Photos: Kansas City draped in snow after winter storm, closing schools and businesses
Kansas Citians woke up to see several inches of snow, but the storm brought far less than the 9-12 inches predicted by the National Weather Service. Schools and many businesses closed Wednesday, while others still hit the streets for cleanup or to continue their daily routine.
The Kansas City metro woke up to snow on Wednesday morning — albeit less than initially predicted by the National Weather Service. By 8 a.m., only about two inches had accumulated.
Dozens of school districts around the area preemptively closed for the day, as did many businesses.
Even still, city crews, private contractors and business owners were out early on the streets and sidewalks to clear off the powder, which continued to accumulate through the morning.
“At first, it didn’t start off so bad,” said John Brown, who was shoveling snow at a KC Streetcar stop at 16th and Main Street. “And the next thing you know it started coming out of nowhere.”
Brown works for a private contractor hired by KC Streetcar. He started his day at 5 a.m. and had already shoveled this streetcar stop once.
“As soon as I shovel, it gets covered right back up,” Brown said.
On Wednesday, KC Streetcar was running two streetcars instead of three, said spokesperson Donna Mandelbaum, but they were able to keep to their regular schedule.
“We’re working a little bit harder with all this snow,” Mandelbaum said. “We staffed up a little bit extra to make sure that we are on top of clearing the snow on top of the tracks and the streetcar stops.”
Mandelbaum noted that KC Streetcar suspends their continuous-ride policy in extreme weather. This allows people to stay on the streetcar to stay warm without being forced to get off at Union Station.
“We’re there for people to stay warm,” she added.
Near the corner of Main and Walnut, Tower Properties employee Gary Mathews cleared the sidewalk using a four-wheel ATV, outfitted with a plow and a hopper for salt.
“I’d rather be retired and home in bed with my wife where it’s nice and warm right now,” he said laughing.
Although Mathews also got started around 5 a.m., he said the snow wasn’t as bad as predicted.
“It’s light. It moves easy,” he said. “It’s not real heavy, but it’s going to be slick in some areas and the wind’s going to blow it around.”
Outside the Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus, at 705 Virginia Avenue, several people had camped out overnight. Some had erected tents, while others simply wrapped up in blankets covered with snow.
Carlos — who only gave his first name — spent the night in a two-person tent with his friend Maurice on the west side of the Hope Faith building.
Just before 7 a.m., Carlos unzipped the tent for the first time. “Look at this!” he exclaimed, seeing how much snow had fallen.
Carlos said sleeping in the tent was not too much of a struggle. “We was fine,” he said.
Carlos said he works during the day, but he did cancel his gig work for Wednesday because it was too cold to walk to the bus stop. “I’ve got a zero-degree sleeping bag,” he said. “I try to do my urban camping as comfortable as possible.”
Hope Faith executive director Doug Langner said that when he arrived at the building on Wednesday around 6 a.m., he found a woman sleeping on concrete, wrapped only with a blanket, not far from Carlos’ tent.
After several attempts, Langner said he was able to wake her and convince her to come into the building.
Langner said their mission constantly requires the need for donations, volunteers and resources, but the extreme weather adds extra stress to their work.
“It makes you remember what we’re working for as an organization,” he said. “Today is about keeping people alive and warm and fed.”
Outreach workers who serve Kansas City’s unhoused population say they need additional provisions during severe cold and snowy weather.
“If you’re living on the street, you pretty much walk everywhere, even to a warming center,” said Nellie McCool, donation coordinator for Creative Innovative Street Outreach. “If you’re not dressed in proper attire, you’re at much higher risk of hypothermia, which is what happened to Scott Eike last year, and why he froze to death.”
Eike was an unhoused Kansas Citian who was found dead from exposure on New Year’s Day 2021. Advocates said a recent sweep of his encampment left Eike without necessary resources.
People can donate items for unhoused residents at the City Union Mission drop-off site, at 1700 East 8th Street, between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Items needed include:
- Heavy socks
- Thermal gloves
- Thermal long underwear (new and unused)
- Heavy, long-sleeved shirts (clean, with buttons)
- Heavy coats (clean, working zipper)
- Heavy blankets or sleeping bags
Other information for the houseless include Free Hot Soup Kansas City, The Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness and Hope Faith Ministries.
KCUR's Laura Ziegler contributed to this story.