Friday, July 25, 2014

Snow dumps work for local crews, businesses

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 12/21/2012

Who knew half an inch of snow could keep so many people busy?

Local law enforcement, road and power crews and some businesses were sent scrambling by the wintery mix that hit Franklin County Thursday morning. It was all hands on deck for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy with the sheriff’s office, said.

Who knew half an inch of snow could keep so many people busy?

Local law enforcement, road and power crews and some businesses were sent scrambling by the wintery mix that hit Franklin County Thursday morning. It was all hands on deck for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Jerrod Fredricks, master deputy with the sheriff’s office, said.

“We took somebody that wouldn’t normally work patrol, and they were out in the county vehicles helping,” he said Friday, adding that about eight personnel were out helping with calls.  

The calls started coming in to the sheriff’s office about 5 a.m. Thursday, he said. The sheriff’s office alone worked about 30 incidents of vehicles sliding off roads Thursday, Fredricks said, with many of them along I-35. Other trouble spots were on the paved roads throughout the county, he said, like John Brown Road and Rock Creek Road.

Despite the snow tapering off about 9 a.m., wind gusts exceeding 30 mph continued throughout the day and kept crews busy. Fredricks said one officer’s drive into work included working five or six “slide-offs” in a matter of two miles. If there were no injuries, such incidents could be worked fairly quickly, he said.

“Whenever there’s a slide-off, especially on days like yesterday, we make sure the people are OK,” Fredricks said, “and that there’s not damage to the vehicle.

“And, if they need us to stay, we’ll stay with them. If not, we’ll get help on the way,” he said. “If there was no damage to the vehicle and they don’t need help and they’re OK, we will move on.”

Fredricks lauded the performance of not only the sheriff’s office, but the Ottawa Police Department and Kansas Highway Patrol for their dedication and hard work in blustery weather.

“I think that our response times were really exceptional for the weather, and it was a good group effort,” he said. “We were really pleased.”  

Ottawa, Central Heights and Wellsville schools canceled classes Thursday because of the storm. West Franklin schools already had dismissed classes for the holiday break and were not scheduled to be in session Thursday. The four districts were out for Christmas break on Friday and were not available for comment on final exam rescheduling.

Crews from the Ottawa street department hit the roads at about 5 a.m. to get the streets in drivable condition for commuters. Six crew members with three trucks spread about 120 tons of sand and salt on the streets, Larry Matile, the city’s streets superintendent, said Friday. It took time for the mixture to take effect, he said.

“It was probably close to 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m. before materials really started working good and everything started cutting,” Matile said.

Information on how much salt the county road crews spread was not available.

Kansas City Power and Light reported about 7,500 people without power in and around Franklin County because of the snowy weather, Courtney Hughley, spokesperson for KCP&L, said. About 40,000 people were without power throughout the state because of the storm, she said, but power was restored quickly.

“Power has been restored. We were able to get everyone restored by midnight [Thursday] night,” Hughley said.

No power outages were reported in Ottawa, Jim Bradley, the city’s utilities director, said.

Ottawa received a half-inch of snow Thursday, according to the Ottawa water treatment plant.

The cold and snow did not deter some holiday shoppers from getting those last-minute gifts at such local businesses as Sutton’s Jewelry, 207 S. Main St., Ottawa. Owner Cathy Sutton said after they put a lot of salt on the sidewalk in front of the business there was a steady stream of customers.

“Actually we were fairly busy [Thursday],” Sutton said. “Even after the snow had melted quite a bit, we got a lot of people coming in. I think the big thing was that school was out, so a lot people came in with their kids.”

Another Ottawa business, Orscheln Farm and Home, 2008 S. Princeton St., saw its business pick up just before the storm hit. Store manager Tell Alexander said the run on snow shovels and de-icer that started Wednesday helped the business move out some of the merchandise they weren’t able to sell last year because of the mild weather.

So what about Tuesday?

The historical probability that the area will see more than 1 inch of snow on the ground on Christmas is between 10 and 25 percent, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

The forecast calls for another small chance of snow on Christmas Day, so if three days of sunny, above-freezing temperatures today through Monday don’t melt the snow, the area will have another chance for a White Christmas.

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