Thursday, Jan. 03 2013 4:37PM
Snow already exceeds last winter
LS requires snow tires, clearing windshields, but not shoveling sidewalks
By Russ Pulley
It’s only a couple weeks into winter and Lee’s Summit has already gotten more snow than last snow seaon.
Lee’s Summit snow plows have been busy. At least one resident is bothered that people aren’t shoveling snow off sidewalks.
So what is can be expected for the next months?
The two snowfalls so far, in December and on New Year’s Eve, averaged of 4.6 inches in the Kansas City region, according to Spencer Mell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Last year entire winter’s snowfall was only 3.9 inches for the area. That’s the lowest snowfall for the 123 years on record.
But snows so far this winter only contained between .10 inches to .20 inches of liquid precipitation, he said.
“Not all that much considering we are 17 inches below for 2012, as far as precipitation goes,” Mell said. “We’re probably not going to cut into that deficit and we’ll probably head into spring under drought conditions.”
Mell said there’s an even chance of having a dry winter. An average winter here brings about 18.8 inches of snowfall. Mell said that Midwest weather conditions are influenced by the Pacific Ocean, and whether there is an El Nino or La Nina phase taking place in that ocean.
El Nino is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific while La Nina is unusually cool temperatures.
Because the Pacific is in a neutral phase, it makes it harder to forecast precipitation this winter, Mell said.
“As far as temperatures go, there’s a better chance of being above average,” Mell said.
But the heat wave of last summer might not be repeated this year. Mell said the expectation for June, July and August is that those months will have a better chance for average temperatures.
The latest snow, on Dec. 31, wasn’t too challenging for Lee’s Summit Public Works, as warmer temperatures during the day kept much snow from piling up on streets. City crews treated streets with rock salt, and later began adding a calcium chloride solution which works better when temperatures drop below 20 degrees.
Snow began Monday morning, slacked off, then began again in the evening, but stopped after less than an inch of additional accumulation.
“So many things worked in our favor, we didn’t really have to plow,” said Shawn Graff, public works operations superintendent.
He said the city plans for a couple of snowstorms in December and more in January and February, often there’s one in March. It had on hand 6,000 tons of salt and used about 1,600 tons so far. It has a standing contract with a supplier if it needs more.
Graff said that in the few years he’d been with the city he’s only seen the extremes. Not much snow last year (3.1 inches in Lee’s Summit) and above average years before that.
“I don’t think there’s a typical, it’s Missouri weather, we get what we get,” Graff said.
The Journal recently received a letter to the editor about residents who don’t shovel snow off public sidewalks. The writer thought there might be a law requiring property owners to shovel public walks. Some cities do have such ordinances, such as Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia. But Lee’s Summit does not, nor does Missouri, said Mark Dunning, director of codes administration.
The city does have an ordinance requiring property owners to prevent hazardous conditions on those walkways, but it specifically exempts problems caused by inclement weather, he said.
Lee’s Summit ordinances:
• Restrict parking on a snow route, when the mayor declares a snow emergency, and during a snow emergency vehicles on snow routes must use snow tires or chains.
• Forbid driving with snow or ice on vehicle windshields, side or rear windows so the driver doesn’t have clear view of the street.
• Require vehicles to have working windshield wipers.