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CK bus drivers brace for snow
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 shes only had to use the chains once in 12 years.
The chains dont fit the newer buses, she said while adjusting the chains on Bus 45.
Thats 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 Farmers 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, CKs 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 its 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 dont care if youre driving a semi or a Mazda sports car, youre 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. Shes 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.