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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Officials, schools bracing for winter storm

  • According to the National Weather Service’s office in Pleasant Hill, Mo., Leavenworth County is on the line for a winter storm that could drop as much as a foot of snow on some parts of the Midwest.
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  • According to the National Weather Service’s office in Pleasant Hill, Mo., Leavenworth County is on the line for a winter storm that could drop as much as a foot of snow on some parts of the Midwest.
    Mike July, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Pleasant Hill, Mo., office, said snow and ice are expected to fall beginning late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, part of a storm that he said could last here through Thursday evening. As of Tuesday afternoon, most of the area was under a winter storm watch that was scheduled to remain in effect through most of Thursday. July said snow was also expected to fall as far north as North Dakota and in Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
    “It’s going to be the biggest storm that has affected our area in the last several years,” he said.
    Leavenworth appears to be on the southern edge of a line north of which snowfall is expected to be heaviest, he said. Northern Kansas and southern Nebraska could get as much as a foot of snow, while the forecast here was for about 5 inches. But the difference between those predictions shows, July said, how easily conditions could change with the track of the storm.
    “If I’m erring on the side of anything, it would be adding to that total,” he said of the Leavenworth forecast.
    With that in mind, officials in the area were already preparing Tuesday afternoon.
    “We’re going to prep trucks this evening,” said Mike Spickelmier, director of the Leavenworth County Public Works department.
    He added that based on Tuesday’s forecast, the department was planning to bring in a crew for an overnight shift that could begin plowing the county’s roads by about 4 or 6 a.m. Thursday to clear them for rush hour traffic.
    Mike McDonald, director of public works for the city of Leavenworth, said the exact preparations will have to wait until the forecast solidifies. However, he said salt, sand and crews were at the ready in advance of the predicted storm. If it hits as predicted or harder, he said the city will likely be under a snow emergency and might need additional help to keep the streets clear.
    “The biggest challenge is there’s a lot more material,” he said, adding that the city has contractors on call in case the storm proves more than municipal crews can handle.
    In a normal year, a storm dropping 5 inches of snow wouldn’t draw much attention this far in advance, Lansing Public Works Director John Young said Tuesday afternoon. But after a full year of sustained dry weather and little snow last winter, the outlook has changed somewhat. However, he said the basics remain the same.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It really doesn’t change what we’re preparing for,” Young said. “We know at this point we’re going to have to be flexible.”
    The schools in the area were also keeping an eye on the forecast Tuesday. According to Lansing School Superintendent Randy Bagby, a number of factors can influence the district’s decision to cancel classes on a given day —  talking to NWS meteorologists, public works officials and other superintendents who experience road conditions first-hand.
    There’s a balance, he said, between wanting to get the word out on a closure in plenty of time to notify parents and staff and to be sure that the storm that closure is based on actually happens.
    “My preference is always to make the decision the night before,” if possible, Bagby said.
    According to Bagby, Lansing uses text message alerts and a centralized hub for getting information to local media outlets to get its message.
    Jake Potter, a spokesman for the Leavenworth Public Schools, said the district’s philosophy is similar. In addition to text message alerts for those who volunteer their phone numbers and the listings on area TV and radio stations, he said Leavenworth uses an automated system to reach parents and staff on either the evening before or the morning of a closure. But with new technologies, Potter said the district has been
    able to even further disseminate the message.
    “We’re also finding a unique kind of thing,” because of emerging social media networks, he said. “Probably some tomorrow we’ll get hit up, mostly by students, wondering whether we’re going to have school tomorrow... all these channels allow for almost a real-time decision to be made.”
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