Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ottawa sets record with 9 inches of snow

By ABBY ECKEL and DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writers | 2/5/2014

“This is a ridiculous amount of snow,” Trinity Richardson said.

The 18-year-old Ottawa woman expressed what many Ottawa residents probably were thinking as they dug out from a winter storm that dumped 9 inches of snow on the city Tuesday, according to the Ottawa Water Treatment Plant, a National Weather Service observation station.

“This is a ridiculous amount of snow,” Trinity Richardson said.

The 18-year-old Ottawa woman expressed what many Ottawa residents probably were thinking as they dug out from a winter storm that dumped 9 inches of snow on the city Tuesday, according to the Ottawa Water Treatment Plant, a National Weather Service observation station.

Richardson, armed with a small scraper, was doing her best to remove the snow from the windshield of her teal-colored Chevrolet Lumina about midday Wednesday on Eighth Street.

“I’m trying to get out to go to the [grocery] store,” Richardson said.

She frowned as she paused to stare at the mound of snow that had enveloped her car, hemming it against the curb.

“After I finish my windshield, then I have to dig my car out,” she said.

CLEAR AND CLEAN

The driving snow made it difficult for public and commercial work crews to dig the city out from under the massive winter blanket.

The snow was falling at such a rapid clip that City of Ottawa crews struggled to keep arterial and collector streets open Tuesday, Andy Haney, the city’s public works director, said.

“It was a never-ending project,” Haney said Wednesday afternoon. “The snow started slowing down about dark and we were able to make some good progress through the night. Work to clear residential streets is continuing today.”

The city crews, which included members of the public works, utility and parks departments, also worked overnight to push snow into the center of streets downtown to free up access to parking stalls in the business district, Haney said.

A crew of 20 to 24 workers planned to remove the snow downtown overnight Wednesday, Haney said, with workers building a mound of snow in the west gravel parking lot at Orlis Cox Sports Complex, near the intersection of Beech Street and West K-68.

A shortage of salt in the region has limited supplies for municipal public works and county road crews in the area, Haney said.

“We were told by our supplier [Central Salt Company of Hutchinson] that they would only be providing salt to [state] Departments of Transportation and not to local contracts like we are, because of the shortage,” Haney said. “For this storm, we’re OK. That doesn’t put us in a bind for now.”

More snow is forecasted for Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow chance for Friday starts at only 20 percent, but climbs to 40 percent by Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service’s website. A 30-percent chance for snow is forecasted for Saturday, but lowers to a 20 percent chance by Saturday evening.

Jim Haag, director of Franklin County public works, said he was aware of the impending snow chance for the weekend, and his crews would be ready.

“I understand there’s a 20-percent chance Friday or Saturday,” Haag said. “What I know indicates it’s not going to be anything like this one we just had.”

Crews have been working in shifts to get snow plowed throughout the county, but gusty winds Wednesday were making their jobs more difficult, Haag said.

“[The most difficult] is the wind and drifting that starts as soon as a plow passes,” he said. “We have several locations in the county where drifting is a problem.”

Multiple trips have been taken so far by county road crews who have had to re-plow snow because of the wind, Haag said, but he anticipated roads being clear soon.

“I would say in cases of rural gravel roads, I’d say [those will be plowed Thursday],” he said. “As far as paved roads, we’re doing our best to keep those open continuously.”

The storm also prompted schools in the region to call off classes Tuesday and Wednesday. Ottawa, Central Heights, Wellsville and West Franklin schools also were not going to be in session Thursday because of the dangerous wind chills forecasted for the region in the negative digits.

WINTER TREAT

A record number of snow was dumped in Ottawa according to the Ottawa Water Treatment Plant. Nine inches of snow Tuesday, or 0.60 inches of precipitation, was measured — a record, beating the previous 0.48 amount recorded in 1924, according to Herald archives.

Not everyone was grumbling about the Blizzard of Oz that hit Kansas. Kathleen Jordan and her husband Gary took the opportunity to make snow ice cream.

“I used to do it with kids all the time,” Jordan said. “I decided to do it last night after dinner. We were sitting by the fireplace, and I just thought we needed some ice cream.”

The freshly fallen snow had a soft powdery substance good for making snow ice cream, she said. Having forgotten about the old tradition, Jordan said, it was Facebook that reminded her of the special treat.

“I had kind of forgotten about it ’til I saw other people posting on Facebook how to make it and I saw somebody on Facebook put the recipe back on there,” she said. “My husband even said it was pretty good.”

While county departments closed their doors early Tuesday, Nathan Boyd said people kept walking through his door.

“We actually stayed busy,” Boyd, manager at Sears, 220 S. Main St., Ottawa, said. “With us having snow blowers, it has really helped us. We’ve been busy [Tuesday and Wednesday].”

Sears kept its normal business hours Tuesday and Wednesday, Boyd said, but allowed many employees to go home Tuesday afternoon while he stayed behind to man the store.

“Since Monday, I think we’ve gone through about 15 snow blowers and on the year we’ve hit about 78,” he said. “I think coming off last year, we had that late snow in March, so I think people are preparing for it.”

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