Archive for Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frozen to a standstill

January 14, 2010

With the temperature in single digits and the wind gusting up to 30 mph, it was Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Bartels’ unpleasant duty last Thursday to stop traffic attempting to get on the eastbound on-ramp to Kansas Highway 10.

The problem was a semi-truck stalled at the top of the ramp. Bartels said it lost traction in the snow after slowing to avoid a car that spun out in front of it. It would be about a two-hour wait before the over-booked tow truck would be able to free the semi, the deputy said.

It was the second incident Bartels worked on a day the winds whipped the 4 to 5 inches of snow that fell that day and night across roads, making the task of keeping them open difficult and driving dangerous.

“It’s been a couple of hours each time,” he said. “I’m wearing multiple layers. Under Armour.”

Bartels advice was to stay home or go slow if people had to drive. Judging by the Johnson County Sheriff’s blotter, most De Soto residents heeded that advice. There were four accidents reported in or near De Soto from Jan. 5 through Jan. 6, more than usual but not greatly so.

With temperatures bouncing back to normal, last week’s blizzard is now a memory. But one residents will be reminded of when they get gas bills next month.

For younger residents, the reminder may come in April.

De Soto USD 232, and most surrounding districts, cancelled school and all activities Wednesday through Friday of last week. That came a year after the district didn’t use any inclement weather days.

Alvie Cater, director of communications for USD 232 said the district sets aside four inclement weather days each year. 

“As of Friday, we’ve used all four,” he said. “April 5 and April 30 are days that students are off that could be used as make-up days should we exceed our four inclement weather days. In the event we need to take additional time away from school, we will need to develop a plan to make up state required attendance hours for students.”

The state of Kansas requires 1,116 student contact hours per school year. The district typically exceeds the required hours, allowing for the inclement weather days.

Cater said the big question for parents will be if students would have to stay in school longer. 

“As of right now we have a few days to bridge the gap,” he said. “One option would be to extend the school year, the other is too look at calendars and see what other things we can do.”

The city spent $5,920 in overtime to clear city streets of snow in the latest storm, De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said. It also used 125 tons or $7,800 worth of salt to treat city streets, he said.

The salt was purchased last year and will not affect the 2010 budget, and overtime hours for snow removal were built into this year’s budget, Guilfoyle said.

The downtown watertower froze over the weekend, requiring the city to pump warmer water into the tower to thaw it out. Guilfoyle said Monday the frozen tower raised no concerns unless residents wanted to water their lawns.

Of more immediate concern were the water lines breaking with the freezing and thawing ground. De Soto Water Department supervisor Clarence Brunk said his department repaired two breaks Monday.

— Ashlee Kieler contributed to this story.

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