waiting.