The first snowflake had not even fallen in Leavenworth County as of Wednesday afternoon, but officials were bracing and preparing for the weather as what is being called the worst winter storm in a year was forecast to hit Leavenworth worse than expected even a day before.
In about 12 hours, the expectations for sleet and snowfall that were forecast to begin early Thursday morning and continue through the evening increased, with the National Weather Service’s office in Pleasant Hill, Mo., saying between 6 and 10 inches of snow were possible during the day Thursday and another 2 inches before the storm is likely to abate Thursday night. At times, snow could be falling as fast as an inch per hour.
The NWS also changed its warning for Leavenworth County from a winter storm watch to a winter storm warning, which took effect at midnight Thursday morning and will last through 6 a.m. Friday.
With that news, and the NWS’s 100 percent chance of some winter accumulation, a host of public agencies announced their plans for snow operations and urged those who do attempt travel to be cautious.
Leavenworth and Lansing, along with other cities and the county’s government, announced snow operations plans and the Kansas Department of Transportation activated its emergency operations center, which will be staffed 24 hours a day until further notice.
Officials in both Leavenworth and Lansing urged those along emergency snow routes to move their vehicles off the routes to facilitate plowing.
“We’re expecting a snow fall of 12 inches or more before it ends Friday,” said City Manager J. Scott Miller. “It’s imperative that vehicles along snow routes be removed.”
The city of Lansing reminded residents that vehicles parked on emergency snow routes when operations begin are subject to towing. Residents were also reminded to clear their sidewalks of ice and snow within 24 hours. Trash collection in Lansing, scheduled for Thursday, was delayed until Friday. Officials from the city’s solid waste contractor, Deffenbaugh Industries, cited potentially dangerous conditions for the decision.
According to Leavenworth County Administrator Pat Hurley, the county planned to close all county offices, save for essential functions like the sheriff’s office, emergency medical services, public works and emergency management.
When it comes to residents driving in snowy conditions such as those predicted for today, local law enforcement officials recommend that people stay off the roads.
“The best suggestion obviously is to stay in,” said Maj. Jeff Dedeke, chief deputy for the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office.
For people who have to drive today, Leavenworth Deputy Police Chief Dan Nicodemus recommended allowing for what he called a proper warm-up of vehicles to make sure defroster systems are working. He said people need to properly clear off their car windows before driving.
He said drivers can be cited for having obstructed windshields.
“You’ll want to allow more time to get to the destination,” he said.
He also suggested planning routes to avoid hills if possible.
Nicodemus said it’s also important to maintain greater following distances than usual.
He said speed limits are set for ideal conditions. Traveling at a 30 mph
speed limit is appropriate for dry, clean roadways. But he said it is not appropriate for roads that are packed with ice or snow.
Dedeke said it’s important to be aware of where everyone is on the roadway and that they may not be able to stop or slow down.
Dedeke also offered tips such as using headlights to make it easier to be seen by other drivers, keeping cell phones fully charged and keeping blankets, snacks and water in vehicles when traveling in inclement weather. He also recommended keeping a bag of cat litter or ice melt in a car along with a shovel to use if the vehicle becomes stuck.
Nicodemus recommended pre-clearing vehicles from the emergency routes as soon as the snow starts falling instead of waiting for the emergency to be declared.
He also suggested that residents remove parked vehicles from streets that aren’t designated as emergency snow routes because this will make snow clearing operations easier for crews. He said this also will
make the snow removal process go quicker.
Nicodemus said officials anticipated that the Leavenworth Police Department at some point will transition to “walk-in” reports during the winter storm.
He said this means drivers involved in accidents will be asked to exchange information and wait to report the accidents to police until the roads are safer. He said this won’t apply to accidents involving injuries or impaired drivers.
If the Leavenworth Police Department implements the “walk-in” report system, information will be posted the department’s Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as the city’s government access channel. He said dispatchers also will notify people who call 911 to report accidents.