More than 100 Wichita accidents after heaviest early snow in 40 years

Chester Kralicek clears a sidewalk on South Seneca on Sunday. (Nov. 16, 2014)
Chester Kralicek clears a sidewalk on South Seneca on Sunday. (Nov. 16, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

The heaviest early winter snow in 40 years spawned more than 100 accidents around Wichita on Sunday and Monday, authorities said.

Weather officials say the storm dropped about 2 inches of snow on Wichita, with higher amounts just west of the city.

“It was a good first storm for us to work on and to get people used to driving on slick roads,” Alan King, director of public works for the city, said Monday.

The National Weather Service recorded 1.8 inches at the official reporting site next to Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, but 2 inches fell over much of the city, and 3 inches was reported in western Sedgwick County. Southern Sumner County reported 4 inches near Caldwell.

The 1.8 inches is the most snow that’s fallen this early in the season since 1974, according to weather officials.

“That’s pretty impressive,” weather service meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said.

If the official measurement had been 2 inches, it would have been the most early season snowfall in 55 years – since 7.5 inches fell in 1959.

Snow actually fell on Saturday, too, but the air was so dry near the surface that the snow evaporated before it reached the ground, Darmofal said. A stronger wave moved through the region early Sunday, with snowfall beginning in Wichita at about 4 a.m.

Crews began spreading salt and sand, King said. But plans had to change as the snowfall intensified. By 9 a.m., he said, “it was coming down fast enough and hard enough that we actually had to plow, which slowed us down quite a bit.”

More than 80 accidents were reported around the city on Sunday, police Lt. James Espinoza said. Another 34 were reported Monday through the morning commute.

A car lost traction on snow-slickened streets and slid into a bus carrying students to Greiffenstein Alternative Elementary School. The collision was reported at 7:50 a.m. at Breckenridge and Breckenridge Court. That’s near Lincoln and west of Webb Road.

Two children on the bus were checked for possible injuries by emergency medical personnel and were OK, said Susan Arensman, a spokeswoman for Wichita public schools.

The driver of the bus was taken to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Another bus was sent to the accident location to transport students to school, Arensman said.

Authorities reported the streets in the neighborhood were extremely slick.

“We even have firefighters falling down,” one official reported via the police scanner.

Around-the-clock street-cleaning efforts ceased late Monday afternoon, King said, but five “ice patrol” trucks will continue to identify and treat slick spots.

Motorists should continue to drive with caution, King said. Warming daytime temperatures should help the snow melt, he said, but refreezing at night will make morning commutes tricky for a few days.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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