Archive for Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cleanup continues after Lawrence hit with historic snowfall; several school districts close Thursday

Emily Barber shovels away snow from her vehicles' tires on Wednesday morning as the city digs itself out from the snow storm.

Emily Barber shovels away snow from her vehicles' tires on Wednesday morning as the city digs itself out from the snow storm.

February 5, 2014, 8:01 a.m. Updated February 5, 2014, 6:05 p.m.


Sophia Riedemann, Lawrence, has a little fun with her dog, Shiloh, as she shovels the front walkway outside her home on Wednesday morning as the city digs itself out from the snowstorm.

Sophia Riedemann, Lawrence, has a little fun with her dog, Shiloh, as she shovels the front walkway outside her home on Wednesday morning as the city digs itself out from the snowstorm.

Top five 24-hour snowfalls in Lawrence before Tuesday

  1. 20 inches in 1912
  2. 15 inches in 1900
  3. 14 inches in 1878
  4. 12 inches in 1930
  5. 11 inches in 1942

Source: National Weather Service data from Kansas University

A day after one of the worst winter storms in the city's history, Lawrence continues to dig out of the snow. With bitter cold weather predicted into tomorrow morning, many area school districts, including Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin City, have canceled Thursday classes.

The National Weather Service in Topeka predicts near-record lows overnight of about minus 7 degrees, with winds 5 to 10 mph and wind chill readings as cold as 17 below. The high on Thursday is expected to be about 9 degrees.

Schools, Kansas University and local governments were closed for a second consecutive day while city snow plow operators worked first to clear major roads, then residential streets.

Thursday, Lawrence's city hall, parks and recreational facilities, buses and trash collection services are scheduled to operate as usual. The state Legislature and state offices will also reopen Thursday. Gov. Sam Brownback scheduled a Thursday morning briefing on the storm.

The Lawrence area ended up getting the brunt of Tuesday’s storm, with snow accumulation as high as 14 inches. That number would tie for the third-largest 24-hour snowfall in Lawrence history, according to readings taken at Kansas University.

“I think it’s a safe bet to say this is a top-five storm for Lawrence, all-time,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Omitt. He noted that the Interstate 70 corridor, from Abilene through Lawrence and into Kansas City, took the worst of this week’s storm, with that region accumulating 12 to 14 inches.

In a news release, the city of Lawrence reported all major roadways in Lawrence are clear as of Wednesday evening. Crews are set to work overnight to clear residential roads, with the goal of clearing the majority by Thursday morning.

Mark Thiel, assistant director of public works, expects that every street in Lawrence will have been plowed at least once by noon Thursday. Crews will begin work at midnight Thursday to remove the snow currently piled in the middle of downtown streets.

According to a road condition map from the Kansas Department of Transportation on Wednesday evening, several highways in the Lawrence area remain partially or completely snowpacked, including Kansas highways 10 and 32 and U.S. highways 24, 56 and 59.

The city is already preparing for what it expects is another snowstorm that will begin Friday night. The forecast the city has received is a 40 percent chance of 1 inch to 3 inches of snow beginning Friday night into Saturday morning.

"Because of the timing of this event, we'll move right into equipment repairs and getting some guys some sleep so they are ready to go on Friday night," Thiel said.

Thiel said he is pleased with how snow removal operations are progressing.

"It just takes time to get that amount of snow off the streets," Thiel said.

Don’t expect the snow to melt soon. Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for at least the next seven days. There’s also a chance of more snow falling on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday. “Winter’s here to stay,” Omitt said.

No major auto accidents have been reported during the snow. As of 8:30 p.m., AAA Kansas reported it had received 850 calls for service statewide since the storm began, 49 of them from the Lawrence area. About a third of calls were from motorists stuck in snow.

Laurie Powell, a Lawrence Police Department spokesperson, said at least one car accident was attributable to road conditions Wednesday, although no injuries were involved.

One positive from the harsh storm is that it brought the region some much-needed moisture, with the snow delivering an estimated inch of liquid.

“We were getting pretty dry,” said Eudora farmer Danny Abel. “Any moisture is going to help the spring crops.”

The snow also provides cover for winter wheat, protecting it from extreme weather. However, much of the area wheat didn’t sprout before the first freeze, due in part to a late planting season, Abel said.

