Blizzard dumps 4 inches of wind-driven snow on Lawrence, closes schools for Monday

photo by: Mike Yoder

A participant in the annual Festival of Trees carries a Christmas tree to Liberty Hall in blizzard conditions Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The Festival of Trees opens to the public at 4 p.m. Monday at 644 Massachusetts St. in downtown Lawrence.

An early season blizzard blew through Douglas County on Sunday, bringing about 4 inches of snow whipped by strong winds and making travel hazardous on the last day of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Lawrence and Douglas County law enforcement reported numerous incidents of motorists stuck in snow, sliding off roadways or involved in minor accidents, but no serious crashes. Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Kristen Channel urged motorists to avoid traveling even as the snowfall began to move out of the area at about 5 p.m. Sunday because crews still had to contend with drifting snow on roadways.

Sgt. Mike Cobb, of the Lawrence Police Department, said there were four noninjury accidents in the city as of 5 p.m. Sunday. Police officers also were kept busy assisting motorists stuck in snow or broken down, he said.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A snowplow leads a line of cars along Highway 40 near the Lawrence Municipal Airport on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 in blizzard conditions.

“It seems like most people are staying off the road, which we are encouraging them to do,” he said.

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Lawrence Public Schools have cancelled school, and the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University have both called off classes scheduled for Monday, allowing students who traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday an added day to return to Lawrence.

As of 6 p.m., the Kansas Department of Transportation road condition map showed Interstate 70 closed from Topeka west to the Maple Hill exit. There were additional roads closed north of Topeka, including U.S. Highway 36 from the Missouri state line west to near Marysville.

There were reports of downed power lines during the afternoon, which was another reason to stay inside and safe, Cobb said. The Westar Energy outage website showed several outages scattered through Lawrence and Douglas County as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

Brandon Drake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Topeka, said about 4 inches of snow fell in Lawrence. The storm qualified as a blizzard because of the snowfall amount and the sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts of more than 45 mph, he said. The official definition of a blizzard requires snowfall and either sustained winds or gusts of 35 mph, he said.

“We blew that out of the water with just sustained winds,” he said. “That is why we were so confident in issuing the blizzard warning, rather than a winter storm watch.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

A couple walk into a cold wind Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 in downtown Lawrence.

Snowfall amounts of 3.5 to 4 inches were reported in Douglas County, and they measured up to 6 inches in Shawnee County, Drake said. The heaviest snow was reported in north central Kansas, with 9.5 inches reported at Hanover in Washington County.

Winds would ease as the storm cleared the area but would remain at about 20 mph until midnight, Drake said. The wind chill factor Monday morning would be about 5 degrees with actual temperatures near 15 degrees, and the high Monday would be about 30, he said.


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