Sunday, April 20, 2014

Subzero temps follow snow; locals unfazed

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/6/2014

An arctic blast bombarded Franklin County with subzero temperatures Monday, but local residents appeared ready for the onslaught.

Despite temperatures dipping to a bone-numbing 11 degrees below zero early Monday morning — according to the official overnight low recorded at the City of Ottawa’s water treatment plant — no local motorists had to be rescued because of stalled vehicles on county and city roads, representatives with the Ottawa Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said midday Monday.   

An arctic blast bombarded Franklin County with subzero temperatures Monday, but local residents appeared ready for the onslaught.

Despite temperatures dipping to a bone-numbing 11 degrees below zero early Monday morning — according to the official overnight low recorded at the City of Ottawa’s water treatment plant — no local motorists had to be rescued because of stalled vehicles on county and city roads, representatives with the Ottawa Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said midday Monday.   

Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, had not received anyone seeking treatment for frostbite or other weather-related illnesses, Brad Schwartz, nursing supervisor, said about 2 p.m. Monday.

Franklin County school district officials were not taking chances with the frigid temperatures. Classes were canceled Monday at all school districts in the county.

“The subzero temperatures, and the wind chill alert, were the primary reasons [why school was canceled],” Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa school superintendent, said Monday morning. “Our transportation folks had some concerns about drifting [from Sunday’s snowstorm] on north-south roads, but the dangerously low temperatures and wind chill were the main factors. With subzero temperatures, you don’t want kids standing outside waiting for buses. Additionally, we have a lot of kids who walk to school, and we didn’t want them out walking today. It was too dangerous.”

City of Ottawa crews continued Monday to clear away snow from Sunday’s storm, which dumped 2.5 inches on the Ottawa area, according to measurements compiled by the City of Ottawa’s water treatment plant.

City crews, working in 12-hour shifts, started clearing streets about 2 a.m. Sunday, Andy Haney, the city’s public works director, said. Haney said the crews were wrapping up their work Monday afternoon and would be quitting at the end of the normal workday.

City workers having to brave the elements Sunday and Monday took extra precautions and frequent breaks in the subzero temperatures, Haney said. He reported the storm and below-freezing temperatures had not combined to cause any major equipment breakdowns.

While the overnight low of minus 11 made for “ugly” conditions Monday, Haney said, it was far from the worst weather conditions the city had experienced in modern memory.

“The worst [conditions in the past 25 years] was the first winter I was here in 1989, when the temperatures got down to around zero for about two weeks, with the lows around minus 20,” Haney said. “That was brutal.”

Ottawa appeared to set a record low of minus 11 Sunday, surpassing the previous record of minus 1 set in 1960, according to local weather data.

Franklin County residents were stocking up on items like shovels, gloves, coats, ice melt, starter fluid, heat tape and other materials in anticipation of the frigid wintry weather.

“[Business] has been pretty steady since the first snow [in December],” Margaret Marquis, a representative with Orscheln Farm & Home, 2008 S. Princeton St., Ottawa, said Monday. “We ran out of ice melt, but we have it back in stock.”

While the temperature hovered around zero at 2 p.m. Monday in Ottawa, a relative heat wave was expected to embrace the city today with the daytime high forecast to be in the low 30s, according to AccuWeather.com

The snowy conditions Sunday led to a handful of non-injury wrecks on county roads and city streets, according to sheriff and police reports, but Rick Geist, Franklin County undersheriff, and Adam Weingartner, a captain and patrol division commander with the Ottawa Police Department, said Monday they had not heard of any motorists being stranded because of the snowy conditions or extreme cold. Both law enforcement officials said their officers and patrol cars were not experiencing any weather-related difficulties patrolling in the subzero weather Monday.

While temperatures are expected to climb into the 40s by the end of the week, according to regional weather reports, motorists still need to be prepared for bitter cold and snowy conditions throughout the winter, Weingartner said.

Motorists can call 511 to check road conditions anywhere in Kansas through the Kansas Department of Transportation. Motorists also can check the status of roads across the state on KDOT’s website, www.ksdot.org

“In [subzero] conditions like this, inspect your vehicle and check fluid levels [before leaving home],” Weingartner said Monday. “Have an emergency kit in your vehicle, which should include items like hats, gloves, blankets and a flashlight. You should also have a way to charge your cell phone, if you need to call for assistance. Call 911 immediately if you need help. When a person is exposed to temperatures like this, it doesn’t take much time for frostbite and other dangerous weather-related illnesses to occur. So, people need to be prepared.”

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