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Archive for Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Schools, legislature close as Lawrence prepares for season’s biggest snowstorm

February 4, 2014

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Lawrence street updates

The city will update its website, lawrenceks.org/snow, with information on snow crews' progress during the storm. The site will show current conditions at numerous traffic signals around town and where snow plows are located.

Set trash out tonight

Solid waste crews will start picking up trash earlier than usual on Tuesday morning and residents with Tuesday collection should set their trash cans out on Monday evening. If a trash pickup is missed during the early collection on Tuesday, call 785-832-3032.

While much of the country has been besieged by punishing snowstorms this winter, Lawrence has been largely snow-free.

Until now.

The worst snowstorm of the season is due to reach Lawrence early Tuesday morning. A National Weather Service winter weather warning is in effect in the area through 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Lawrence public schools and many others will be closed, the state is advising no non-essential travel and residents are stocking up on milk, movies and shovels in anticipation of up to 10 inches of snow — and potentially more in spots.

Shawn Byrne, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Topeka, said that this week's storm is likely to be the worst of the winter thus far. "Provided we get the amounts we're calling for, this would be biggest storm this season, at least for Topeka and Lawrence," he said.

Kris Sanders, another NWS meteorologist, said Monday night snow accumulation should reach eight to 10 inches in the Lawrence area. Byrne said the storm should be most intense, with snow falling at a rate of about 1.5 inches an hour, mid-morning and late afternoon Tuesday. That's also the time the wind is expected to pick up, with gusts of about 25 miles per hour causing blowing and snowdrifts. Byrne expects the storm to taper off sometime Tuesday evening and end by Wednesday morning, with the winds likely to continue through Wednesday evening. This will translate to low visibility on area roads for much of the week.

Gov. Sam Brownback ordered state offices in the Topeka area to close Tuesday, prompting House and Senate leaders to cancel legislative business.

Brownback said he's closing state offices in Shawnee County to keep roads as clear as possible of traffic once the storm hits.

Much of Lawrence was in preparation mode Monday. Road crews pre-treated roads and made sure their plows were ready. Schools and other public buildings decided whether they'd stay open or close. Residents bought groceries and snow removal equipment.

"From early this morning, it's been pretty busy," said Mike Smith, store director at Checkers Foods, 2300 Louisiana St., where customers stocked up on items such as canned food, beans, tomatoes and eggs. Hy-Vee, 4000 W. Sixth St., saw an influx of business, with customers grabbing the "staples" such as bread, milk, meat and produce, according to store director Andy Sutton.

Local hardware stores also saw an uptick in business Monday, as residents did some last-minute shopping for ice melt and snow shovels.

"I'd say it's been about twice as busy as normal," said Paul Groundwater, manager at Westlake Ace Hardware, 711 W. 23rd St., which also sold lots of hand warmers and tube sand to weigh down vehicles.

Cottin's Hardware & Rental, 1832 Massachusetts St., sold so much ice melt Monday that it ran out, which isn't out of the ordinary for Lawrence and elsewhere this year, as the nation faces a shortage of the product due to the brutal winter. The Lawrence hardware store was otherwise busy Monday, with top sellers including ice scrapers, shovels and sleds.

"Typically in Lawrence most people wait until the snow actually hits before they break down and actually buy the stuff," said store owner Linda Cottin. "But the whole country has been getting hit so hard for so long that people are fairly certain the storm is going to happen this time."

Lawrencians even stocked up on reading materials and movies ahead of the inclement weather. Darla Sieg, circulation assistant at the Lawrence Public Library, 700 New Hampshire St., said the circulation desk was a little busier than usual Monday, with many patrons commenting that they needed something to read or watch while being stuck inside this week.

In Lawrence, city crews plowed over the weekend and pre-treated roads ahead of Tuesday's storm. They planned to focus on first clearing major roads Tuesday. “Once the snow has stopped falling, our crews shift efforts to cleanup and plowing snow in residential areas," said Assistant Public Works Director Mark Thiel.

Crews with the Kansas Turnpike Authority also pretreated roads Monday to keep ice from freezing to the concrete. KTA advises motorists to be cautious on the road, particularly when driving around plows. "With snow flying around, it's hard for snow plow operators to see, and even harder when people drive past them," said KTA spokeswoman Jeri Biehler. "It's not uncommon for our trucks and plows to be hit by people trying to zip around them."

Five car lengths is a good distance to keep in mind during snowy conditions, Biehler added. She also recommends that drivers beware of their surroundings so they know where they are in case their vehicles get into an accident or break down. Transportation authorities also caution drivers to keep their gas tanks and washer fluid full, make sure their tires are properly inflated, and carry an emergency kit with a cell phone, snacks and blanket.

People who venture out to shovel snow are also advised to be cautious. “Cold weather and the lack of physical activity most of us see in the winter months can put a much greater strain on you quicker,” noted Brian Weiford, a cardiologist at Kansas University Hospital, so Kansans, the elderly and sick in particular, should be careful when they shovel Tuesday to avoid getting a heart attack.

The city will update its website, http://www.lawrenceks.org/snow, with information on snow crews' progress during the storm, Gilliland said. The site will show current conditions at numerous traffic signals around town and where snow plows are located.

Solid waste crews will start picking up trash earlier than usual on Tuesday morning and residents with Tuesday collection should set their trash cans out on Monday evening, Gilliland said. The goal is to get crews off the roads as quickly as possible so they are not out when street crews are trying to plow. If a trash pickup is missed during the early collection on Tuesday, call 785-832-3032.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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