Area’s first ‘major winter storm’ stays minor

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The biggest news coming out of this weekend’s much-ballyhooed storm is that it never really arrived.

But who’s complaining?

Forecasters who had been predicting for days in advance that the oncoming storm would bring severe icing, significant snow and arctic temperatures when it moved in on Friday were only one-third accurate.

By Monday morning, temperatures did hit the single digits in the Hillsboro area after plunging from the balmy 60s on Thursday.

But instead of suffering through electrical outages and fallen limbs because of ice accumulation, or digging themselves out from 8 or more inches of snow-as forecasters had warned-about the only hardships residents faced were the cancellation of a few athletic events and the challenge of clearing maybe 2 inches of glazed-over sleet from their sidewalks.

Steve Garrett, Hillsboro city administrator, said city crews had pretreated streets with brine and developed a plan of action in case the storm proved to be as nasty as predicted.

“It’s much better to be relieved (that the storm missed) than be surprised when you don’t prepare for the worst,” he said.

“I saw on some TV stations to be prepared for a couple of days without power,” he added. “I personally didn’t believe it would come to that. But on Friday I had a discussion with several department heads to make sure we remembered what we were supposed to be doing just in case.

“We can be somewhat proactive, but mostly we’re reactive,” Garrett added. “We have to try to gauge if it’s going to be 1 inch of accumulated sleet or 8 inches of snow. It all requires a different level of commitment.

“These (storms) always seem to come on a weekend, so we want to make the best use of manpower.

“We were prepared and are just glad it didn’t come to that.”

Based on the threat of wintry havoc, Hillsboro and Marion high schools postponed basketballs games scheduled against Ellinwood and Hoisington, respectively.

The Trojans were going to play host to Ellinwood while the Warriors were slated to make the 110-mile trip to Hoisington.

Max Heinrichs, HHS activities director, said the four schools consulted among themselves because the two trips are of similar distance and direction.

“We leave it up to the traveling team (to make the decision) and their safety,” he said. “Sure, if we could do it again, we would have had (the games). It was important because we haven’t played in a week and a half now, and that’s not good.”

Both matchups have been rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Hillsboro and Marion also were scheduled to compete at a large wrestling tournament in Halstead on Friday and Saturday, but that event was cancelled.

By Saturday night, predictions were still swirling about significant snow accumulation the following day. Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church, situated in the country, canceled services, as did Durham First Baptist and Valley Methodist in Marion. No other cancellations were broadcast.

The limited precipitation that did fall during the weekend came down mostly as sleet, which glazed over into a slippery concrete-like veneer on untreated surfaces.

Even so, law enforcement officials reported no accidents or significant weather-related incidents during the entire weekend.

“Usually, we have to push people off the streets and through the ditches and everything else (when a storm hits), and there just really wasn’t anything,” said Dan Kinning, Hillsboro police chief. “I guess everyone was a little overprepared this time.”

Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker also reported an uneventful weekend in regard to the weather.

“We have the inmates outside shoveling walks at the courthouse, but that’s about it,” Becker said on Monday.

“It’s been good,” he added. “We had the trucks ready to go and were ready for power outages-and that didn’t happen. So we’re quietly impressed.”

With the wintery weather moving out of the region, forecasters are predicting high temperatures will rise above freezing by Thursday and that the weather will be precipitation-free for at least a week.

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