Winter storm hits area, causes multitude of problems

Those hoping for a white Christmas, and area students looking to start winter break a day early, received a boost Thursday, as a powerful winter storm swept through the Lawrence area overnight.

The storm, which was classified as a blizzard in other parts of the Midwest, dumped between two and three inches of snow in Douglas County, closing area schools one day before winter break, causing thousands to lose power, and creating havoc on local roadways.

In Douglas County, thousands lost electricity overnight, as strong winds caused damage to power lines. More than 3,000 Westar Energy customers were without power early Thursday. By 10 a.m., power to all but a few hundred was restored. However, a Westar Energy spokeswoman said more than a 1,000 customers in leavenworth County could be without power until Friday noon.

Morning commuters also faced obstacles, as Interstate 70 and Kansas Highway 10 remained snowpacked for much of the morning; the roads littered with overturned trucks and stranded motorists.

But many were non-injury accidents. Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Division Chief Eve Tolefree, Thursday morning, said they had only been dispatched to one accident, which turned out not to have caused serious injuries on K-10.

The conditions kept police busy, however. Between 4 a.m. and noon, police responded to 11 motorist assist calls, and more than a dozen non-injury accidents.

“We had the expected traffic accidents and issues, however they did not cause us major problems,” said Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley.

Many of the accident reports from Thursday morning had not yet been posted on the Kansas Highway Patrol and Kansas Turnpike Authority websites, but there was one fatality accident Wednesday evening in Dodge City, as the storm headed east.