City and county road crews are on alert for a malevolent Halloween night, and the public went on a buying binge today as people began bracing themselves for a wintry smorgasbord from the cold front that is gripping the area.
Craig Clark, Kansas University weather forecaster, said the county is under a winter storm watch tonight. The watch calls for freezing rain and sleet to turn to snow later tonight. The snow is expected to continue until Friday afternoon.
Clark said he was unsure how much snow accumulation to expect.
"It depends when it would start snowing," he said. "We'll probably get a decent amount."
Although no record low temperatures have been set during the cold spell, Wednesday's high of 37 degrees set a record for the "lowest high" reading for that date. The previous record was 38 degrees, set in 1925.
George Williams, city public works director, called the weather watch "a waiting game."
He said five or six trucks were loaded with salt and sand mixture to keep the city's streets passable. He said city supervisors were driving city streets this morning to check conditions.
"We're ready," Williams said. "When it gets slick, we'll start."
CITY STREETS are sanded based on a priority list, he said. First priority is given to the main thoroughfares, such as Iowa Street, Sixth Street, 23rd Street and the Kansas River bridge.
Williams said the city had an ample supply of sand and from 800 tons to 1,000 tons of salt in storage. The city recently ordered another 1,200 tons of salt, he said, because it can be more difficult to acquire than sand during the winter. Williams said the city should have enough sand and salt to see it through a snowy winter.
The city also budgets for the overtime involved in snow removal and street sanding operations, he said.
Two county supervisors checked roads at 3 a.m. today, said Dave Leuty, operations division manager. He said this morning that his crews were patrolling county roads and finishing up training with their sand trucks.
"WE'RE RIGHT on top of it," Leuty said. "If anything happens, we'll be there."
Should the wintry weather hit the county, he said, the crews would be working 24-hour shifts to clear the county roads. Leuty reminded motorists encountering sand trucks on county roads to keep their distance when coming up behind the trucks and not to pass them.
Meanwhile, people have jammed some Lawrence stores to stay ahead of the storm. Bob Weigel, manager of Dillons, 3000 W. Sixth, said people were "flocking in here." He said the store had ordered extra bread, milk and beef in anticipation of shoppers who like to stock up on food when bad weather hits.
"They're buying everything," Weigel said of his customers.
Keith Aholt, manager of Westlake Hardware, 711 W. 23rd, said the most popular winter-related item at his store was a "sand tube" used as a weight in automobile trunks to increase traction on slick streets. Other high-volume items included snow shovels and a granular product that melts ice on driveways and sidewalks, he said.
"We definitely have been busy," Aholt said.