MoDOT asks Missourians to avoid driving traveling during winter storm advisory

rpulley@lsjournal.comFebruary 4, 2014 

Jade Stolte decided to take a morning walk with her nearly three-year-old daughter Phoenix Mays. It was Phoenix’s first snow. They moved to downtown Lee’s Summit in October after Stolte had lived many years in Florida, but she returned to attend nursing school. Stolte said she grew up in Olathe and enjoys strolling in the snow. “Everybody thinks I’m crazy for moving back,” she said.

RUSS PULLEY — the Journal

Lee’s Summit Public Works just completed a weekend of plowing trying to rid the city of a sheet of ice.

Next forecasters are predicting as much as 10 inches of snow is on the way.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning in effect from 6 a.m. Feb. 4 to 9 a.m. Feb. 5. Meteorologists are calling for an area total between 5-10 inches of new snow.

The Missouri Department of Transportation said precipitation may start out light but may intensify at morning rush hour and create difficult driving conditions. It could also interfere with MoDOT’s ability to clear highways.

MoDOT urged employers to allow employees to work from home or forgo going to work on Feb. 4 for safety and keeping highways clear for snowplows.

“This storm is forecast to shape up much like the heavy snow we faced nearly a year ago,” said MoDOT District Engineer Dan Niec in a written statement. “Many employers sent their workers home early, once they realized how heavy the snow was falling. That crush of traffic during midday, in the middle of our efforts, clogged highways, interstates and interchanges and resulted in bringing our snow fighting efforts to a standstill for hours at a time at key points in our highway system.”

Niec said that this highly unusual strategy will be safer for motorists and keep snowplows moving at a steady pace during the height of the storm, clearing the highways as soon as possible.

The forecast also includes wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour, which will quickly create drifting conditions within minutes after plows have cleared a highway.

The wind and low temperatures will produce sub-zero wind chills through Feb. 6, so MoDOT recommends motorists have a cell phone with a charger, keep fuel tanks as full as possible, have a well-functioning flashlight, a blanket, food, water. And tell someone before leaving when you expect to arrive at your destination and your route of travel. For more information, use the MoDOT Traveler Information Map at modot.org.

In the metropolitan Kansas City area, kcscout.net provides a view of major highways and interstates in town before you head out.

Precipitation on Jan. 31 began with sleet, followed with some freezing rain.

“Which kind of cemented the whole thing, giving us a nice covering of ice on roads, sidewalks, yards ... it was pretty well stuck and hard to get up,” said Bob Hartnett, deputy director of Public Works.

Single-digit temperatures didn’t help, as that makes salt less effective.

With the new storm approaching, Hartnett suggests people not go out unless necessary.

If residents can, he said, they park cars off the street, as that makes plowing go faster and crews can do a better job, he said.

With that depth of snow, the city’s goal in its snow plan is to have all streets plowed between 32.5 and 40 hours after snow stops falling.

The city’s stored supply of about 6,000 tons of salt is half-gone, with one of two salt domes empty. Lee’s Summit has gotten three deliveries, 75 tons of salt, which the city has ordered since the winter season began.

Hartnett said salt supplies are good for the moment, but because of heavy snow falling over much of the U.S., even in southern cities not usually afflicted with the storms, there is a lot of demand for salt.

“It’s going to trickle in, there’s no telling what the rest of winter will bring us, if we’ll be all right,” Hartnett said.

After ice began falling Jan. 31, the city plowed, and treated and plowed and treated again.

By Sunday afternoon, much of the ice was gone on main streets, but side streets had many icy patches.

He said the conditions make it very difficult to clear streets down to pavement.

Hartnett said that with cars driving on main streets, it helped create a churning action that turned ice to slush which trucks could clear away.

Today the department was working to line up volunteers from other departments to be ready to work on this week’s storm. The city’s motor pool was working on three trucks which had broken down. Breakdowns aren’t uncommon during the harsh conditions clearing snow, Hartnett said.

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