Archive for Thursday, December 8, 2005

Drivers take brunt of storm

Snow joins bone-chilling cold

December 8, 2005


Treacherous weather pelted the Lawrence area all day and most of the night Wednesday, blanketing streets and sidewalks in about 5 inches of snow and plunging the city into a single-digit deep freeze.

Struggles with driving led to accidents all over, mainly dings and fender-benders in Lawrence, police said.

But the weather held serious consequences west of the city.

Two Emporia residents, including a 4-year-old girl, died after a two-vehicle collision about 9:50 a.m. on Interstate 35 north of Sunflower Road in Johnson County.

Norma A. Mendoza, 31, Emporia, was driving north on I-35 when she lost control of her Dodge Ram truck and crossed the median into southbound traffic. A southbound truck driven by Darrin E. Sammons, 38, Wellsville, struck Mendoza's vehicle on the passenger side.

Both Mendoza and a passenger, 4-year-old Desirae Mendoza, were killed. Desirae Mendoza was not wearing a safety restraint, according to a Kansas Highway Patrol report.

Sammons was taken to Overland Park Regional Medical Center. His condition was not immediately available.

The accident was the only fatal wreck reported in the area, although Lawrence Police said that the department was called to 60 wrecks in Douglas County, the majority of which were in Lawrence.

Two people were also admitted to Lawrence Memorial Hospital with weather-related injuries: one from a fall, the other from a sledding accident, the hospital said.

In Lawrence, police Sgt. Jim Haller was out on patrol during the day Wednesday, watching the dozens of minor bumps and dings between cars skidding on snowy streets.

"It's just been bad all over town today," Haller said. "Just a lot of minor accidents, nothing major."

Douglas County roads also were snowpacked and slick late Wednesday night, county engineer and Public Works director Keith Browning said.

County road maintenance crews were to work through the night salting and plowing the roads. It was a process that began at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

"They (the roads) are in as good a shape as can be expected," Browning said.

Haller said that sand trucks were out in force in Lawrence, although a quick drive around town in the early afternoon turned up many untouched, slushy roadways.

But the trucks were in action, street department manager Tom Orzulak said Wednesday afternoon.

Clear the sidewalks

According to city code, homeowners must have the city-owned sidewalks in front of their homes cleared of all snow and ice 24 hours after the snowfall stops. If a resident can't remove the snow, the city requires them to put sand along the sidewalk within a day after a snow storm.

If the snow isn't moved or covered and the city receives a complaint, it can issue a violation notice and charge the property owner $20 a day until they shovel or sand the sidewalk.

Orzulak was up at 5:30 a.m., readying a crew of 17 to hop in trucks and lay down sand and salt.

Sand, mainly. When temperatures are this cold - Wednesday's high was only 13 degrees - salt is not as effective, he said.

Even with a readied crew, reaching every street in Lawrence still takes about 10 hours, Orzulak said. And that's just the road treatments. After that, plowing the snow off city streets could take three days, with wider roads needing five trucks plowing at once to clear.

"We're at the point when we have to start," Orzulak said about the plowing process.

Until then, don't plan on roads being great. And, Orzulak said, as the city expands outward, a cash-strapped Public Works Department could take even longer to clear outlying roads.

"Each year it gets a little bit harder," Orzulak said.

Soon, the city will need to spring for additional trucks to maintain the same level of services, Orzulak said. Treating the roads quickly can help prevent potentially fatal wrecks.

But, sand truck or not, snowy, slick weather triggers an annual tradition: drivers re-acquainting themselves with countersteering, feathering the gas and tapping the brakes.

"First snow of the season," police Sgt. Haller said. "People just need to be careful out there."

Staff writer Mike Belt contributed to this report.


kansasnative 12 years, 6 months ago

Drive around Lawrence ANY morning - afternoon - evening - rain, snow, shine or whatever. Kids, Babies, Toddlers are on laps, running around the backseats, hanging out the windows etc.....I'm surprised there haven't been MORE children killed because of no restraints. Also, the amount of children left in cars at convenience stores, daycares, schools, post office alarming. It is a SCARY world out there...I guess they think the laws or just having their child be safe don't apply to them. Until something bad happens to them. I've seen people that drive EXPENSIVE cars down to the roughed up Gremlins that don't buckle their kids or leave them in cars alone. Get their tag numbers and CALL THE POLICE!

kidster 12 years, 6 months ago

Just to be THAT practice is for kids 4-8 to be in a booster seat to ensure that the seat belt fits properly. Kansas is one of a only few states that does not require booster seats. Most parents want to do the right thing and just need the right information.

enochville 12 years, 6 months ago

I wish it were just that parents needed the right information. Education is a part of behavior change, but as is evidenced by speeding violations, knowing the law is often not enough. It often is only the fear of being caught by police that gets some people to obey the law.

Please drivers, keep our children safe and slow down when driving through snow and ice.

breeze 12 years, 6 months ago

Something I never understood about Lawrence: the city claims the sidewalks are "their" property, yet they don't replace or repair them when they are damaged and they don't clear them when it snows or ices. It seems the only responsiblity they take for "their" sidewalks is when the poor homeowner doesn't maintain them to the city's liking so they slap a ticket on the homeowner. Where is any sense of justice with that?

For all the talk of Lawrence being a progressive town, there are some regressive ways of doing business--like the heavy patrolling of parking meters downtown! It takes a poor city to be so concerned about ticketing every car which overstays its paid stay by even a minute or two.

carlwhoishot 12 years, 6 months ago

Just to play devils advocate... in this situation a seat belt would have done little to help. The fact that the driver also died from an impact on the passenger side says the collision was violent enough that the truck they were driving was probably demolished. While a seat belt will keep you in a car during a rollover, it will not keep you from being crushed.

del888 12 years, 6 months ago

Dear editor:

"But the weather held serious consequences west of the city."

Didn't the 2 accidents mentioned occur in Johnson County? Isn't the EAST of Lawrence?

cowboy 12 years, 6 months ago

A day after the storm the downtown streets are a mess , none of the side streets are plowed , last night at rush hour there was not a single plow on 23rd , no wonder there were so many wrecks , DUH , get out of Lawrence and the county roads are clear and taken care of. Lawrence needs to quit quoting in the paper and find the business end of a snow plow !

Glo 12 years, 6 months ago

I had an appointment downtown today (afternoon) and was surprised to find that no attempt had been made to clear the streets. There was a significant amount of snow, it seems like cleaning Mass. St. might have been a priority. If city officials are going to insist that homeowners clean their sidewalks, maybe they should set an example by cleaning the streets.

Glo 12 years, 6 months ago

I was on the 900 block of Mass., at 2:00 p.m. New Hampshire had not been cleared, neither had 19th Street. I have no reason to "fabricate" this info. Were you in the downtown area?

Glo 12 years, 6 months ago

I stand by my observation. There were no indicators of a snow plow, etc. I talked to someone who worked on Mass Street and she even said it hadn't been done. Apparently, I struck a nerve and I apologize for this, but stand by my observation. I do not expect the streets to be snow free, but neither do I expect to find them in the condition they were in. Do you work for the street department?

Glo 12 years, 6 months ago

Goes to work at 9:00. Interestingly enough, just had a conversation with another friend about snow removal downtown. He said they can't plow streets in downtown commercial area because there is no place to put snow unless they remove it on trucks. This makes sense, or else snow would be blocking parking and sidewalks.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.