Snow day

Carlos Yañez, a post-doc at the KU Natural History Museum, went out to take pictures of a snow-covered KU campus Wednesday morning. Yañez, who is from Yucatán, Mexico, and moved to Lawrence recently, said he has seen snow only on hiking and rock-climbing trips. This was the first time he had snow in a city he lived in.

Pat Shea was out shoveling the walkway behind the Phoenix Gallery, 825 Massachusetts St., early Wednesday. His wife manages the gallery, and they live in a loft in the same building. “We moved to a loft to get out of shoveling the driveway, and here I am. I’m doing it for the business and because I live here,” Shea said.

Rowan Green, a supervisor for Lawrence Parks and Recreation, was out with his crew Wednesday morning shoveling sidewalks in front of the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St. Green said parks department employees have been working in 12-hour shifts nonstop shoveling city sidewalks and parking lots while trying to stay warm.

“When temperatures are like this, we try and get in the trucks and warm up every once in a while,” he said.

The Lawrence school district will now have used four snow days this year. Julie Boyle, the district spokesperson, said the district had enough minutes in the calendar to absorb the first one, on Jan. 6. The schools then used their inclement weather make-up day to compensate for the second one, on Feb. 4.

Because Lawrence schools built in a make-up day into its calendar and is using it, the state "forgives" the district of its third snow day, Feb. 4, Boyle said.

The school board will need to decide how to make up additional lost instructional time to meet state requirements of 1,116 hours, Boyle said.

Reporters Peter Hancock, Elliot Hughes, Stephen Montemayor, Chad Lawhorn and Ben Unglesbee contributed to this story.


Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 8 months ago

It's too bad they can't haul all that snow out to the fields where it is needed.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 8 months ago

I was outside this morning with squirting aerosols with chloroflourocarbons in them, trying to get things to warm up. It didn't work.

Mike Ford 3 years, 8 months ago

you should've asked the Koch Brothers to lobby for more deregulation of the EPA so that they could pollute for you. Wait a minute....this already happens and the Kansas GOP delegation is already on board.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 8 months ago

OMG! I just now got it.! Bet I wasn't the only one. Good one Scott.

Kathleen Schweitzberger 3 years, 8 months ago

This is the worst service I have ever seen by this city as far as getting into the residential areas I am a taxpayer and I have a job I have to get to tomorrow. Quit cleaning the same streets over and over again! Hire more subcontractors! Everyone is getting stuck in our neighborhood! And let's not even discuss how our neighborhood is imprisoned by the SLT construction where Louisiana Street will become a traffic jam. But who cares other than those of us who live here and in similar small neighborhoods! Come on Lawrence, get your act together! I've cleaned my sidewalk -- how about you clean my streets?!?!

Bob Forer 3 years, 8 months ago

Kathleen, this was a record snowfall. i think the City has done a remarkably good job under the circumstances. How do you know there are more subcontractors out there waiting by their phones for a call from the city. I surmise every available subcontractor in the area has been working non-stop to fulfill their contractrural obligations to other customers. Folks are out there in miserable conditions busting their butts.

Be patient. They are doing their best under very diffiicult circumstances.

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 8 months ago

The city has a terrible snow removal plan and they seem more interested in wasting taxpayer money on frivolous purchases than they do on hiring someone to remedy the problem. At some point a person will die from the cities negligence and the city will be sued and easily lose. Record snowfall or not for the city to not even touch some streets for 48 hours is unacceptable, and this happens weather we get 2 inches for 14.

Bob Forer 3 years, 8 months ago

I disagree. Municipal snow removal is not exactly rocket science, but it does require a strategic plan, which invariably implements the following basic strategic priorities:

Priority 1: Emergency routes (main roads used for EMS, Fire and Police) as well as major high volume roads

Priority 2: Main roads.

Emergency routes and main roads require clearing curb-to-curb, leaving pavement as bare as possible.

Priority 3: Residential Streets.

This prioritization is what "the book" says. It also makes sense. And from what I have seen, this is exactly what the city is doing.

It would be nice to have fifty extra snow plows (at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars each), along with a reserve pool of trained personnel to operate them. It would be even nicer if we had the scientific know how and means to push a couple of buttons and "zap" an impending snow storm into a parallel universe.

But we live in a real world, and all we can reasonably expect is best practices with best efforts under the circumstances.

What would you complainers do differently?

