Crews battle changing conditions to clear roads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Crews faced a weather dilemma Tuesday while clearing roads.

For KCMO Public Works, the first part of the day brought heavy rain that made it impractical to treat the roads with salt, since it would just wash away.

Public Works Spokesperson Beth Breitenstein said the department had to keep an eye on falling temperatures throughout the day to determine when to send salt trucks back out. She said they'll be treating main and arterial roads Tuesday afternoon ahead of the evening commute.

The first Kansas Department of Transportation crews hit the road around 2 a.m. on Tuesday to focus on clearing ice and slush.

“It’s kind of been a mess,” explained KDOT supervisor Peter Wiehe. “It just kept sleeting so hard. You really can’t melt sleet. You just got to get it plowed off.”

Wiehe told 41 Action News that KDOT crews use four times the amount of salt to combat conditions like the ones seen on Tuesday compared to snow storms.

“A snowstorm is much easier and better to battle than this kind of storm,” he explained. “The sleet is so heavy and slushy. If the car next to you hits the slush, it throws the slush over on your car.”

KCMO Public Works said the most challenging aspect of Tuesday’s weather was the fact that it kept changing.

“We had rain on the front end, then we had things change over to sleet, things change back to rain….so that does offer a bit of complication when you’re trying to treat such a thing,” Spokesman Beth Breitenstein explained.

Crews were out monitoring roads by 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, but they couldn’t treat many roads since rain would wash all the salt away.

But by the early afternoon, temperatures dropped, and sleet began to fall.

“It just can’t decide whether it wants to be liquid or solid,” Alex Ford, who was walking in downtown Kansas City, said.

Public works trucks filled up on salt and hit the roads. They treated residential streets until 5 p.m. but planned to stay out on arterial roads late into the night.

“At this point, we’re just reacting to what’s out there and keeping up with it as best we can. We have a lot of mileage to cover, but we’ll be out and about treating as needed,” Breitenstein said.

The ice and slush on metro roads on Tuesday also led to drivers taking precautions.

“It can be very nerve-racking because there’s so much ice,” explained Gloria Owens, who spoke to 41 Action News outside a Price Chopper in Bonner Springs. “I’m so afraid that I’m going to hit somebody or someone is going to hit me.”

Due to safety concerns with the road conditions, others said they decided to head home early.

“I own a handyman company and had the guys stay in today. I ended up getting out early to get an estimate done and said, ‘Let’s cancel everything else for the day,’” explained Neil Gunsalus, who lives in Bonner Springs. “It was, ‘Let’s take a snow day and do inside work.’”

 

 

 

Because many took precautions and stayed off the road or went home early, CJ Barrow with Independence Specialty Tow said they were "surprisingly not busy." 

The tow company only responded to a few calls. However, the ice made their jobs a little more challenging. 

"If we’re taking someone out of a ditch our trucks tend to slide a lot more when there’s ice on the ground, rather than snow," Barrow said. "Everything in your truck starts freezing up too." 

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