At the Station at 1:30pm 4 hours late, 3 hours on 350 Hwy
February 21, 2013

KC Blizzard Snarls Traffic on 350 Hwy, Major Road
February 21, 2013

Kansas City’s 350 Highway is a major road on the city’s side. Motorists have been stuck on it in the blizzard for 90 minutes, at least.

Traffic Snarled on 350 Hwy in KC Due to Blizzard. Has not moved in 1:20 hours
February 21, 2013

Kansas City Blizzard
February 21, 2013

Behind the Scenes as the City Worries About the Blizzard
February 1, 2011

(City Manager Troy Schulte(far right) leads City Hall briefing on blizzard preparations)  

Even the security guards in the lobby of the 29th floor at City Hall were surprised at what they were seeing. At 4pm, it seemed like the heads of every department in city government was walking off the elevators.

They were arriving to develop a sequence of battle for the approaching snow storm.

The only thing was, the guy who called the meeting wasn’t there. City Manager Troy Schulte was five minutes late.

It was not a tense meeting. The mood was relaxed, but businesslike.

Schulte started it by announcing they were still not sure how bad the storm might be.

“I’ve heard ‘em say anywhere between 3 and 48 inches”, he chuckled.

Schulte then stated he was ready to move Kansas City into what he described as ‘Phase Three” of the city snow ordinance. The city only two phases on the books. But Schulte explained declaring a snow emergency would allow the City greater authority to tackle the storm.

One of those authorities will be a vigorous enforcement of the snow ordinances.

The city never declared a ‘snow emergency’ Monday. But it was clear they were set to do so sometime Tuesday after they’ve taken the measure of the storm.

That ’emergency’ declaration Tuesday could lead the city urge residents to take their cars off all the streets in order to help the plows move more easily. The stick would be a less tolerant approach to snow ordnance violations and a quicker towing (providing the tow trucks can get there).

And if Kansas Citians can’t get all their vehicles off the street, at least try to put them all on the same side of the street.

For north/south streets, use the west curb. On east/west streets, the north side.

Mayor Mark Funkhouser was not at the briefing. He was out-of-town. He didn’t say where on the conference call. But it didn’t seem to matter.

Funkhouser urged the City keep information lines to the citizens open, even it was bad news.

In a news release issued a couple of hours after the briefing, the mayor was quoted as saying, “”Our City has experienced two significant storms this winter season, which have demonstrated that our snow response is greatly improved,” The forecasted storm we are about to face appears to be even more significant. While the City will use all resources available, we ask that for this storm you park off street and make it easier for crews to assist you.”

Funkhouser never said that during the briefing. He could have made the state statement later. But he didn’t say it then.

There was some talk of an Monday evening news conference by the city.

The mayor said, “have Kendrick and Gloria get on that”. Kendrick Blackwood is the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Gloria is the Mayor’s wife.

“So what is the latest?, asked Schulte.

Schulte was told the best guess would be that the city would get between 8-12 inches when the storm hit on Tuesday.

The street maintenance men, already dressed in carhart overalls, told Schulte that crews would be out Monday evening preparing the roads. Residential crews will show up 6am Tuesday morning. Schulte was advised things would not go well at first.

“We’re going to get about an inch and half of snow and hour for a while, guys” The street maintenance crew informed him.

“The temps will kill us at first”, they warned. Forecasters say after the snow ends, it will be bitterly cold for another 24 hours, preventing any salt or treatments from being effective. Then there will be a slow improvement in the temperatures.

Schulte was impassive at the news.

“So we just hold on ‘till Saturday,” Schulte asked. Nobody disagreed.

“Public Works, how’s the fleet?. The plows?” he asked.

“We’re down about 25 trucks” he was told. That’s about 10% of the 263 plow trucks the city has.

There was brief discussion about whether or not to close City Hall Tuesday. Schulte was adamant that not happen.

“Show up and work”, he said. Schulte was raised in Iowa. There’s a winter work ethic up there. Skipping work because a bad winter storm, some Iowans believe, is a sign you can’t handle it. He feels strongly city offices should remain open to demonstrate the city is still working.

Fire Chief Smokey Dyer, and the Building codes administrators warned about the possibility of the heavy wet snow prompting roofs to collapse.

There was talk of opening the community centers as shelters. Certainly that seemed very likely for the Southeast Center.

The group was advised Governor Jay Nixon had put all of Missouri into a state of emergency. That prompted someone to chime in, “keep your receipts”.

Schulte followed up adding that was a good idea to have somebody in each department keep track of the spending. His eyes were on a potential federal disaster declaration and the chance of recovering some money in a too tight budget.

The meeting continued at a quick pace. There was no sense panic, it was more about how to take care of whatever Tuesday brings.

With one exception.

This week, the city is updating its Blackberry service. Monday, there was some grumbling that some administrators’ Blackberry phones and data systems were not working. Timing is everything.

Schulte asked if everybody’s phone had been converted. Most everyone had. But the Finance Department guys said they were still working on theirs.

That started to break the meeting down, as the chatter turned cell phones.

“Anything else?” Schulte shouted to the room.

“A couple of tickets to Florida”, somebody cracked

The meeting was clearly over.