Freezing rain and sleet that pelted Lawrence and surrounding areas overnight forced a number of school closings and kept road crews on the move, spreading salt and sand throughout the county.
With sleet and snow continuing this morning, Lawrence public schools and St. John's School canceled classes for the first time this winter, joining Baldwin, DeSoto, Eudora, Perry-Lecompton and Wellsville. As the storm moved north this morning, school officials in Basehor-Linwood, McLouth, Oskaloosa and Tonganoxie said students might be released early if road conditions worsened.
George Williams, Lawrence public works director, said this morning that the road salt supply was running low and workers had to decrease the amount of salt mixed in with the sand. "This is the worst kind of weather," he said. "We use much more on a storm like this than we would on snow."
DESPITE THE salt shortage, Williams said road crews are working around the clock to keep ahead of potential problems. "We've gotten most of the major streets treated and I think things are moving pretty good," he said.
Frank Hempen, Douglas County public works director, said the county salt supply was holding up, but the department also has decreased the salt to sand ratio to conserve resources.
He had planned to decide this afternoon whether to keep road crews out through the night.
"Driving conditions are not excellent," he said. "Folks should not travel unless they have to and should take extra time and extra care. Everything is coated with ice right now."
A dispatcher from the Kansas Turnpike Authority said the turnpike Lawrence to the Oklahoma border had been closed early this morning to tractor-trailer rigs pulling multiple trailers. The turnpike later was reopened to all traffic, but a dispatcher said the road remained icy today.
Traffic problems were rare in Lawrence and Douglas County Wednesday and early today. Neither the police department nor sheriff's department reported any injury accidents, and only a handful of non-injury accidents were reported.
LOCAL UTILITY officials also reported no problems this morning from the freezing rain. Steve Johnson, manager of KPL Gas Service, said that, as of this morning, no ice had accumulated on overhead wires.
Phillip Bills, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Topeka, said the main band of precipitation passed through Lawrence this morning and now is moving north. Freezing drizzle was predicted through the rest of the day with a 50 percent chance of more of the same until midnight.
The low tonight is expected to fall to around 20 and Friday's high is expected to reach the low 30s.
Some relief is expected over the weekend, when little or no precipitation is expected across Kansas. A warming trend is forecast through the period with highs in the upper 20s to low 30s Saturday and in the mid-30s to mid-40s Sunday and Monday. Lows are expected to be 10 to 20 Saturday and Sunday, warming into the 20s by Monday.