OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A unique winter storm presents unusual challenges.
So does cleaning streets and roads for snowplow crews that are short-staffed, partially due to COVID-19 callouts from work. Most snowplow teams in the metro are preparing to work 12 hour shifts to keep roads clear. Many of them have work to get ahead of the storm.
In Overland Park, city street maintenance crews are loaded and ready for this burst of winter weather, which will likely arrive with rain on Friday night. Street crews consider this storm a challenge, since many of them were short-staffed to begin with.
“Obviously, we want to have more people, but we have enough to cover the whole city right now,” Jeff Hunt, Overland Park’s street maintenance supervisor, said.
Hunt’s team of 172 people who work to keep streets clear is down to 130 for this storm, the metro’s third winter weather event of the season. Hunt is among the snow removal supervisors in the metro asking for patience from the public.
Hunt said major thoroughfares in Overland Park will continue to get the first sweep.
Overland Park’s snow team was already short-staffed before employees began getting sick, adding them to the thousands of Johnson Countians who came down with COVID-19.
“We’re going to be slower. There’s no doubt about that. We will be slower than what we typically are. We ask for patience, but we will get it done. We have a lot of resilient employees here,” Hunt said on Friday.
Kansas City, Missouri’s street teams don’t plan to miss a beat. COVID callouts and general shortages in staff size have hurt them, as well. However, city spokesperson Maggie Green said the city has 300 drivers, some of whom work in other municipal departments. They’re ready to work in street maintenance and handle two routes apiece if necessary.
“Going into snow season and tonight and tomorrow, we have all of the routes covered. That’s the priority for us, making sure all of the routes are covered by a driver,” Green told FOX4.
And at the KDOT snowplow garage off Old Highway 56 in Olathe, 40 drivers are prepared for 12-hour shifts driving the center’s 20 trucks.
Delaney Tholen, a KDOT spokesperson, said highway crews are short-staffed by as much as 30% in Kansas’ northeast sector, but drivers are prepared to work until the job is done.
“If we could ask viewers, if possible — stay home so there are fewer people on the roads. Delay your travel for a couple of hours, if possible, so plows have extra time to catch up,” Tholen said.
Metro road updates are always available at KC Scout’s website.