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Commuters face snow-packed roads as Kansas City digs out from record snow

Updated: 2014-03-03T16:49:54Z

People who are braving the weather to head out to work Wednesday are finding snow-packed roads and late buses.

Transportation officials are urging people to limit travel to only necessary trips.

“If they don’t have to get out, it’s another good day to stay home and stay warm,” said Kimberly Qualls, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Kansas City International Airport recorded 7.5 inches of snow on Tuesday, breaking the previous record for Feb. 4 of 7.4 inches, which was set in 1924.

Those who do head out will need to be extremely cautious.

“In the driving lane, you will see some pavement ruts showing through, but we are fighting blowing snow and gusty winds that are causing drifting today,” Qualls said.

In some places, crews are dealing with 2- to 4-foot snow drifts.

Drivers will need to be especially careful on ramps, flyovers and bridges.

“We are seeing traffic getting stuck on ramps and bridges this morning,” Qualls said.

The lanes are very tight with a lot of snow on the shoulders and against the barrier walls.

On the Missouri side, the main highways are partly to mostly covered with snow, but a lot of pavement can bee seen, said Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Porter.

“We have had some drifting and there are some shoulders and ramps and ramp lanes that have not been fully plowed,” Porter said.

Crews will be out with loaders Wednesday working to remove snow from interchanges and the top of ramps where there’s a lot of snow.

“You should see a lot of that today,” Porter said. “And if we get any sun at all and the winds die down, you should see a lot of clear pavement by the end of the day. At least that’s the goal.”

Crews will also be plowing snow all the way over to the shoulder.

Olathe reported via Twitter that its main roads are passable, but plows were battling drifting snow. Crews started working residential areas around midnight.

People are urged to take it slow, allow plenty of time to get places and to keep a safe distance between vehicles.

Many motorists heeded pleas to stay indoors and off the roadways during Tuesday’s big snowstorm. But Kansas City police say they responded to 542 calls between 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and 9:40 today. These included 111 stranded motorist calls, 22 injury accident calls and 70 non-injury accident calls.

As the winds die down later Wednesday, the cold temperatures will still be a challenge.

Treating the ice with rock salt is ineffective in the extreme cold and crews will want to limit melting so that it doesn’t refreeze, creating worse conditions.

“The less traffic we have on the roads will give crews more room to work,” Qualls said. “We have multiple reports of cars and semis getting stuck, which causes additional issues.”

The Missouri Department of Transportation will limit the amount of materials and chemicals it uses until the pavement is cleared.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority announced the local Metro and Max routes were operating on the Missouri side, however riders can expect delays due to road conditions and traffic.

Early on, Metro buses were using the Snow Reroute Plan, which affected Metro Routes 31, 47, 51, 51X, 108, 109, 123 and 471.

But at 1 p.m. Wednesday, all buses returned to their regular routes. The KCATA also believed that as traffic conditions improve, delays were shrinking.

Riders were encouraged to avoid travel, especially because of the extreme cold and the unsafe road conditions.

The KCATA was providing a warming bus at its 10th and Main streets MetroCenter.

Meanwhile, the Share-A-Fare paratransit service is operating under Phase C of its Inclement Weather Plan. Riders should expect delays of more than an hour, with longer delays possible. Riders with non-critical trips are encouraged to cancel and reschedule.

Kansas City’s Public Works Department will suspend trash, recycling and bulky item services Wednesday. The services will be delayed one day for the remainder of the week.

Robert A. Cronkleton, bcronkleton@kcstar.com

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