Mother Nature dumps up to 20 inches of snow on Marion County.

Marion County got a taste last week of what the northeastern U.S. has endured for much of this winter when the area was hit by a second snowstorm in the span of a week.

Last week?s storm brought record or near-record snow accumulations in addition to the wind and sub-zero temperatures that accompanied the previous one.

Hillsboro was credited by some Wichita television stations as receiving the highest amount in the entire state?a total of 20 inches that began falling in the wee hours of Monday morning and finally ended Wednesday morning.

As with the previous week?s storm, this one hit hardest on Tuesday, resulting in predictable consequences. Schools in the county were closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and many churches canceled their Wednesday evening programs.

Even Tabor College canceled class on Tuesday?a rare occurrence for the residential school. Recollections varied from 10 to 30 years since it had last occurred.

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But 150 to 200 of the students, responding to an e-mail challenge by President Jules Glanzer, traded their books for snow shovels and formed teams to help residents, particularly the elderly, dig out from under the deluge.

?No one officially kept count, and there were some smaller groups of threes and fours that no one really knows how many of those,? said Beth Riffel, Tabor?s director of communication, about the response.

?But we had a large group of football players, the entire team of baseball and the coaches, and Amy Ratzlaff and many of her volleyball girls. Patrick Massarm, interim dean of student life, took two shifts of 30 kids out. Several theme houses went out as well.?

The voluntary effort caught the attention of several Wichita media outlets and a clip of the students at work made NBC?s national ?Today Show.?

?The KWCH (TV) media site indicates 1.1 million viewers in a 66-countywide primary coverage area, primarily going west,? Riffel said of the coverage.

?They aired the story at 6 and 10 (p.m.) on Wednesday and again Thursday morning. It also was used in the Fox local news coverage Wednesday night at 9.

?We estimate the television exposure was probably worth $50,000 to $70,000 of television air time advertising.?

To arm the battalion of students, Tabor officials solicited snow shovels from several local businesses.

?I made the request from Cooperative Grain and Supply,? Riffel said. ?They loaned those to us. We also bought out everything from the hardware store and we begged and borrowed other shovels from faculty, staff and those for whom we scooped.?

City?s response

Meanwhile, Hillsboro City Administrator Larry Paine said city crews followed the usual procedures for snow removal?but spent more time than usual at the task.

?We had some guys out about 2:30 in the morning Wednesday,? he said. ?They started doing their plowing (of streets). The one thing we know is that if we can get to the streets before somebody drives on it, there?s a lot less packing.

?By hitting the streets with the plows, we could then be in a position a little later in the morning to start the removal.?

Part of the usual procedure with a significant snowfall is that city workers from the various departments combine their energies for the task of snow removal.

Paine said Monday he wasn?t sure yet how many overtime hours city workers had invested in the effort. But he was notified by Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft that the county had been declared eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emer?gency Management Agency for overtime and use of equipment.

Aside from the snow-removal effort, the storm passed through without additional ramifications for the city.

?From what I know it was pretty clean,? Paine said. ?We didn?t have any water breaks or outages that I?m aware of related to snow.

?On the customer side of the water line, we had some line breaks that our guys were involved in doing shut-off so that repairs could occur,? he added. ?For the most part, on our main (water) lines, it turned out OK.?

He added that it?s during the thawing period that city water lines are most at risk because the ground tends to shift as it warms.

?Often, you?ve got cold water and cold pipes and they can snap,? he said.

With temperatures rising well into the 50s by weekend, the evidence of the monster storm was reduced considerably by Monday.

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Sealed in snow

Student cars parked along the east side of the Tabor College townhouses Wednesday morning first were blanketed with thick snow, then sealed in as city crews cleared Adams Street behind them. Eventually, students used the snow shovels they borrowed to dig out local residents to dig themselves out of their predictament.

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