Expected nasty weather is here; officials say don’t travel
The National Weather Service is predicting 6 to 10 inches of snow before the storm is done, with the possibility for locally higher amount.
Several drivers around Lawrence have reported their vehicles being stuck on city streets because of snow drifts.
If you can avoid it, stay off the area roads.
The roads are treacherous as of 11:15 p.m. Snow, on top of snow, on top of ice, on top of more ice means slow going on most well-worn Lawrence streets and no-going in some parking lots and minor thoroughfares.
According to 6News meteorologist Greg Postel, snow could keep falling the Lawrence area at the same rate as it is now — moderate — until anywhere from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.
After that, snow should taper off a bit with flurries and light snow showers prevailing through Christmas Day.
Douglas County dispatchers said emergency workers responded to 48 calls for help from drivers who had been in accidents or were stranded.
Four injury accidents were reported, but none were major. Several people were stuck Thursday night on the hilly areas of Bob Billings Parkway, between Iowa Street and Kasold Drive, dispatchers said.
Douglas County is the bull’s-eye for the snowstorm blanketing the region, said 6News meteorologist Greg Postel.
“It doesn’t happen very often that way,” he said. “This is a significant snow, the biggest one in years.”
Traffic on Kansas Highway 10 was slow-moving Thursday night, said Postel, who traveled out to check the conditions firsthand.
“There was still some traffic … seems to be moving about 30 mph,” he said.
Postel said the winds haven’t been strong enough for the storm to be considered a blizzard, but that blowing and drifting snow were certainly evident and making the roadways treacherous.
Postel said the heaviest snow would be over by morning, with Friday’s high temperature struggling to reach 20 degrees.
“There are silver linings in this,” Postel said. “I think a lot of people in their hearts do like white Christmases.”
Forecasters were right. The snow has come, the winds are brutal and blizzard conditions are here.
As of 7:20 p.m., about 1-2 inches of snow had fallen, but it was hard to measure as most of the snow was blowing. Winds have been howling for hours and are now sending snowfall along the way.
Ice changed over to snow about 6 p.m. Thursday and has been falling steadily ever since.
According to the National Weather Service, portions of northeast Kansas are expected to see 6 to 10 inches of snow by Friday evening with locally higher amounts possible. Nearly all of northeast Kansas should see snow, blowing snow and wind gusts up to 45 mph overnight and through the day Friday.
The roads in Douglas County are now considered mostly snow-packed by Kansas highway officials.
Kim Qualls, Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said highway crews are on the roads treating and plowing throughout the counties of northeast Kansas.
“Due to the blowing/gusting winds, continued falling snow and the dropping temps, it will be extremely difficult to get roadways cleared and keep them that way overnight and throughout the day tomorrow,” Qualls said.
Some travelers on the Kansas Turnpike aren’t letting anything stand in the way of their Christmas travels, despite the deteriorating road conditions.
“You hate not to go for Christmas and that’s exactly why we’re on the road, because I told my mom I’d come down,” said Mary Hyland, of Hampton, Iowa, who was headed to Topeka.
Emergency workers kept busy along the Kansas Turnpike in Douglas County, responding to vehicle slide-offs in the area, including a car that slammed into a retaining wall and a van that slid off into a ditch.
“I come from South Dakota, so this is normal,” Clem Ironwing, a traveler from Wichita, said of the road conditions. “But people that don’t drive in it freak themselves out, hit the brakes.”
Douglas County dispatchers said emergency workers had been called to 13 accidents since noon. Four of the accidents involved injuries, but nothing major.
And now, from the National Weather Service, comes a blizzard warning for an area that includes Douglas, Shawnee, Franklin and Jefferson counties.
The warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Friday.
Snowfall accumulations of 6 to 10 inches are possible, according to the bulletin.
I remember from my atmospheric science course at KU, though, that snowfall accumulation doesn’t really matter when it comes to classifying a blizzard.
It’s all about the wind speed, which is predicted to blow from the north at 35 to 40 mph.
The National Weather Service also becomes just the latest in a long line of agencies discouraging travel tonight, saying that if people choose to leave the safety of being indoors, they are putting their lives at risk.
— Andy Hyland
Both the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Division of Emergency Management are urging all Kansans — and particularly those in northeast Kansas — to suspend travel plans until Friday.
“This is an extremely dangerous situation we are facing and everyone should heed these warnings,” said Kansas National Guard Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting in a release. “If you must travel, do so before 6 p.m. and plan to stay there tonight.”
Weather conditions have been blamed in at least five traffic fatalities earlier this week.
KDOT officials say travel will be dangerous to nearly impossible throughout all of northeast Kansas this evening.
Perhaps no one sums up the situation better than the National Weather Service:
“Stay inside and enjoy Christmas!”
— Andy Hyland
Gov. Mark Parkinson ordered state offices in Shawnee County closed at 2 p.m. because of worsening weather conditions.
U.S. Highway 56 and County Road 1055 (Sixth Street) have been treated and are fine in Baldwin City. City crews had not treated other city streets by 1 p.m. and they were ice packed and slick.
County Road 1055 had also been treated north to Vinland. A county truck was sanding shortly after 1 p.m. and turned west to treat the road on into Lawrence.
County Road 1055 was slush with some ice, but passable. That included Baldwin Hill, one of the most treacherous areas of the road.
A sleet/rain mix was also continuing to fall, but had subsided from earlier in the day.
— Jeff Myrick
Freezing rain has hit Baldwin City and road conditions are getting worse. A semi-tractor trailer has jacknifed near Globe.
Vehicles are sliding off highways and roads north and west of the Lawrence area, the Kansas Department of Transportation reports.
Translation: Be careful.
“It’s coming,” Kim Qualls, a department spokeswoman, said at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Douglas County dispatchers reported that roads are getting very slick. On U.S. Highway 56, a semi jacknifed just east of Globe — or about 6 miles west of the U.S. Highway 59 intersection. The road is partially blocked. No injuries were reported.
And drivers increasingly are losing control in areas on Jefferson and Shawnee counties, as dropping temperatures are turning rain to sleet and freezing rain, Qualls said.
Snow continues to be forecast later Thursday, with blustery conditions expected into Christmas Day.
— Mark Fagan
Using this morning’s latest information, 6News meteorologist Ashley Meenen now predicts snowfall totals of 4 to 8 inches in an area that includes Lawrence, Topeka and the Kansas City area.
Meenen calls for motorists to watch out for roads that may become frozen over and treacherous as temperatures are already below freezing and will be falling throughout the day.
After rain turns over into snow in the late morning or early afternoon, Meenen says the next factor to watch for will be sustained 30 mph winds from the north.
The winds will create blowing snow that will make for poor visibility, particularly for travelers on Interstate 70 and other east-west roads.
“Pretty much, it’s going to be bad all day,” Meenen said.
As of 9:30 a.m., the Kansas Department of Transportation reported normal seasonal road conditions in the Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City areas.
However, roads in some surrounding counties, including many west of Topeka and north of I-70, were beginning to become snowpacked with some ice reported.
— Andy Hyland
The Kansas Department of Transportation says snow has begun to fall in areas of northeast Kansas. KDOT reminds drivers to be cautious the next few days and be sure to:
• Drive slowly and allow extra drive time.
• Watch for icy and slick spots on roads, and particularly on bridges.
• Ensure everyone in your vehicle uses a seatbelt.