Darth Blader? Wichita has named its winter snow plows and you can track their progress

The weather may not feel like winter quite yet, but the first snow of the season could come sooner than you think.

In preparation for slushy streets, the city of Wichita held a news conference Monday to discuss its plan for inclement winter weather and highlight some changes for the coming season.

When the city experiences inclement weather that requires snow plows, it prioritizes the first 1,500 emergency routes and emergency facilities, major arteries, hospitals and schools. Wichita has 148 hired snow plow drivers to respond to roadway conditions, officials said.

The city does not maintain state highways, like Kellogg and Interstate 135. It also doesn’t plow residential streets, and the city does not maintain a means for residents to request plow services.

“On average, we use about 1,000 tons of salt and sand mix per event, but that … depends on the type and amount of precipitation, how cold the temperature is and how long the event lasts,” Mayor Brandon Whipple said. “I want to commend the public works and utilities department, a dedicated team working long hours to … keep our streets safe during these winter months.”

Whipple said the city does offer an online feature where residents, business owners and community members can track where the snow plows are working at wichita.gov/snowremoval.

Via the map on the site, you’ll also be able to see the snow plow’s name, so you can check to see if it’s “Aaron Brrr” who is shoveling near your street or if it’s “Lord Cold-emort.”

Wichita’s snow plows for the 2023 winter season

While the tradition of naming snow plows is common in some other cities, this is the first year Wichita has named its 79 machines.

Here are some of the snow plow names, and the full list can be found on the city’s website:

  • Baby Snowda

  • Blizzard of Oz

  • Darth Blader

  • Edgar Allen Snow

  • EisenPlower

  • Every Day I’m Shovelin

  • F. Salt Fitzgerald

  • Ice Force One

  • Lil Snow Peep

  • Plower Ranger

  • Plowthagorean Theorem

  • Snow and Tell

  • Thaw Enforcement

  • The Fast and the Flurriest

  • William Scrape-speare

How to prepare for icy roads this winter

Before Wichita gets its first snowfall of the season, you might brush up on tips for driving on ice.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends to stock your car with necessities during cold weather, including:

  • An ice scraper

  • A snow shovel

  • Jumper cables

  • A flashlight

  • Blankets

  • Water

  • Food

  • A cell phone and charger

Before heading out in snowy weather, be sure to make sure your headlights, turn signals and tail lights are all working. It’s also important to make sure your windshield wipers are on before hitting snowy roads.

When can Wichita expect its first snowfall?

National Weather Service data from 1991 to 2020 shows the average first measurable snow in Wichita falls Dec. 3, while the earliest recorded during that time was Oct. 14, 2018.

The agency considers snow measurable when at least a tenth of an inch accumulates.

A NWS forecaster told The Eagle last week that while weather is hard to predict, the El Nino weather pattern could possibly mean more snow this year.

“One of the snowiest [winters] I ever remember when I was growing up in Kansas was the winter of 87 and 88, and that was a strong El Niño and it was a snowy year,” forecaster Eric Metzger said. “That’s just something to keep in mind in general. From what I seen, it’s more of a precipitation tendency.”