Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2005

City, district weather snowstorm

December 15, 2005

As the Dec. 7 snowstorm rolled into eastern Kansas, Eudora city officials and Eudora USD 491 officials kept their eyes and ears hooked on the weather stations.

Each followed a winter storm as it dumped up to eight inches of snow on the surrounding area. As the snow accumulated, decisions needed to be made.

For Eudora school superintendent Marty Kobza, the storm and constant flurries sparked a process to determine whether or not to have school the next day.

For Eudora's public works employees, the storm offered a chance to make use of training and preparation.

For both groups, safety remained the key.

To call or not to call

In the end, it came down to the ice and cold.

With a blanket of snow already on the ground and forecasts calling for an arctic chill, Kobza opted for an early call Wednesday evening.

Typically, it doesn't happen that quickly.

Normally during a winter weather situation, Kobza takes to the road at 4:30 a.m. to see what the conditions are.

"We do like a lot of people do and follow radar and forecasts to see what's going to be happening with a storm," Kobza said. "Then myself and the transportation director physically actually drive the roads."

The two drivers follow bus routes and check streets known to be trouble areas, Kobza said. After finishing rounds around 5 a.m., Kobza meets with transportation director Hal Reusch to compare findings.

Once the general state of the roads are known, Kobza will hook into a conference call with other districts to gain a larger picture of the storm.

Representatives from Baldwin City, Paola, Wellsville and other league schools along with districts in Johnson County discussed the decision on closing.

"We try to make a decision at about 5:45 a.m., or at the very latest 6 a.m., so we can get on to the news stations," Kobza said. "Then we get all of our staff contacted so we don't have anybody driving into work if we called it in the morning."

After a conference Wednesday night, the decision came to call school for Thursday.

"We decided it would be safest if we called it," Kobza said last week.

Once the district made the decision not to have classes and contacted teachers, a new chain of action began. Kobza contacted a contracted snow removal service to remove the snow from the school parking lots.

As the parking lots cleared, the custodians worked on sidewalks.

"We actually have color coded maps of each site that show each person's or each crew's responsibility as far as snow removal is concerned," Kobza said.

Depending on the strength of the storm, sometimes district workers are ahead of the game when winter weather strikes.

"If we had snow during the night then those teams would be out there pretty much all night getting the snow off the parking lots so it would be ready to go at 7:30 in the morning," Kobza said.

Kobza said the city has offered to help with ice by salting and sanding the parking lots if needed.

"They've always been very helpful," Kobza said.

Call it preparedness

Eudora City Administrator Cheryl Beatty saw the city's emergency response plan in action when the storm hit. Although the emergency was minor, teams of city workers followed a prescribed plan to clear city streets.

"I think we were well prepared because we had all the equipment prepped and ready," Beatty said.

Ready, too, were stores of salt and sand purchased earlier in the fall, Beatty said.

With both the supplies and equipment prepared, the staff watched the radar screens as the storm started dropping snow.

"The staff knows what the expectations are and what to do where, and in what order," Beatty said.

Top priority for city workers is to clear the main streets. During the training process, each staff member trains on each piece of equipment in order to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Beatty said city crews cleared the main streets and the entire city Thursday in about 12 hours.

"They worked really hard with a small staff and not a lot of equipment and did a good job," she said.

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