It was a storm that will be remembered for generations. People will tell their grandchildren about the blizzard of March 2009 and the 28 inches of snow in Pratt.


It was a storm that will be remembered for generations. People will tell their grandchildren about the blizzard of March 2009 and the 28 inches of snow in Pratt.

Pratt continues to dig out from the early spring blizzard Friday and Saturday that piled up 28 inches of snow and buried the city and county in snowdrifts that reached rooflines in some places.
The powerful storm started dumping snow in Pratt Friday morning and continued to cover the area with snow for 24 hours finally coming to and Saturday morning around 10 a.m.

The storm was so violent that from about 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday morning in Pratt the snow was horizontal and every street in town was impassable even for four-wheel drive vehicles even up to 7 a.m., said Pratt City Manager Dave Howard said.

There was great concern in the event of an emergency that ambulance crews and fire trucks could not get around the city. A county road grader was assigned to each ambulance to plow through the streets if necessary.

Highways are open to the other towns in the county and they are working on getting side roads open just like Pratt, said Pratt County Emergency Manager Tim Branscom.

It was so bad that crews would plow a street and just 10 minutes later it was impossible to tell it had been plowed, Howard said Pratt City Manager Dave Howard. 

All three highways into Pratt, U.S. 54, U.S. 281 and K-61 were closed but some motorists had to be rescued by National Guard. A farmer with a tractor also helped rescue stranded motorists east of Pratt.

National Guard 6 X 6 vehicles and humvees drove down Pratt streets to help break a path so city vehicles could get through. The National Guard vehicles could go where city vehicles couldn’t go and once the National Guard vehicles cleared the streets it helped the melting process.

The Township 12 water truck also broke open snowdrifts and helped open roads.

“It was a brilliant idea,” said Pratt City Manager Dave Howard.

City crews continue to break open side streets but it will take several days to get every thing open and the streets completely cleared of snow, Howard said.

“We’re asking the public to please bear with us. We’re going to do everything we can as fast as we can,” Howard said.

The amount of snow is much more than city crews can handle quickly so it will take some time to get everything cleared.

The city is also getting some weather help. Two days of temperatures in the 50s have helped melt snow. The city will depend on the warm temperatures to help clear the streets.

Trash pickup in the city is going to be particularly difficult. Most of the alleys are blocked with snow and it will be some time before trash pickup will be in full swing.

Every street and alley in Pratt is covered with deep snow, some drifted several feet high. The city is concentrating on getting all the streets open so the alleys and trash pickup will have to wait.

“It will be difficult if not impossible to pickup the trash. Sanitation will be a rough issue,” Howard said.

The city is also going to leave snow mounds in the middle of down town streets until they get all the other streets open, Howard said.

During and after the storm the city and county, along with local Army National Guard, worked together along with many volunteers to help clear streets, helping motorists dig out cars, clear side walks, clear parking lots and pulling out stuck vehicles including emergency vehicles and help get hospital and health care workers to and from work, Branscom said.
“It was a coordinated effort all the way around,” Branscom said.

One tractor help remove another fallen porch roof to get into a house to help get a pregnant woman to the hospital. At one medical emergency at 523 South Pine a tractor cleared the street while firefighters shoveled snow to get Bill Willard, 61, to an ambulance after he suffered shortness of breath and chest pain. Willard is at Kansas Heart Hospital for tests, said his brother Dan Willard.

In many places the snow was so deep that health care workers would have to walk a block or more to get to the ride. City and county vehicles helped plow roads to hospitals and nursing homes.

One paramedic rode in a National Guard vehicle to get to one of the eight emergency calls over Saturday and Sunday.

Emergency personnel also helped people get to critical medicines. An EMT walked through deep snow to get to the home of a 92-year-old woman. She had no heat and the temperature was 52 degrees in the house.

On Saturday morning the city requested help from the Kansas Department of Transportation to open U.S. 54 and U.S. 281 in the city limits.

Walmart made and donated sandwiches for emergency workers and for the numerous motorists stranded in Pratt in Motels. The Cannon Ball Trail Chapter of the Red Cross helped distribute sandwiches to stranded motorists and fed emergency workers, Branscom said.

Pratt is one of 62 counties covered in a disaster emergency declaration making the county eligible for state funds and resources including equipment and Kansas National Guard Personnel.

Branscom, Howard and Mark McManaman administrator of emergency and Medical Service for Pratt County all expressed their thanks to the all the city, county, state crews and the numerous volunteers that helped Pratt during and after the blizzard.