Snow shuts down businesses

Scores of businesses across the city closed or sent home early large portions of their work forces on Tuesday in one of the worst winter storms in recent years.

But there were also a few that chose to stay open and keep workers in their normal duties.

Early Tuesday afternoon, announcements of early business closings began rolling in.

Emprise Bank said it would close its branches at 3 p.m. Wichita Clinic announced it was closing three immediate-care clinics early, as did Wesley Medical Clinics.

And planemaker Hawker Beechcraft said it would not have a second or third shift Tuesday.

"It's simple. There's nothing more important than the safety of our employees," Bill Brown, Hawker's executive vice president of global operations, said Tuesday afternoon.

Other businesses, such as Intrust Bank, expected to keep normal business hours.

"Of course, any nonessential employee could leave early with a supervisor's permission," said Intrust spokeswoman Diane Iseman.

And while area Intrust branches were keeping normal hours, its offices in Oklahoma City, Lawrence and Kansas City closed early or didn't open at all on Tuesday, Iseman said.

Also keeping normal hours and duties were crews from tree-trimming company Asplundh.

The Willow Grove, Pa.-based company is a contractor to Westar Energy. One crew was busy trimming trees in east Wichita on Tuesday afternoon despite single-degree temperatures, blowing snow and strong wind gusts.

"Of course any work that we're doing, it's a little more difficult, a little more dangerous out in these conditions," said Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig. "So we really prep our crews, whether they be Westar energy crews or our contractors' crews, to take a little bit of extra care and precaution."

In some cases, sending workers home and closing early isn't affecting productivity.

Tom Page, CEO of Emprise, said business in the bank's branches was slow Tuesday.

"It's a personal-safety deal," Page said. "This time of the year, based on when it gets dark and the way road conditions deteriorate, we wanted our folks to have time to get home before it got real dark."

"It is an inconvenience to some customers because unlike a holiday you don't really have a chance to notify people in advance... but you balance that against personal safety for people and kind of hope everybody goes home early and stays off the street."

Hawker Beechcraft's Brown said canceling shifts can affect production schedules.

But Brown said he thinks that by the company showing concern for employees' well-being, the payoff is they will work harder when they return to work.

"My expectation is they will... hit a home run and get us right back on schedule," he said.

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