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Freezing drizzle, snow expected tonight; city crews monitor roads

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at 9:01 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at 10:13 p.m.

Snowfall amounts varied vastly – from an inch to 10 inches – across Kansas as a New Year’s Eve storm swept the state.

In Wichita, the storm kept some New Year’s revelers at home and out of harm’s way, marking a quiet Monday night for the city’s law enforcement officers. Wichita received 1.5 inches of snow by the time the storm system moved out of the city.

“The weather is keeping people indoors this year. It is nice on my end, I don’t like to see people getting into accidents,” said Sgt. Joshua Love, 911 dispatcher. The call volume was expected to pick up around midnight and as temperatures continued to fall.

No major accidents were reported as of 9:30 Monday night but there had been as many as 19 injury accidents and 49 noninjury accidents reported on Monday.

The forecast calls for chances of freezing drizzle lingering into Tuesday.

As temperatures continued falling Monday night, roads were expected to get hazardous.

“People should drive carefully with the wet roads and freezing temperatures,” said Vanessa Pearce, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.

The New Year’s Eve snowfall brought welcome moisture to much of Kansas. Russell and Saline counties reported receiving as much as 4 inches of snow; Finney County, 7½ inches and in Morton County, as much as 10 inches.

It wasn’t nearly enough, says western Kansas farmer Verlyn Willems.

Even more would be welcome.

“I always remember hearing the old-timers talk about drought and saying it was never broken in a summer,” the 63-year-old Comanche County farmer said. “If we can get some snow and continue to get snow and have that run to nice rain come spring, maybe we have a chance to working our way out of this drought. It’s all up to Mother Nature. Still, this snow helps your attitude, I think.”

Wichita city crews were continuing to treat all emergency routes and major thoroughfares.

Temperatures were expected to dip down to 21 degrees overnight and climb to 29 on Tuesday.

By the weekend, temperatures will be into the upper 40s. The next chance for snow may come early next week, Pearce said.

On Monday afternoon, the city of Wichita issued a news release stating that Wichita city crews were treating all emergency routes and major roads with a mixture of salt and sands.

The snow began about 7 a.m., but quickly moved out of the area after dumping an official 1.2 inches of snow in Wichita, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Cook.

Midday brought light drizzle and flurries that continue for the next several hours, Cook said. Temperatures remained slightly above freezing, limiting travel problems in the region.

The biggest remaining concern from the storm comes overnight, when freezing drizzle — generally south of U.S. 50 — could complicate New Year’s Eve plans.

“We could get a little bit more snow moving in,” Cook said at midday. “I wouldn’t expect anything more than 2 inches total.

“What looks like the most likely scenario, though, is freezing drizzle into the evening hours. There’s some uncertainty with that.”

Cook said he didn’t expect significant accumulating ice, or enough to make treated city and state roads particularly treacherous.

“It’s not really looking like an accumulation hazard for treated roads,” he said. “It’s the untreated roads where you could lose control of a car or the untreated sidewalks where you could fall.”

Monday morning, emergency dispatchers reported several initial slide offs near elevated roads, but no serious injuries.

However, city and state officials said they share Cook’s concern about Monday night, when temperatures were forecast to drop into the teens just as New Year’s Eve revelers hit the streets for a night of partying.

“It’s so wet, there will definitely be icy spots,” said Tom Hein, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “We’ll be treating everything, but it’s going to be tough to have everything perfect. If you don’t need to go out, don’t. If you’re out, know it’s not going to be perfect.”

City crews have been preparing for the storm since Friday, city public works director Alan King said, applying salt and brine solution in key areas.

And they met the snow with 50 trucks Monday morning, applying sand and salt. King said city officials were concerned about Monday night, with a mixture of freezing drizzle and snow forecast to complicate what is usually a difficult night for police as they monitor holiday revelers.

“We’re going to continue that as long as we need to,” King said, “monitoring the weather and tailoring our response. If it tapers off, we’ll continue plowing where we can and applying mix until it stops, and we’ll put on a scaled-down crew and have folks on call. If it gets worse, we’ll continue to operate around the clock.”

Wichita police spokesman Lt. Doug Nolte said police were asking motorists to make arrangements not to drink and drive or to stay home. Police won’t have any New Year’s DUI checkpoints because the weather makes operating them hazardous, but officers will be watching for and responding to drinking and driving situations, he said.

The storm should wind down for Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, with only flurries possible. Daytime highs will be below freezing, slowing any melting of the freezing drizzle that might fall.

Contributing: Tim Potter of The Eagle

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