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Weather keeps residents prepared




Boy Scouts weren't the only ones prepared.

So were the Girl Scouts -- at least, a Girl Scout mom.

Also prepared were the public works departments of Ellis County and the city of Hays. With Ellis County in a blizzard warning and later changed to a winter weather advisory this morning, road crews were ready Sunday to push snow to keep roads open.

Meanwhile, Kristin Fairbank was pushing Girl Scout cookies at The Mall, 2918 Vine, on Sunday afternoon. She and her daughter were handing out free samples, trying to entice cookie sales at a nearby booth.

Fairbank said her family was ready for a second winter storm to hit in less than a week. School had been called off for today at both Hays USD 489 and at Thomas More Prep-Marian late Sunday night already.

"We're going to bunker down and have fun," Fairbank said. "We're going to build snowmen. We've got a fireplace, we've got hot chocolate, and we are stocked up."

They will watch movies, too. Fairbank's daughter wants to watch "Barbie," while her son will watch John Wayne movies and "The Dukes of Hazzard" with his grandfather.

Fairbank wasn't worried about the blowing and drifting predicted with the storm, despite having more than a foot of snow from a winter storm late last week.

"We have amazing neighbors with a tractor that blessed us, and friends," Fairbank said of removing snow.

Ellis County Public Works Director Mike Graf said his crews were ready for another round of plowing snow.

"We're as ready as we are for any of them," he said. "We have all our manpower ready, our equipment ready. We have plenty of diesel fuel, other supplies we need."

The city of Hays, for the second time in a week, enacted its snow emergency plan. Vehicles are prohibited from parking on designated snow routes. City crews are ready to hit the streets, too, said Hays Public Works Director I.D. Creech.

"When snow starts stacking up, we'll go out, start pushing it off to the side, try to keep the roadway surfaces as dry as possible," Creech said.

Graf and Creech both said if a storm becomes too intense, crews might have to wait to stop clearing roads until conditions are better.

"A lot of times, we couldn't see where the road ended and the ditch started," Graf said of last week's storm.

"If we can't push it, or see to push it, or if it's just ineffective because of a lot of wind, we'll wait," Creech said.

While others might dread the storm's arrival, Crystal Hamel of Ellis can't wait.

"I'm excited for the moisture," she said, adding it will help the farmers.

There's another reason Hamel wants the snow to fall, too.

"Our creek is dry in Ellis," she said. "I've never seen it dry, lived there all my life. I'm ready for some moisture and some water."

Hamel remembered big winter storms as a kid and wanted her four children to have a similar experience.

"There was a blizzard when I was younger," she said. "It was one of my favorite childhood memories. I'm hoping my kids get that experience and have fun."

They will have all day to have fun, with no school.

TMP Principal Bill DeWitt still was contemplating Sunday night whether to call off school when he found out USD 489 would be closed. Since some TMP students take USD 489 buses to school, when the school district is closed, TMP automatically follows suit, DeWitt said.

With no school today, TMP has used its third snow day DeWitt has worked into the schedule.

"Once we get beyond three, I have to recount my hours, see where we're at," he said. "There's a minimum number of hours the state requires."

USD 489 Superintendent Will Roth was unavailable for comment on how many snow days the district has used, and how many it has left.