If snow falls on Wichita this weekend as predicted, the public will be able to track snowplows as they plow the streets.
The city recently equipped its 50 snowplow trucks with GPS at a total cost of $15,000, with a monthly monitoring fee of about $1,500, according to Ben Nelson, strategic services manager for the Public Works Department.
Each GPS unit cost $300; a $29.95 monthly monitoring fee for each allows the city to have a real-time tracking map, Nelson said.
The city has considered GPS tracking for the plows for a couple of years, said Alan King, director of public works and utilities.
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“We thought it would help us in our snowplow tracking and planning,” King said. “Before, we would rely on radio contact with dispatch over which routes had been completed, and we knew that GPS could streamline that process and make it more efficient.”
Initially, the website was going to be used only by supervisors, but they decided it might also be useful for citizens, he said.
When it’s not winter, the city might use the GPS units to track vehicles for street projects since the monthly monitoring fee is year-round, King said.
People should expect a wintry mix with 1 to 3 inches of snow accumulation on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Wichita.
Meterologist Andy Kleinsasser predicted Wichitans would awake Saturday to a light mix of rain and sleet that’s expected to increase throughout the morning. It will change to light snow by afternoon, he said.
“It could create some patchy slick spots on some untreated roadways and bridges,” Kleinsasser said.
But, he said, since temperatures will hang around the freezing mark, “it really doesn’t look like a major ice event.”
The city is preparing to use its snowplows if snow accumulates 2 inches or more on the roads, King said.
If it is less – and if salt and sand mixtures do their job – plowing might not be necessary, he said.
It typically takes about 24 hours for snowplows to travel 5,000 miles of priority routes, King said.
The city has two 12-hour shifts, which will mean at least 100 snowplow drivers and additional supervisors and mechanics.
About 60 percent of Wichita’s salt supply remains, besides reserves, King said.
Wichita started off the season with 16,000 tons of salt mix to use to help clear streets, King said. The city doubled its supply of available salt mix this past year. It uses about 32,000 tons during the winter and the mix is resupplied when needed.
Contributing: Jake Trease of The Eagle
Snowplow routes can be tracked online at http://wichita.gov/snowremoval.
People on social media have been using #ictplows to track plow movements, and @ictplows, a Twitter account, was created during the snowstorm two weeks ago.