Wichita Kansas transportation officials say the state is better prepared to deal with harsh winter weather than it was a year ago, but road crews still could be stretched thin in some areas.
The Wichita Eagle reports that an increased demand for salt, a shortage of staff and high diesel prices caused the state to do the bare minimum in cleaning icy and snowy roads last year.
But Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hein said given the budget crunch the state has been facing the past couple of years, transportation crews are as ready as they can be for winter.
"We are not going to be able to do it as comprehensively as we used to," Hein said. "It will require a wise use of the resources. But we're not going to be out there as bare-bones as we were last year."
This season, storage bins are full of salt and sand and the trucks have been prepared for duty. That's good news for travelers, although Hein acknowledges there still could be a shortage of truck drivers.
"We certainly don't have full crews on deck for winter this year," he said. "We've got 24 trucks in the (Wichita) metro area, and that means we may not have a person in every truck. There may be trucks sitting idle because we simply don't have enough people.
"We'd like to be out there in full force, but obviously we won't be able to have a person in every truck at all times during the storm."
Maintenance crews will be treating highways and streets with brine on Fridays in case wintery weather moves in during weekends, Hein said. On weekday mornings, crews dubbed the "frost patrol" check elevated surfaces before the morning commute and spray brine if there's a danger of the roads icing over.
"They're kind of watchdogs," Hein said. "They know which bridges tend to be the troublesome ones. They'll get out there and treat them before the morning rush."