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 8 months ago

The city needs to zone the city, they have 14 trucks and roughly 250 miles of roadway to plow. So let's say 2 trucks are broken so we will go with 12 trucks. You put 4 to plow the major roadways leaving 8 trucks and we will just say those 250 miles of roads, so if you break the city into 4 zones and give each zone two trucks then you have roughly 60 miles to each zone to plow. That means that each truck would have to plow 30 miles of roadway. Now when you know that you are going to have a large snowfall like this last one you need to get the trucks out as soon as possible, it is easier to keep the snow from piling up on the road then to let them sit until you have 14 inches of snow on them. It does not help the city to keep the main roads clear if people can not get to them. As you said not rocket science just takes thought and common sense. And I put no blame on the worker bees they are doing as they have been told, they are just forced to implame t a poor plan.

Bob Forer 3 years, 8 months ago

"It does not help the city to keep the main roads clear if people can not get to them."

Conversely, it doesn't make sense to clear residential streets when major roads with the majority of traffic are snow packed and and dangerous.

I suggest you goggle "muncipal snow removal plan." You'll find literally thousands of municipal websites from across the country, all of which I suspect implement the same basic strategy as outlined above. There is a reason for that, which should be patently obvious.

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 8 months ago

I have lived in a few other cities in Kansas as well as Ohio, PA, and Missouri I can assure you that other cities do not completely ignore their residents as this city does.

Lee Saylor 3 years, 8 months ago

Wow, this city does not ignore its residents. As someone who lives on a tertiary street, I understand how it works. We are not ignored. Lawrence residents complain about not being first in line, but complain about what it costs to be in line. I have lived in the Northwest, and in the Northeast (upstate New York, for those of you keeping track) and have never seen such a whining bunch.

Rae Hudspeth 3 years, 8 months ago

The smart people are staying off the streets so that they can get cleared. All those stuck cars are going to mean your street gets bypassed for snow removal until the plows can safely pass. You're an Academic Librarian, I'm sure that UMKC can handle a day or two without you.

Have a cuppa tea, enjoy the snow day, chill out. It sounds like you need a day to relax a bit.

Zak Bolick 3 years, 8 months ago

I, personally give the city a high five for the long hours, hard work, and good job that they have done cleaning the streets. Judging from the four times that it took to clean my driveway, the city has things looking pretty good for as hard as it was coming down yesterday afternoon, evening, and night. They do streets by priority, which makes total sense to me. Keep up the good work Lawrence!

Melanie Birge 3 years, 8 months ago

BIG THANK YOU!!! To Lawrence Street Workers! I know it must be tough out there these past couple of days! Keep up good work! : )

Richard Ballard 3 years, 8 months ago

I was out & about this afternoon.

The city crews have done an outstanding job as far as I'm concerned.

If you got stuck in your street this morning?

Maybe you should consider getting an SUV.

Or some good snow tires at least.

This is Kansas, and it snows here almost every year.


Kathleen Schweitzberger 3 years, 8 months ago

I was born and raised here. I have seen major snowfalls. Until 2 years ago our streets did get plowed much sooner. I have been away two days on snow days fortunately. I don't appreciate having to start taking my vacation days due to the city. I was out and I am amazed at how clean the streets are for the businesses. My employer would like me at work. Not a sign of a plow anywhere. Probably on the northwest side of town. The gentrification of this town and its elitism has amazed me in the last decade. I also find it interesting that 2 blocks away is the house of the publisher of this newspaper and his street is on the high priority list. Sorry but I saw the map yesterday where the plows were ALL downtown. If that is not accurate, then the city needs to fix its map. This city has a lot of people who commute to KC and Topeka -- yes, I want clear roads to get me there safely but I also need to be able to get out of my driveway. To Rae: I don't know if you meant to insult librarians but when the classes are in session, believe it or not, the students appreciate having the librarians there to help them. Ever been in a unversity library, especially these days?

Bob Forer 3 years, 8 months ago

"I am amazed at how clean the streets are for the businesses."

I don't find that amazing at all. Most businesses are on major thoroughfares, which, based on well-accepted best practices for municipal snow removal, are the first streets to be cleared.

Bob Forer 3 years, 8 months ago

Kathleen wrote: “I was born and raised here. I have seen major snowfalls. Until 2 years ago our streets did get plowed much sooner”

You may very well be right, Kathleen, so I’ll take your assertions at face value. But may I suggest that instead of casting aspersions on the competency and integrity of Lawrence’s Public Works Department, which have been lead by Chuck Soules since 2001, you investigate other possible causations.

