They didn’t exactly roll up the sidewalks, but even some of Great Bend’s downtown stores closed Tuesday as snow whipped through the streets and temperatures plummeted.
It’s not as if no one saw this week’s massive winter storm coming. Forecasters at the National Weather Service warned people last week, even as temperatures reached unprecedented highs, to expect highs in the teens and lows in single digits — along with wind and snow. It was the threat of white-outs that prompted officials at school districts such as Great Bend Unified School District 428 to decide early Tuesday to cancel classes. Barton Community College also canceled classes Tuesday.
Along with the Great Bend Recreation Commission’s centers and the public library, the My Town businesses on Main Street closed Tuesday. General Manager Tina Mingenback said the decision to close the stores and restaurants was made for the safety of employees, keeping in mind that many of them also had kids home from school. The closures were announced on the radio and television stations for the convenience of customers, she added.
Nearly everyone at stores, schools and clubs said they planned to resume normal hours today, although the Barton County Historical Society will remain closed today. Jennifer Schartz at the USD 428 District Education Center said any decision to close the schools again today would be made early in the morning, as it was Tuesday. "The plan is to have school (Wednesday)," she said Tuesday afternoon. "The snow is leaving and hopefully the wind will die down."
In Great Bend, the storm made trips unpleasant but did not result in weather-related accidents during the day, Capt. Bob Robinson of the Great Bend Police Department said. The bad-weather rule that allows motorists in minor fender-benders to exchange insurance information and contact police later is NOT in effect.
Out in the county, Lieutenant Brian Bellendir at the Barton County Sheriff’s Office said motorists were driving cautiously by Tuesday morning. There was a weather-related accident early Monday, however. Around 5:50 a.m. Luis Mario Guizar Morau was driving east on U.S. 56 at SE 140 when he tried to pass another vehicle on the icy road, and his 2000 Ford Crown Victoria went in the ditch, hitting a stop sign and culvert. Ellinwood Emergency Medical Technicians responded, but Morau refused treatment at the scene.
"Accidents in the county have been minimal," Bellendir said Tuesday, adding the schools’ closures may have helped. However, by late Tuesday afternoon the snow was starting to drift and build up on some roads. He warned motorists to use continued caution, especially in snow-packed areas such as roads next to shelter belts and near bridges.
Expect more cold weather today, with a high in the teens and a low in single digits, but with wind chills approaching -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Things will start to warm up Thursday, but whether we can expect six months more of winter or an early spring may depend on the forecast made today by a certain groundhog.