The heaviest snow of the season blanketed the Wichita area with nearly 3 inches of snow late Wednesday and early Thursday, but street crews had primary routes in good shape for the Thursday morning commute.
All 50 city trucks were deployed again Thursday evening into Friday morning to keep the streets from refreezing overnight.
Motorists are urged to use caution while driving Friday morning, particularly when driving on elevated or shaded surfaces.
Crews did not plow the 1,500 lane miles of snow routes, instead applying a salt-sand mix to accelerate thawing of the snow that fell early Thursday morning, said Alan King, director of the city’s public works department.
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Elevated portions of K-96, Kellogg and I-235 all were the scene of accidents during the morning commute — sometimes involving numerous vehicles — but no serious injuries were reported.
Wichita had logged 2.7 inches of snow by 6 a.m. Thursday, said Jaclyn Ritzman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“It’s very wet,” Ritzman said of the snow that fell through the night.
The snowfall translated into more than .30 of an inch of rain, according to the weather service. As much as 5 inches of snow was reported north of Wichita, with 2 to 3 inches a common total.
City trucks were deployed again through Thursday evening and into Friday morning.
“That’s going to be our challenge, is overnight freezing,” King said. “Getting streets ready for the morning commute.”
Streets may appear to be clear, he said, but black ice may form on elevated or shaded surfaces.
“We have to be vigilant” in treating icy areas, King said.
Motorists should factor in extra time to get to their destinations and increase following distance behind other vehicles as a precaution, he said.
The forecast offers good news for street crews: Highs should reach the upper 30s on Friday and the mid-40s over the weekend.
Lows will drop to the low 30s early Saturday morning, so motorists traveling early in the day will need to be wary of refreezing on elevated roadways. The National Weather Service also warned that widespread fog is possible early Friday and Saturday mornings across southern Kansas.
People leaving early to celebrate Christmas will experience highs in the 50s on Monday and the 40s on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Wichita area.
Temperatures should warm into the 40s and 50s in the Wichita area through Christmas Day, with no wintry precipitation expected. Anyone traveling to the eastern U.S. should monitor forecasts, as a winter storm is expected to strike on Christmas Eve in the Upper Midwest and points east.