Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Commuters must balance safety, work

November 30, 2006

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Weather update

By 6News meteorologist Jennifer Schack. Enlarge video

Joe Blubaugh's lucky. He has a five-minute drive from work.

But he knows that dozens of his co-workers at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in Topeka - including his boss, KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby - drive in every day from Lawrence, and such commuters face more challenges as weather conditions turn grim.

For the record, the state agency will be closed if the governor says so. Otherwise, commuting employees have three options: show up for work as usual, take a vacation day if necessary or opt for an unpaid day off to avoid treacherous road conditions.

Employees' health and safety, as always, remain paramount. "Obviously, if an employee chooses to stay home because of the weather, that's their option," said Blubaugh, spokesman for KDHE. "We don't want anybody driving in conditions that make them uncomfortable or unsafe in any manner.

"It's not anything that will be held against them, by any means."

Such decisions will be on the minds of plenty of people this morning as they awaken to continued wintry conditions, which started dropping ice on area roads Wednesday morning.

Nearly 10,000 Douglas County residents leave the county for work, according to the U.S. Census, and Bill Ahrens figures that number is low.

Ahrens, transportation planner for the city of Lawrence, is a commuter himself, making the 40-minute trip each day from his Fairway home to City Hall. He usually takes Kansas Highway 10, but often opts for the Kansas Turnpike when snow and ice are involved.

"The KTA is usually faster" to clear traffic lanes, he said.

This morning, Ahrens will check road conditions at the Kansas Department of Transportation's Web sites - www.ksdot.org or www.kanroad.org - before deciding whether to report for work. If he goes, his day will begin with travel to Topeka for a long-range planning meeting.

If not, he'll be calling his boss and missing work for weather-related reasons for only the second time in his five years at City Hall.

Too bad for Ahrens that the storms came this week. Next Friday will be his last day in Lawrence, as he's taken a job with the city of Olathe that will cut his commute - in normal weather conditions - to 15 minutes.

"It's just the way the timing worked out," he said.

Winter car kit

The Kansas Highway Patrol recommends keeping a survival kit in your car for winter driving conditions. It should include:

¢ An ice scraper and shovel

¢ Jumper cables

¢ Flashlights

¢ Sand or kitty litter for traction

¢ Extra clothing or blankets

¢ Nonperishable food

¢ A first-aid kit

¢ Matches and candles or flares

¢ A tow rope or chain

Comments

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 7 months ago

i bet there are more people that leave lawrence for work.!!

You have two of the commissioners work in Topeka!!

Richard Heckler 8 years, 7 months ago

The number of commuters has been estimated at 12000-15000.

Janet Lowther 8 years, 7 months ago

Only 10,000 out of county commuters? That has to be a severe underestimate. I'd still think it was low if they said 15,000. . . 20,000 I'd believe 'em. . .

Lawrence has been a horrible job market for decades: To get a job here, you have to be twice as qualified to get half the job compared to KC or Topeka. . .

hipper_than_hip 8 years, 7 months ago

It's not so much of being twice as qualified, it's more like being willing to work for half as much.

Emily Hadley 8 years, 7 months ago

Plus you hate to move out of Lawrence, regardless of where you work. How many people have you known to relocate for work, only to miss living in Lawrence and return? I think I got instantly depressed living in Johnson County.

Lawrence is such a cozy little town... I can just see strangers meeting over cocoa somewhere downtown today.

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