Winter storm leaves Kansas City roads a mess, forces some schools to cancel classes

A tractor-trailer slid off the road on southbound Interstate 35 near the entrance ramp from 87th Street
A tractor-trailer slid off the road on southbound Interstate 35 near the entrance ramp from 87th Street The Kansas City Star

A winter storm that spread 1 to 4 inches of snow across the Kansas City area created a mess on the roads for the morning commute and caused some school districts to cancel classes Thursday.

“It’s much better now that we have traffic on the highways,” said Steve Porter, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“It is mostly wet and clear on the highways. As always, the ramps, overpasses and bridges should be suspect when you’re out on the roads — that’s where the ice and frost create slick spots.”

Click here to view a map of preliminary snowfall totals.

He said there were some early issues when the storm system moved through the Kansas City area.

In the Kansas City’s downtown loop, slickness caused issues about 3:30 a.m. near Interstate 670 and Broadway.

And then about 5:30 a.m., a semitrailer overturned on northbound Interstate 35 at Cambridge Circle.

That closed I-35 headed into downtown Kansas City for a while.

“They cleared that in less than an hour,” Porter said. “That’s a very fast recovery.”

Other slick spots appeared throughout the metropolitan area, typically around ramps, bridges and overpasses.

“County roads and rural routes will still be a little slick, but as this morning dawns, we will get light on those roads and because they were pretreated, it will be easier to get the snow off of them,” Porter said.

Even though the roads may appear clear, Porter urged drivers to slow down and use caution, as well as give snowplows a lot of room to clear the roads.

“If you can leave a little later, that will help too,” he said.

Kansas City said crews had completed their first pass on all arterial streets by 6 a.m. and started working on residential streets.

The Clay County Sheriff reported via Twitter that as of 8 a.m. deputies had worked 13 accidents, all non-injury.

Most were slide-offs due to slick roads and the drivers were urged to take it slow.

On the Kansas side, road conditions were improving by 7:30 a.m.

“We are seeing more pavement because the precipitation is finally letting up,” said Kimberly Qualls, a spokeswoman with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

There were, however, some snow-packed roads.

“We are going to be in good shape going forward as long as we don’t receive any freezing precipitation or possible more snow later,” she said.

The snow posed a challenge overnight because there was still a lot of traffic out on the roads when the snow started falling around midnight and 1 a.m.

“The snow fell heavy and there were slide-offs everywhere,” Qualls said. “It kind of kept going throughout the night with the random slide-offs, so we were really concerned about the morning commute.”

Though temperatures weren’t expected to rise much above freezing, it was expected to be warm enough to melt the snow and ice and help road crews clear the roads.

Qualls urged drivers to still use caution even if they can see pavement. The roads remained wet and slushy, which means slick spots.

Overland Park police reported via Twitter about 7:30 a.m. that things were going well. They were working only one crash — northbound U.S. 69 just south of 95th Street.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority said that as of 8:30 a.m., about 25 percent of of its buses were running about 20 minutes behind schedule because of slow traffic and road conditions.

The KCATA also has activated Phase A of its inclement weather plan for the Share-A-Fare paratransit service. Riders may see delays of 30 to 60 minutes past scheduled pick up times.

Riders with questions or cancellations can call the Share-A-Fare office at 816-842-9070.

Metro riders can contact the Regional Call Center at (816) 221-0660 for information on their bus and whether the snow reroute plan is in effect. Details of the emergency snow reroute plan are available at the KCATA's website.

Meanwhile, several school districts canceled classes, including Kansas City, Raytown, North Kansas City, Independence, Smithville, Lee’s Summit, Park Hill, West Platte and Excelsior Springs.

Buses in the Belton School district were running late, and Grain Valley Schools were starting two hours late.

Here’s what some other public safety people were saying via Twitter:

To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to bcronkleton@kcstar.com.

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