Heavy snowfall shut down much of the Greater Kansas City region February 21 and 22. Before that snow could melt much, a second front dumped an additional foot in some parts of Jackson County on Tuesday, February 26.The storms prompted Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders to issue a rare state of emergency. County offices were closed. Citizens were encouraged to stay home.
But some Jackson County employees still had to brave the hazardous conditions and report to work. The public safety obligations of the Sheriff's Office and Corrections Department could not be put on hold until the weather blew over. Deputies still needed to be on patrol; corrections officers had to keep the Jackson County Detention Center running smoothly.
For the Jackson County Public Works Department the top priority was getting out into the thick of the snow to plow roads around the clock.
"Despite the heavy snow and cold temperatures, staff members in our Public Works Department worked through difficult conditions to keep our roads and bridges safe for our citizens to travel. And because of the efforts of our Sheriff's Office, Medical Examiner's Office, Parks Rangers and Corrections Department, our community remained safe and secure," said Sanders. "This type of effort and dedication is just another example of the great team we have built here at Jackson County."
The Public Works Department sent crews from its Road and Bridge Division out to pre-treat the roads as soon as National Weather Service forecasts made it clear the blizzards were inevitable. Nonetheless this much snow -- more than 20 inches falling during the last week of February -- posed major challenges. Jackson County crews plow 427 miles of road. Since each road requires at least two passes to clear both lanes, plows actually log about 850 miles each snow storm. (That's the equivalent of traveling from Kansas City to Dallas and back.)
The white-out conditions made maneuvering the county plows daunting, especially at night with no street lights on many of the unincorporated roads.
County roads are divided into two classes when prioritizing plowing. Class A roads, the major ones that connect to the smaller roads, are plowed first and repeatedly throughout a snow event. Class B roads are given one pass, meaning one lane will be cleared. The county was still in the process of widening the path on those Class B roads as this week drew a close. While doing this work, Road and Bridge crews have returned to their normal schedule, after working 12-hour shifts (noon to midnight and midnight to noon) during the storms.