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Snowstorm’s aftermath brings fun and a good neighbor to lighten the load

Updated: 2014-03-03T16:49:55Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

With more than 10 inches of snow weighing heavy on Overland Park spirits Wednesday morning, residents of one cul-de-sac in the Lionsgate subdivision found something to smile about.

Their neighbor, Paul Baraban, went out about 8:30 a.m. and cleared all four driveways. He even cleared the street itself, which had not yet been plowed. It took him about an hour and a half with his new, top-of-the-line Sears Craftsman snow blower.

“I was having fun,” said Baraban, a dentist.

As the snow gave way to bitter cold, Baraban’s neighbors were delighted to find their driveways clear.

“I feel grateful that I didn’t have to get out there and shovel a foot of snow,” said Zach Bickel, noting there are four physicians in that cul-de-sac who were able to get out easily. “They have important work to do.”

Tiffany Anderson, an educator, was planning to spend her snow day behind a shovel. She was stunned when she saw what her neighbor was doing.

“Just to be greeted with such kindness really does your heart well,” Anderson said. “He just saved us a lot of time and energy and made our day.”

Another neighbor wasn’t so surprised.

“He told me he got this thing three months ago and he was dying to use it, so I wasn’t too surprised,” Dominic DiCicco said.

Last year, a private snow crew wanted $150 to clear Baraban’s driveway. He declined and decided last summer to get his own machine “so this ripoff can’t come over anymore and take my neighbors’ money.”

The highest snowfall amount was reported in Weston, which got 12 inches. Lee’s Summit got 8.8 inches.

Afterward came arctic air, with expected wind chills of 15 to 20 degrees below zero through Thursday morning. An advisory is in effect until noon.

That will have people turning up the thermostat, but area gas utilities have not reported difficulties in meeting the heavier demand.

“As for supply, we are in great shape and have not had any problems at all,” said Jim Bartling, a spokesman for Atmos Energy.

Kansas Gas Service said it anticipated an ample supply of natural gas to serve its customers throughout the winter.

Missouri Gas Energy couldn’t be reached Wednesday but has previously said it had sufficient gas supplies.

But it’s getting more expensive. Natural gas prices briefly hit a four-year high Wednesday before dropping after a forecast for warmer weather.

The futures price on the New York Mercantile Exchange hit $5.74 per 1,000 cubic feet, more than $1 higher than a year ago as demand soared because of the bitter temperatures.

But a forecast of warmer weather later in the month caused prices to ease to $5.13.

The higher prices are starting to seep into the cost of gas paid by utility customers.

That cost, which includes the price of the fuel plus storage and transportation fees, this month is $5.53 for Atmos customers. A year ago, it was $4.57 per 1,000 cubic feet. An average residential customer uses 80,000 cubic feet of gas annually.

The snow was a boon for some in the food service industry.

Zócalo Mexican Cuisine & Tequileria on the Country Club Plaza stayed open, as it did during the big snowstorms a year ago.

“We got the word out to area hotels and businesses that we are a 365-day-a-year restaurant, we are going to be open no matter what,” said Jason Green, assistant general manager. “And not only are we open, we are going to party.”

Sister operations The Well Bar Grill & Rooftop and Lew’s Grill & Bar were among the few Waldo venues that were open Tuesday. So they drew workers who were off for the night and exceeded sales from snowstorms a year ago.

“Last year during the snowstorm, most of the places were open and we were splitting up the scraps,” said Chris Lewellen, co-owner of The Well and Lew’s. “We also got multiple kegs of Boulevard’s chocolate ale in on Monday, so that helped.”

Downtown venues — The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, The Belfry lounge, Grünauer, and Snow & Co. — threw an impromptu “Snow Day Pub Crawl” on Tuesday to let people know they were open. Some customers hit up all four places.

The Star’s Steve Everly and Joyce Smith contributed to this report. To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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