Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2005

Snowstorm disrupts school, traffic

December 15, 2005

De Soto USD 232 Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said she faced two very different circumstances when making decisions to call off school Thursday and Friday of last week.

Canceling school for the first day was easy Dec. 7 as a serious winter storm piled up to 10 inches of snow in Johnson County. Making the call to close schools Friday was much more difficult, the superintendent said.

Addressing the monthly De Soto Chamber of Commerce meeting, which was itself rescheduled to Friday, Zoellner said district officials were aware of the difficulties cancellations force on families. It was easy to second-guess the decision to close schools Friday as a bright sun steadily increased temperatures throughout the morning, she said.

The call was made the evening before in conjunction with school officials from other county districts, Zoellner said, with De Soto and Shawnee Mission districts holding out the longest. Finally, forecasts for windy conditions and possible drifting in frigid conditions swung the decision to close district schools.

The district did take advantage of the absence of students to turn down thermostats during two frigid days, Zoellner said.

Johnson County Sheriff patrol deputies worked 42 accidents and responded to 47 calls from stranded motorists during the snowstorm Dec. 7, said Johnson County Sheriff's Office spokesman Tom Erickson. The accident total included a double fatality accident on Interstate 35 near Gardner.

That total included 12 accidents in De Soto and motor assists, Erickson said. However, a city street department truck was involved in an accident Friday at the intersection of 95th Street and Lexington Avenue when an eastbound van driven by Paul McCord, De Soto, was unable to slide on the snow-packed 95th Street.

Damage to the city truck was minimal and is operational.

Just before that accident, interim City Administrator Mike Webb said the city had met the storm's challenge with relative ease. Some overtime was needed as crews cleared streets, but he said it wouldn't affect the city budget.

"It's looking very good," he said. "We're over budget on revenue and under budget on expenditures."

Although it had salt newly arrived for the season, the street department used salt stored from last spring, Webb said. The salt was infiltrated with water, froze and tended to jam the spreader, he said.

Such problems will soon be a thing of the past. Last month, the city purchased a storage unit for salt, which is to be delivered soon.

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