News

CK bus drivers brace for snow

Melinda Knapp, a Central Kitsap School District bus driver for 12 years practices putting snow chains on her bus. The district held its annual Chain Fest Thursday at the bus barn behind CK Junior High so drivers would be aquainted with chains when the white stuff descends. In 12 years of driving Knapp has only had to put the chains on one time, although many weather forecasters are predicting an upcoming snowy winter for Puget Sound. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Melinda Knapp, a Central Kitsap School District bus driver for 12 years practices putting snow chains on her bus. The district held its annual Chain Fest Thursday at the bus barn behind CK Junior High so drivers would be aquainted with chains when the white stuff descends. In 12 years of driving Knapp has only had to put the chains on one time, although many weather forecasters are predicting an upcoming snowy winter for Puget Sound.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round unless of course the roads are slick with snow and ice. In that case, the chains must go on.

The Central Kitsap School District held its annual Chain Fest this week at the bus barn. From about 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m., all bus drivers had to chain up their buses tires. The district has about 100 buses and 104 drivers including substitutes.

Chains clinked as drivers maneuvered them on to the jumbo-sized tires Thursday morning.

Melinda Knapp, a driver trainer and bus driver for the district, said she’s only had to use the chains once in 12 years.

“The chains don’t fit the newer buses,” she said while adjusting the chains on Bus 45.

“That’s one of the reasons why we check them,” she said.

During the year the tires may have been changed and the chains may not fit. It is better to discover this during a practice run than in the middle of a snowy day.

Knapp and other bus drivers got caught in a midday storm several years ago where they had to chain the tires.

According to the 2004 Farmer’s Almanac, the Pacific Northwest will have a mild winter temperature wise with higher than average levels of precipitation and snow. The most widespread snow is expected to occur during late December and early February.

According to a National Oceanographic and Atmosperic Administration (NOAA) Web site, forecasters report Washington and the western part of the United States will have a warmer winter than usual. Temperatures are expected to be 33 percent warmer than those from 1971 to 2000. El Niño and La Niña are not expected to have significant effects on the weather here according to the NOAA winter report.

If inclement weather is predicted, CK’s Director of Transportation Doug Sander will go out at about 2 a.m. and survey the roads. He particularly looks at the Seabeck and Green Mountain area. If his 4-wheel drive pickup truck is slipping and sliding in 2-wheel drive then it’s a good bet school will start late or not at all. Sander notifies the director of operations of his findings who then contact the superintendent who makes the final call.

“Ice is ice. I don’t care if you’re driving a semi or a Mazda sports car, you’re going to have trouble,” Sander said.

Safety considerations are also made for the students who walk to school, which is about 50 percent, Sander said.

About half of the big buses and 15 of the smaller buses have “Instachains” where with the push of a button, chains come down to provide extra traction.

The chains are also used during CK Ski and Snowboard School when students are bused to Stevens Pass ski area, said Jamie Rhoten, driver trainer and bus driver.

“It also educates all the drivers,” Rhoten said of Chain Fest. She’s driven for the district for about 14 years. She currently drives Bus No. 68 and has had plenty of practice chaining tires during Ski School.

The year before last, of the eight trips to Stevens Pass, six required chains, she said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Oct 31 edition online now. Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates