Snow storm hits Lawrence
The predicted snow hit Lawrence Thursday morning leaving several inches on the ground before noon, with more on the way.
Winter weather information
The Kansas Department of Emergency Management provided these tips to stay safe during the storm:
• Prepare an emergency home preparedness kit with food, water and other essentials, such as medication.
• If your power goes out, and must use a gasoline generator, keep the generator outside and away from your home.
• Drive only if necessary and have a winter kit ready, which should include ice scrapers, blankets, flashlights, jumper cables, a tow rope and matches.
Still digging out from a quick 8-10 inches of snow that fell this morning, Lawrence is in for still more wintry precipitation tonight.
The National Weather Service is forecasting another 1-3 inches of snow before midnight, along with freezing drizzle and icy temperatures that will keep roads and sidewalks slick through Friday.
The frozen weather isn't expected to break until Sunday, when temperatures are forecast to rise into the low 40s—though there's more wintry mix in Monday's forecast.
Local school systems and other organizations, including Lawrence public schools and Kansas University, wasted no time calling off Friday's classes and activities, after a snow day today. The city's Final Fridays event was also canceled.
City and county road crews were out in full force trying to get streets cleared. City crews, after pre-treating roads Wednesday into Thursday, began plowing city streets around noon, said Megan Gilliland, the city's communications manager. Crews will start with primary and secondary roads, and plan on starting on residential neighborhoods after midnight.
Lawrence resident Susan Thomas, who took advantage of the break in the storm at midday to do some shopping at The Merc, 901 Iowa St., said the major roads she had been on so far had been plowed, but side streets still looked treacherous. “If we didn’t have a four-wheel drive, we wouldn’t even think of trying it,” she said.
Thomas said she wanted to get some water, some eggs and some snacks from her family. “I have kids at home, so hopefully we’ll do some sledding and make some cookies,” she said.
Sledding — and perhaps a bit of shoveling — was on the minds of customers at Cottin's Hardware and Rental, 1832 Massachusetts St. Cody Stratton, an employee at the store, said a steady stream of customers came to the store during the storm. He said the hardware store fortunately had received a fresh shipment of winter supplies earlier in the day.
Stratton said it seemed people perhaps had playing more than working on their minds at the moment.
"If anything, we may run out of sleds," Stratton said. "People are coming in for a lot of them. But we have a lot of snow shovels and ice melt."
Several businesses remained open in Lawrence despite the snowfall, and a few brave souls were frequenting them.
“We’ve maybe had 20 people this morning,” said Zac Hamlin, front end customer service manager for The Merc. “This is as definitely as slow as I have seen it.”
Hamilin said he used his Jeep to take several employees from The Merc to their homes around 9 a.m. He said it did not take long for conditions to deteriorate.
“At 9 a.m. there were still quite a few people out,” said Hamlin, who said he’s lucky to live essentially across the street from The Merc. “By 10 a.m., most people had decided it was foolishness.”
Hamlin said people who are thinking of coming to The Merc may want to call first. The store is staying open on an hour-to-hour basis at this point.
One place where there’s no such thing as a “snow day” is Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where doctors, nurses and others who provide care can’t exactly work from home.
On days like Thursday, folks at the hospital band together to make sure they can get to work, said Janice Early, the hospital’s director of community relations.
One nurse with a four-wheel-drive vehicle volunteered to pick up any of her coworkers who couldn’t get themselves to the hospital or back home, Early said.
“We’re kind of more like a family, and people look out for each other,” Early said.
All the hospital’s non-essential services closed by noon Thursday, Early said, but all regularly scheduled doctors and nurses are there to offer all essential services. All physicians’ practices affiliated with the hospital, though, are closed.
As of about noon there were about 90 patients in the hospital, Early said. If they’re due to be discharged but can’t make it home, they’ll be able to stay longer.
That goes for the staff, too: If they fear heading out on the roads, they can simply sleep at the hospital. Some staff already did so Wednesday night.
“We have beds you can sleep in,” Early said. “We have a cafeteria to make food.”
Only nine patients had come into the emergency room by about noon Thursday, Early said, though the pace was picking up as the snow paused at mid-day.
“It’s just a matter of being able to get there,” Early said, but the community can be assured that the hospital is ready to provide any care they might need.
Heavy snow began falling in Lawrence just after 7 a.m. Thursday. As of 10 a.m., snowfall estimates in Lawrence were more than nine inches in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. The storm even featured a rare weather phenomenon known as thundersnow — a combination of snow and thunder — that boomed around Lawrence about 6:30 a.m.
Total snow accumulation could reach up to 12 inches, but the storm should pass by midnight, according to the NWS.
Lawrence roads have been snowpacked all day, as are major highways and other roads in the state, including Interstate 70 and Kansas Highway 10.
Westbound lanes of I-70 — between Hays and Salina — were closed because of the high number of accidents. And at 3 p.m., the Kansas Department of Transportation closed the eastbound lanes of I-70 between Colby and Salina.
Locally, the road over the Clinton Lake Dam was closed to traffic for several hours on Thursday.
And Douglas County emergency dispatchers have been sending out medical and law enforcement personnel to numerous traffic and motorist assist calls, but there don't appear to be any initial reports of serious injury accidents.
"Vehicles are getting stuck right and left," said Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley.
Gov. Sam Brownback Thursday urged Kansans to stay off roads after heavy snowfall created hazardous weather conditions across the state.
"Stay home, play board games," said Brownback, who provided updates on conditions statewide. "Drink another cup of coffee."