According to records available on the internet, from 1990 through 2013 (this doesn’t include the two most recent storms) there have been 15 snow storms in the area with total accumulation of more than six inches. Of those 15, six of them have occurred within the time frame you cite. In fact, the two highest accumulations--not counting yesterday’s storm-- of 11.0 and 9.3 inches occurred a week apart in February of last year.

Your complaint is with God. (Or perhaps all those “nutty” scientists know what they are talking about when they speak of global warming).

But please leave the good folks at Public Works alone. I think they do a fine job, as do the vast majority of Lawrencians posting here

Lee Saylor 3 years, 8 months ago

I live on the northwest side of town. I can guarantee you that since I live on a tertiary street, I did not get preferential treatment. I commute to KC. I did not get preferential treatment. Get over yourself.

Mary Ellen Hall 3 years, 8 months ago

I have maybe 50 feet to drive on my street before hitting Monterey Way - which is one of the quasi-major roads that gets taken care of first - but can I get out of my drive and onto Monterey? No. People get stuck at our corner every time it snows because of the slight incline and the extra snow piles that are plowed off Monterey. Am I mad at the city? No! It is what it is and I deal with it by either staying home or knowing that we have to shovel the street or we'll probably get stuck. The city can only do so much with what they have (plows and money) and people need to CALM DOWN!

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 8 months ago

Thank you Bob Forer for making the most consistently coherent remarks about this subject.

John Yocum 3 years, 8 months ago

Thank you city workers. We live in an established neighborhood in south central area and we were cleared early and well. City can't clean the whole town at once. This isn't the Jetsons. Priorities have to be made. In the 25+ years we've lived here, snow cleanup has never been a problem.

RJ Johnson 3 years, 8 months ago

I can't believe some of the comments on here. Believe it or not this is what happens when it snows!!!. I think the City of Lawrence has done a GREAT job at snow removal. Just in case those of you complaining don't realize it, the side residential areas are the last to get cleaned and are a low priority!! So get used to it!!

If you don't want to wait for the City to clean off your street feel free to clean it yourself! Ya, that's what I thought!

You can also buy a vehicle that is capable of driving in the snow too!

Sheila Hooper White 3 years, 8 months ago

It's very sad to see the negative comments on here. I believe the guys have done a wonderful job. They plowed our street this afternoon and we live on the Southeast side of town. The hubby got our mini van out of the driveway and down our street just fine this morning. No problems at all. These guys work their butts off!!!

Just fyi when you saw all the plows downtown, it was probably because they were hauling the snow off of Mass. My husband used to work for the street department and there were many times he would come home and tell me people would throw stuff at his truck or give him the middle finger when he plowed their road. Maybe if everyone had to do a 12 hour shift like these guys do, they wouldn't complain. It's not like removing snow from your driveway. Get off your high horse and show some respect to these hard working men and women.

Ned Wolfsosoon 3 years, 8 months ago

I must live on a street the city thinks is a private drive because the last snowfall, they didn't plow it at all. Waiting on pins and needles for the plow to come, this time.

Here's a thought, why not put a blade on the front of all the trash trucks so when they hit the street to pick up trash, they can at least knock off some of the snow in the road. It doesn't have to be a stellar job like a real plow, just enough to make the road somewhat passable.

LaVonna McAlister 3 years, 8 months ago

I think the city has done a great job! This was a lot of snow! I was out at 7:30 this morning... And I did get stuck! Why cause I tried to go down a side rode. Backed back Out took main roads... In neighborhoods and was fine! I am on an emergency route so my street always gets cleaned quickly... Or maybe I am Just Special too:) just saying!

Richard Ballard 3 years, 8 months ago

Myself? I'd just as soon they didn't plow the side streets.

Just about the time it gets packed down and very drivable?

The plows come by and throw a 2' high drift of block ice chunks and slush in my clean driveway again.

Then it freezes solid as an iceberg before I can get up and clean my driveway again, so I can get over the hump to get out to the clean street again.

Then there is the most vocal guy on our block that is always stuck, and whines the most about it.

Yes, The one driving around with the bald doughnut spair tire on his front-wheel drive car since last summer!


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