Wide spread winter storm has brought major activity in Kansas to a stop

The majority of activity across the state of Kansas has come to a stop as the result of a widespread winter storm that has moved eastward across the state and resulted in up to 10 inches of snow in some areas since early Wednesday.

The National Weather Service has been predicting this storm for the past several days and the majority of Kansans appear to be heeding the warnings of the potential impact this event may produce. An additional six to 12 inches of snow is predicted to fall in a short period of time Thursday, which will increase the hazard of any type of travel or outdoor activity.

“Having an early warning of the storm has helped reduce travel, but a number of people are still on the roads,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “Road conditions are hazardous, so I urge everyone to just stay home and travel only if you absolutely must.”

Brownback signed a Declaration of Disaster Emergency for Kansas Wednesday as the storm system began to move into the state. The governor and Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, along with Mike King, secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, conducted a statewide conference call with the media Thursday morning to update them on current conditions and the state’s response measures.

The Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Highway Patrol closed I-70 from Salina west to Hays in both directions at 11:30 a.m. due to the large number of slide-off accidents and limited availability of tow trucks. Many roads across the southern and western regions of Kansas are partly to completely snow-packed and travel is being strongly discouraged.

Most schools, churches, local and state government offices, and many businesses announced Wednesday that they would be closed for at least Thursday, Feb. 21, in anticipation of the potential for snowfall and other forms of winter precipitation, including sleet and freezing rain.

Limited power outages have been reported in south central Kansas as the result of the storm. Utility companies have crews responding to reported outages and on standby in the event of additional outages occurring during the storm.

This storm will continue moving across Kansas Thursday causing treacherous travel conditions. Highways, including ramp areas, bridges and overpasses are slick. Motorists should drive with extreme caution and use speeds appropriate for the driving conditions.

Very limited hotel accommodations are available along I-70 at many locations in western Kansas. Shelters for stranded travelers are open in Quinter and Wakeeney.

Local and state highway crews have been treating road surfaces and plowing snow in many regions of the state, and those crews will continue working throughout the day Thursday. Local law enforcement officers and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers have responded to numerous traffic crashes and vehicle slide-offs since the storm began. A number of travelers have been reported injured in these crashes, but no deaths have been reported to the State Emergency Operations Center as a result of traffic crashes or other storm related events.

Numerous arriving and departing flights at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport and Kansas City International Airport have been cancelled and passengers with flight plans are encouraged to check with their airline for updated status.

Residents are encouraged to monitor local media outlets for weather conditions and related problems in their area. Additional information on road conditions and closures is available at www.kandrive.org. Motorists who find themselves in need of assistance can call 911 or *47 to reach the Kansas Highway Patrol. Those traveling on the Kansas Turnpike can call *KTA.