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After 3-inch snowfall, Kansas City streets still covered and road crews short workers

Kansas City Star logoKansas City Star 2/21/2019 By Robert A. Cronkleton and Kaitlyn Schwers, The Kansas City Star

Feb. 21-- Feb. 21--Kansas City area residents already weary of winter dug themselves out again Wednesday after snow fell overnight, prompting many schools to cancel classes for the day and turning the morning commute hazardous.

Between 2 and 4 inches of snow fell across the metro area, according to the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill.

Kansas City International Airport reported 3 inches of snow while Maryville, Mo., had the highest total in the area -- 7.5 inches.

The new snow covered streets around Kansas City. Road crews made good progress clearing highways and major thoroughfares, but many residential streets remained covered in snow or slush.

Meanwhile, the city is short 30 snowplow operators, positions it is looking to fill.

Kansas City native Mike Nodwell was digging out his car late Wednesday morning. He's lived in midtown for several months and this is his first winter in the neighborhood.

"I"m not super impressed," he said of the city's snow removal efforts. He said it seems that the area where he lives is one of the last to see a snow plow.

There were still a few patches of ice remaining from Friday's storm when the new snow started falling Tuesday night, he said.

Pointing to cars that were parked on both sides of the street, Nodwell said it can be difficult getting a plow down the street, so he sympathizes with drivers as they maneuver the tight spaces between cars.

The midtown streets weren't the only ones to remain snow-covered.

In Pembrooke Estates, north of Missouri 152, Joe Hurtig and three other neighbors spent part of their Wednesday morning shoveling and using snow blowers to clear their own street, Northeast 91st Place. The road is a cul-de-sac that ends down a hill, making it difficult for drivers to leave when it's covered in snow and ice, Hurtig said.

"To kind of complicate the issue, we've had one plow come through this winter last Tuesday," Hurtig said. "Beginning a couple weeks ago, my neighbors and I just decided that we would clear the street for the city because otherwise, we'd just be stuck here, not really being able to leave unless we have four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive type cars."

Another resident in the neighborhood, Stacy Brines, said Tuesday was the first day streets were "completely clear" in the past month.

"Of course, it snowed again last night," Brine said at Northeast 91st Place and North Bellefontaine Avenue. Her husband Jeff made passes on their street with a snow blower Wednesday morning.

"The snowplow might come through one time. They don't hit the cul-de-sacs. It'll warm up a little bit and then the snow levels out, it ices over overnight and it looks like a Zamboni has been through here. It's very slick."

Brines said some of the residents are part of a Facebook group where neighbors report when they're calling the city to request help with snow removal. The most frustrating thing, she said, is residents still struggle to get out of their neighborhood days after the snow or ice has fallen.

"We've lived in three different neighborhoods and this has been, by far, the worst that we've had for snow removal in Kansas City," Brines said.

Kansas City's snowplow crews have been working 12-hour shifts since before Friday's storm, said Chris Hernandez, a spokesman for Kansas City. The hope is to get back to 8-hour schedules Thursday.

Crews began plowing overnight and did a "pretty decent job" on the major streets, he said. The city's goal was to have all major streets cleared curb-to-curb by the end of Wednesday's rush hour.

Crews were out on the neighborhood streets Wednesday with the goal of making one passable lane down each residential street.

"The snow is wet and heavy," Hernandez said. That is creating issues in cul-de-sacs, where crews are forced to pile snow in the middle in an effort to clear access to driveways.

Residential crews on Thursday will run through neighborhood streets and widen out corners as well as respond to calls about slick spots.

Some crews will switch focus from plowing to repairing potholes, Hernandez said.

Residents can call the city's 311 Action Center Thursday to report slick streets by calling 311 or 816-513-1313. They can also make reports on Twitter and online.

The shortage of snow plow drivers comes from high turnover and attrition, Hernandez said. It hasn't caused the city's snow removal efforts to be "too far of whack," he said, but it puts more pressure on managers to make sure all the routes are covered.

Those workers will also fill potholes. The equipment operator and maintenance worker positions pay $14.35 to $22.93 an hour.

The city has been encouraging staff to rest and eat right when they aren't on duty so that they can minimize the number of people who call in sick.

"The folks working now are pretty worn out," Hernandez said. "Most have been working most weekends this year . . . They have been going nonstop."

Before the snow storm hit Tuesday, Hernandez told reporters the city budgeted $2.75 million this year for snow removal and salt. It's running up against that budget, he said, mostly because of overtime costs.

Residents can help snowplow crews clear their streets faster by parking on one side of the street -- the west side on streets that run north and south and the north side on streets that run east and west.

"We appreciate everyone's patience," Hernandez said. "It's been a busy, long winter. We know people are sick and tired of snow every where. So are we."


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