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Winter storm blankets area
Snow closes roads, causes power outages, creates headaches
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A Broadway residents shoots a plume of snow into the air as he clears a sidewalk Tuesday afternoon. The winter storm that hit the area Monday night closed roads, knocked out power and caused other problems. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

After a night of howling gusts and wind-whipped driving snow, Barton County residents awoke Tuesday morning to a white winter wonderland. Wonderland may be a strong word as the snow and drifts caused driving hardships, electrical outages, and numerous closings and cancellations across the Golden Belt.

Traffic slowed to a crawl Tuesday morning as folks started to dig out from the storm that pummeled the area starting late Monday afternoon. Tuesday, blowers sent plumes of snow skyward, shovels shoveled and there were scenes of vehicles stuck in the banks needing a tow.

In the gathering gloom Monday afternoon and night, a flurry of governmental and other organizations cancelled meetings and activities, and closed offices. As the rain turned to snow, they were getting a jump on the anticipated day Tuesday would bring. 

There was a report of the traffic signal at 10th and Frey in Great Bend malfunctioning because of the storm.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wheatland Electric reported it had 38 out of 31,943 customers in its 15-county coverage area without power. Most were out west, in Finny and Kearny counties.

The National Weather Service office in Wichita reported snow accumulations of five inches in Great Bend. But, snowfall amounts were as high as eight inches at Russell and  nine at Garfield.

Next snow chance will be Thursday and Friday with the potential for hazardous road conditions with accumulating snowfall, the NWS reported, noting the total accumulations are hard to predict. But, considering the temperatures will be in the teens with strong northerly winds, any snow that falls will create hazards across much of the state by week’s end.

Making things worse, the NWS forecasts temps to remain bitter cold well into next week.

Driving conditions

As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Kansas Department of Transportation was advising they plan on opening all state and federal highways in Barton, Pawnee and Rush counties by 10 a.m. that morning, Barton County Brian Bellendir reported. By Tuesday afternoon, he said all the township and county blacktops in the county were open, but snowpacked.

The Sheriff’s Office received information from townships and individuals who reported three- to four-foot drifts on east-west roadways in western Barton County.

County crews were currently working to clear remaining roads Tuesday afternoon, he said. 

Even when roadways are opened, the sheriff said motorists should use caution as hazardous driving conditions still exist. “Be aware that east-west secondary roads may have substantial snow cover due to drifting.”

Bellendir said they responded to two crashes early on during the storm. After that, he said there were just several slide-offs.

According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, at 3 p.m. Tuesday, west-bound I-70 was closed between Salina and Oakley and east-bound I-70 was closed from Goodland to Wakeeney   due to winter weather and reduced visibility causing dangerous travel conditions. Many secondary roads, including US-54, US-50, and US-83, were also closed or snow covered in Western Kansas due to dangerous travel conditions. 

In addition, closer to Great Bend, most state and federal highways were either partially or completely covered.

At about 6 p.m. Monday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a verbal state of disaster emergency proclamation due to winter weather that was moving across Kansas. This declaration allowed resources to be pre-positioned to provide state assistance, the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office reported.

“I encourage all Kansans to be cautious as the winter storm moves through our state,” Kelly said. “Stay off the roads if possible and be mindful of emergency response personnel working hard to keep our citizens safe.”

Being prepared

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management encouraged all Kansans to prepare a home emergency kit that includes food, water, medications, extra clothing, flashlights and batteries, battery-operated NOAA weather radio and other necessities. If they already have a kit, now would be a good time to check their supplies and refresh any outdated food, medicines, batteries and other perishables.

Make sure your kit includes supplies for your pet. For a complete list of items for an emergency kit, go to

Vehicle emergency kits should include blankets, flashlights, batteries, a cell phone charger, hand-warmers, high-energy food snacks, bottled water, necessary medications, a snow shovel, flares and other emergency supplies.

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The Tuesday afternoon sun strikes snow covered trees on Broadway, creating a winter wonderland appearance. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune
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The snow storm that hit the area Monday night and Tuesday led to slowed traffic and vehicles getting stuck in the drifts. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune