Planning preceeded blizzard
Local government officials started planning last week for Tuesday and Wednesday’s blizzard.
Chuck Magaha, Leavenworth County emergency management director, said preparations started Thursday when the National Weather Service began warning of a storm that could dump up to 9 to 14 inches backed by winds of up to 25 mph.
On Monday, he met with representatives of the sheriff’s office, county public works and their counterparts from county cities able to make the meeting, Magaha said. He gave them paperwork to document snow removal should, as he now expects, the Federal Emergency Management Agency act of governor’s declaration of a federal emergency from the storm.
“Everything indicates it will be,” Magaha said. “We want to document it now so we’re not playing catch up in the event we do go to a federal emergency.”
For the blizzard to qualify for a federal emergency and federal dollars to reimburse snow removal costs, the state would have snow removal expenses of $1.27 per resident and the county $2.37 per resident, Magaha said. The storm also has to be a record snowfall for the day, he said.
Cost incurred 24 hours before the storm, the length of the storm and 24 hours after the storm are allowed, Magaha said. Allowable snow removal expenses include sand and chemical pretreatment and snow removal equipment hours and overtime, he said.
Tonganoxe City Administrator Mike Yanez said the city treated streets and roads Monday.
“Our crews pretty well make a habit of maintaining records of work hours and cost associated with storms in case a window of disaster aid opens up,” he said.
In another piece of pre-planning, an added full-time firefighter reported to the Tonganoxie Fire Department Monday evening and stayed on through the storm, Yanez said.
“We realize if we do have a fire call or emergency medical response, it would be real hard for a volunteer to make it to the fire station,” he said.
Because it has a backup generator, the fire station was also pegged to as the city headquarters should the city lose power, Yanez said.
Magaha said he, too, prepared backup plans.
“A lot of our concerns is with the Meals on Wheels program and how to get them taken care of,” he said. “We look if there is something we can do ahead of time to get generators to critical infrastructure.”
During the storm, his office was a resource for placing generators where they might be needed, getting snowplows to homebound residents with critical needs or clearing roads to fires or medical emergencies, Magaha said.
The blizzard was expected to be the worst since the 2009 Christmas storm. The timing of that storm was fortunate because many people were off for the holiday and didn’t attempt to travel, Magaha said. He and Yanez hoped many made the same decision the next Tuesday and Wednesday.
“There’s not much we can do but plow snow, replow and replow,” Yanez said. “We can’t guarantee dry pavement or safe road conditions. Personal judgment has to be used.
“Stay home and stay safe.”