Many schools, businesses close as storm hits Manhattan area

By Corene Brisendine

The snow storm slowed some area residents, halted others and kept still others working through the night.

USD 383 officials called off Friday classes by Thursday afternoon, although KSU resumed classes Friday after taking Thursday off. City and county offices also re-opened Friday, while Fort Riley instituted a two-hour delayed arrival policy for its personnel.

Jeff Walters, superintendent of streets for the city, said his department went to 12-hour shifts on Wednesday in preparation for the snow storm that hit early Thursday. He said they had workers out treating the roads with salt and sand before the first flakes began to fall.

Walters said while plows got stuck in snow drifts a couple of times, that was not unusual for a storm of this size. He said crews have been working hard to not only keep the main roads clear, but start working on the residential areas. Crews began clearing residential streets early Friday.

“We will most likely have things under control by the end of the shift at 8 o’clock tonight,” he said.

He said at the end of the day, they will go back to regular eight-hour days and they are definitely looking forward to having the weekend off.

With more snow predicted for Monday, Walters said crews are prepared to handle whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at them. They have enough salt and sand to handle any more snow for the rest of the season. While this winter has seen more snow that last, he said the amount of salt and sand used for this time of year is about average.

Anne Smith, director of aTa Bus, said the orange and green routes were closed as they always are due to the closure of Kansas State University, and service on the other lines was cancelled at mid-day, due both to snow and low ridership. The inter-city route between Manhattan and Junction City was also halted.

“We suspended the inter-city shuttle because I-70 was just too treacherous,” she said.

As of Friday morning, she said all route and services are running with the exception of the inter-city route. She said she hopes to have that shuttle running again by Monday, but with more snow in the forecast, it may not happen.

Local businesses also saw a decrease in demand on Thursday. Several elected to remain closed, among them Varney’s, Howdy’s and della Voce. Those who stayed open often closed early and had to pick up employees.

Kevin Peirce, owner of Bluestem Bistro and Varsity Donuts, said both businesses were open Thursday, but both closed early because “there weren’t that many people out and about.”

He said as a courtesy, he took doughnuts to the fire stations and other public services he knew were up and running because of the snow.

Grocery stores were also seeing less traffic, and Ray’s Apple Mart closed four hours early as a result. Steve Hall, store manager, said even though Thursday was extremely slow, Wednesday was extremely busy. He said most of the people coming in were those who were working on Thursday or living within walking distance.

“Everybody in the neighborhood came in here [on Wednesday] and bought enough food for three days,” he said. “So, we had a plan and executed it, and everything worked out fine.”

As for employees getting to work, he said those who live in the country didn’t come in, but those who live in town did. The store “made accommodations” for those who didn’t have cars.

Hall said the likelihood of the store seeing another rush this weekend in anticipation of more snow predicted for Monday depended on “what the weather man scares them into.” He said if it is a light snow, he probably won’t see a rush, but if there is another 10-inch snow predicted, he will probably see another day like Wednesday.

Some businesses are also having trouble with deliveries because of the snow. The Chef Café had two delivery trucks from Topeka cancel because of the road conditions on Interstate 70. Kurstin Harris, owner, said her husband had to drive to Topeka Friday to get enough food from their supplier to last the weekend.

As for Thursday, she said they were busy, but not as busy as they normally would have been, and that trend has continued for Friday.

Convenience stores also noticed a reduction in traffic because of the weather. Chris Green, manager of Dara’s Fast Lane #1, said while they did not sell a lot of gas Thursday, customers were coming in to pick up staples such as bread, milk and sandwiches.

Green said a couple of locations also closed early, but his store on Fort Riley Boulevard was busy enough to stay open though normal business hours.

While schools, city offices and many area activities closed or canceled due to the weather, the Landlords of Manhattan called candidates to let them know that a political forum scheduled for Thursday night was still on. Five of the seven candidates made it, the exceptions being Debbie Nuss, who was weather-bound, and Karen McCulloh, who was ill. McCulloh said had she called the landlords before the storm to alert them that she was sick, and “would kill them all if I went.”

Candidate Usha Reddi said the crowd was probably smaller than expected with a few empty tables in the conference room at the Holiday Inn at the Campus. She said it looked like 15 to 20 people attended.

“Those few that did attend will probably tell 10 of their friends what was said, so I think it was still a success,” she said.

Nuss said her inability to make it amounted to “taking the advice of the emergency preparedness service and the police department…the only accident I have ever had was on ice, and I just wanted to be safe.”

The next candidate forum is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday by Our Manhattan at the Manhattan Public Library.

Nuss said she would not be attending that forum either, but that was because Our Manhattan is a political action group and she said she didn’t think it would be wise for her campaign to go to a forum hosted by a group whose interests did not align with her own.

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