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Archive for Sunday, December 16, 2007

Foot of snow buries central Kansas

December 16, 2007

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— A winter storm that moved into Kansas late Friday on the heels of a paralyzing ice storm, dumped up to a foot of snow in central Kansas, leaving highways snowpacked and stranding travelers.

"It looks like central Kansas bore the brunt of the storm," said Chris Bowman, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. Snow amounts ranged from about 10 to 12 inches in Ellsworth County, with Lincoln County getting 12 inches, Bowman said.

But he said the new storm didn't have the ice and sleet that hit the state days earlier.

"For this storm it was just snow," Bowman said.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reported Interstate 70 in central Kansas was snowpacked Saturday, with several cars sliding off the interstate between Russell and Salina.

"We've had no fatalities or pileups, but we have numerous slideoffs," said Mary Beth Anderson, dispatcher for the highway patrol. "I don't think there are a lot of travelers, just the ones who have to get out and go to work."

She said since 6 a.m. Saturday in a two-county area, she had reports of about 20 cars sliding off I-70. Two injury accidents were reported Saturday.

Utility crews continued to work on restoring power to thousands of residents still in the dark from winter's last blast Tuesday that left a blanket of ice and knocked power out across a wide swath of the state.

The ice storm was blamed for at least six deaths in Kansas, including two elderly residents who officials believe died from exposure.

Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the state Adjutant General's Department, said about 62,000 customers in Kansas remained without power Saturday from the earlier ice storm. More than 2,300 people were in shelters Saturday, she said.

"We just opened the National Guard Armory in Russell because of the amount of people needing shelter," she said. "I think they're mostly travelers because of the highway conditions there."

She said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending three semi-truckloads of bottled water to Kansas, and had already sent 60 generators for critical needs facilities. All but 22 have been used, she said.

"We've been busy."

But Bowman said forecasts called for the storm to wind down this weekend, with about 1 inch to 2 inches of snow expected by Monday.

"We're kind of in the last throes of the storm," Bowman said. "It cut off in central Kansas."

Even with power being restored, many parts of rural Kansas remained without electricity and it may be several days before power is restored in those areas. Watson said parts of Brown County in northeast Kansas may not have power fully restored for two weeks.

Residents in several cities and rural water districts were advised by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to boil their water before use after water pressure was lost during power outages.

At Fort Riley, the storm knocked out power to 80 percent of residents, leaving thousands of soldiers and their families without electricity and heat. As of Saturday, about 500 post houses out of 3,000 were still without power.

The outage has been tough, said Spc. Richard Colletta, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Infantry Division. Colletta said when the ice storm hit the region Dec. 10, he and his wife, Tatiana, thought they would ride it out in their home. But that proved difficult for their four children, all under the age of 6. So he and his family moved into a small barracks suite.

"It's kind of difficult with the newborn. We're kind of confined," Mrs. Colletta said. "But all in all, we're making it. ... As long as the kids are warm and with shelter, we're good."

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