Conditions have delayed snow removal, Wichita official says

07/15/2014 6:15 PM

08/05/2014 11:46 PM

Because of heavy snowfall and other weather conditions, city crews don’t expect to have all snow emergency routes and secondary routes cleared until rush hour Friday morning, a city official said Thursday.

By Thursday afternoon, crews also were dealing with freezing rain or drizzle and were treating bridges, hills and curves with sand and salt.

Earlier, crews were hampered by snowfall of 2 inches or more per hour plus freezing rain and near-white-out conditions, said Joe Pajor, deputy director of public works and utilities.

Wednesday’s snowfall appears to have set an unofficial record, with 6.2 inches; that exceeds the record for that date, 5.2 inches, set in 1912, Pajor said. The snowfall could end up in the top 10 of Wichita’s all-time snowstorms, he said.

The conditions are making it challenging for police to respond to emergencies, said police Lt. Doug Nolte. “We will get there as quick as possible,” Nolte said.

Because of the road conditions, police vehicles have been involved in five minor accidents since Wednesday, he said.

Nolte said police encourage people to be good neighbors by checking on the elderly, shut-ins and people with mobility problems.

A lull in the snowfall Thursday morning will help crews get caught up, Pajor said.

The city will be using private contractors who will add 21 operators and 21 full-size pieces of equipment to the snow removal effort, he said.

Crews don’t plow residential streets because it would block driveways and bury cars parked on those streets, he said.

Officials are encouraging people to stay off streets if possible.

There have been a couple of instances where plow trucks got stuck.

Snow crews are still working 12-hour shifts around the clock, at least through Friday morning rush hour, Pajor said. The city has 50 employees per shift and 50 pieces of equipment assigned to the effort, the city said in a news release.

With the conditions, two major trash haulers, Waste Connections and Waste Management, are not running routes Thursday, the city said.

City buses are operating on regular routes, but the service is running behind because of the weather issues, and buses are making some detours around trouble spots, said Steve Spade, the city’s transit director. Riders can get updates about weather-related detours by going to www.wichitatransit.org. The city’s paratransit service is making only medically necessary trips.

The city said its library branches and park and recreation facilities were closed until noon Thursday. The central library had limited staffing and services.

People with Municipal Court hearings scheduled for Thursday were asked to call 316-268-4611 to schedule a new court date; people have until the close of business Monday, Feb. 25, to contact the court and reschedule a hearing.

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