If you love tough driving conditions, Saturday was just the warmup act for a storm expected to move in early this week.
The wintry precipitation that turned Wichita-area streets and roads to ice over the weekend may reappear Monday – this time in the form of 3 to 6 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service in Wichita.
“It may start with a wintry mix, then will change to all snow Monday into Tuesday,” Brad Ketcham, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said.
“It’s a few days out, though,” he added, “so we are still fine-tuning.”
Drivers didn’t handle the ice well Saturday, city and state emergency dispatchers said. Sleet and ice pellets began falling about 8 p.m. Friday, then quickly turned into freezing rain, “creating this crunch,” said Vanessa Pearce, another meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The freezing rain finally stopped about 3 a.m., but the damage was done.
Dispatchers reported “quite a few accidents” in Wichita and Sedgwick County, enough to open the Emergency Accident Reporting Plan, or EARP, for several hours countywide.
In town, most of the accidents were due to driver inattention, a dispatcher said – hitting ice and losing control. How many is a question city dispatchers hadn’t stopped to consider.
“We haven’t taken the time to look at all of them,” a dispatcher said.
Asked to estimate the total number of accidents around 8 p.m. Saturday, another dispatcher said: “It was really busy this morning, but kind of tapered off as the day went on.”
City crews were sanding the snow emergency route Saturday, said Joe Pajor, Wichita’s deputy public works director.
But side residential streets were a solid sheet of ice, he said.
It was worse on I-135 north of the city, a Kansas Highway Patrol dispatcher said.
The most significant accidents included a rollover near the Sedgwick exit, at the Harvey-Sedgwick county line, and a semi that overturned about two miles south of the rollover.
At 9:30 a.m., Highway Patrol officials were working 20 weather-related accidents, the dispatcher said.
The wrecks were “mainly on the highways and elevated roadways,” Wichita police Sgt. Ron Hunt said Saturday around noon.
He added: “It has been very busy.”
City officials say they’ve been told to expect a double whammy next week, with a third storm coming in on Friday.
After a slight warm-up Sunday, the best chances of precipitation begin after midnight Monday and should last through much of Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
High temperatures are expected in the 20s – slightly below normal for this time of year.
“Potentially, it begins as freezing rain and snow before shifting over to all snow,” Pearce said.
However, the National Weather Service is not ready to call Tuesday’s anticipated snowstorm significant, she said.
“It looks like there will be more than what we saw with this last system, based on the amount of moisture that’s anticipated,” Pearce said. “But I never like to go out on that limb this early.”
City street crews continued sanding Saturday, Pajor said – work that began Wednesday when crews began pre-treating streets. Currently, the city has 50 sand trucks/plows and two shifts of 50 workers on the streets.
With more winter precipitation in store for the city, EARP may be enacted. When it is in effect, drivers involved in an accident have three options:
• Visit a neighborhood police substation to report an accident, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
• Pick up an accident report form at any Wichita QuikTrip, complete it and submit it to a police substation during business hours.
• Visit www.wichita.gov and click on the police link, then open the online traffic accident report link. A case number will be e-mailed to the filing motorist within 48 hours.