Crews preparing Wichita’s streets for all kinds of precipitation

Traffic comes to a standstill on Kellogg near the Seneca exit at 9:40 a.m. Feb. 20.
Traffic comes to a standstill on Kellogg near the Seneca exit at 9:40 a.m. Feb. 20.

Correction: A previous version of this story had Joe Pajor's name spelled incorrectly.

City street crews are ready for a “little bit of everything” as a winter storm packing all kinds of precipitation approaches Wichita.

Joe Pajor, the city’s assistant director of public works, said his office is expecting a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain to move into the Wichita area between 5 and 6 a.m. Wednesday. “We’ve been treating the full length of the roads, not just the intersections, hills and things like that, to get in the best position we can,” Pajor said.

Pajor said city officials are expecting light snow after midnight, with heavier snow after 6 a.m. Wednesday.

National Weather Service Wichita meteroligist Brad Ketcham said as temperatures warm to around the low 30s, the snow may convert to a “mixed bag” – freezing rain, sleet and sometimes heavy snow – Wednesday evening.

“We don’t want to give people the sense that it’s not going to be as bad as they thought,” Ketcham said of the weather expected earlier Wednesday.

“Late Wednesday night, that’s when the big guns will kick in.”

After an overnight low in the upper 20s, forecasters people in and around Wichita could see between 1 and 6 inches of snow by Thursday morning, with more accumulation expected in northwestern Sedgwick County than in the south.

Eight to 14 inches of snow is likely in central Kansas, north of Hutchinson and Newton, with the heart of the storm centering over Hays, Ketcham said.

Daytime temperatures statewide on Thursday will linger near freezing with overnight lows in the single digits. A slight warm-up is expected for the weekend, Ketcham said, but not enough to eliminate the frosty weather.

“It’s probably one of the biggest winter storms we’ve seen in two years,” he said.

“We’re really going to get a good taste of winter.”

There’s one good thing about the storm’s start, Pajor said: It should begin as snow, allowing the brine applied to streets to work without being washed away by rain.

“We’ll be converting our street sweeping crews to snow preparation sometime between midnight and 4 a.m. ... and then we’ll be operating in two 12-hour shifts for the duration,” Pajor said.

A crew dedicated to downtown Wichita will begin work at 8 p.m. Wednesday until 8 a.m. Thursday morning, Pajor said.

With the storm expected to move from southern Kansas north to Nebraska and Iowa, forecastors urge drivers to plan ahead and stay flexible with travel arrangements.

“If you are traveling anywhere toward the north, you might want to think about changing your plans or delaying your plans,” Ketcham of the National Weather Service said.

“The roads will definitely be slick.”

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