Gov. Colyer issues ‘State of Disaster Emergency’ declaration for Kansas due to snow storm

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer declared a “State of Disaster Emergency” on Sunday in response to a blizzard working its way across the state. This authorizes the ability to use state workers and resources to help response and recovery where needed.

“Here in Kansas we make it a priority to take care of our neighbors,” Gov. Colyer stated in a news release.  “We strongly recommend that you postpone travel plans, if possible, however, if you must be on the road, make sure your vehicle’s emergency kit is stocked, your gas tank is full and your cell phone and charger are with you and someone knows your travel plans.  Also, be mindful of all emergency response personnel out on Kansas roadways and give them space to do their jobs to ensure their safety and that of our citizens.”

The State Emergency Operations center in Topeka is activated at a partial level to keep track of weather and send emergency personnel where they’re needed.

The Kansas Department of Transportation says multiple roads are closed due to low visibility, including I-70 eastbound and westbound from Salina to WaKeeney.  Click here for an the latest road conditions. You can also get conditions by dialing 5-1-1 from your mobile phone anywhere in Kansas; outside Kansas call 1-866-511-5368 (KDOT).

The Kansas Department of Emergency Management has received reports of vehicles getting stuck in the snow and those individuals leaving their vehicles and walking in the storm.  The safest place for travelers is to remain in their vehicle.  Do not get out of your vehicle and walk because road crews may not see you due to visibility issues.  Stay in your vehicle, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear and not clogged with snow or ice debris or you run the risk of filling your vehicle is carbon monoxide.  Run your car sparingly while you are waiting on help.  Keep the window cracked.  If you are stuck in the snow call the Kansas Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (47), or *KTA (582) while on the Kansas Turnpike.

The Kansas National Guard has Stranded Motorists Assistance Response Teams in nine locations throughout the state.  The SMART teams, which consist of two High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWVs) and four Guardsmen, are assisting local law enforcement with patrolling impacted roads and assisting with stranded motorists.

Westar Energy and Midwest Energy are reporting power outages across multiple counties in the western and northeastern portions of the state. Restoration time for these outages is unknown.

Gusting winds with blizzard like and whiteout conditions are causing extremely hazardous traveling conditions.  Travel is discouraged.  If you must travel use caution and make sure your car has a full tank of gas and an emergency kit in your trunk.

A vehicle emergency kit should consist of

  • An ice scraper and shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlights
  • Sand or kitty litter for traction
  • Extra blankets or clothing
  • Non-perishable food
  • A first aid kit
  • Matches and candles or flares
  • Tow rope or chain

On the road, remember the following:

  • Allow extra time for delays and slower traffic speeds.
  • Buckle up and properly secure children in safety seats.
  • Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Ice and snow significantly increase your stopping distance.
  • Accelerate and brake gently. A light foot on the gas is less likely to make wheels spin on ice and snow. Braking is best accomplished by pumping the pedal. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, it is very important that you understand how to use it. Read the owner’s manual or check with a dealership for more information, and practice using it correctly.
  • Make turns slowly and gradually, especially in heavily traveled areas (e.g. intersections that may be icy from snow that melted and refroze).
  • Visibility is very important. You must be able to see out, and other drivers must be able to see your vehicle. Clean frost and snow off all windows, mirrors, and lights. Use headlights as necessary.
  • If your car loses traction and begins to slide, steer into the swerve, or in the direction you want to go. Anticipate a second skid in the opposite direction as the car straightens out.

If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not panic. Stay in the vehicle, keep fresh air circulating through a downwind window, run the motor sparingly, turn on the dome light, and stimulate circulation and stay awake by moving arms and legs. If you leave the car, work slowly in the snow to avoid over-exertion and the risk of a heart attack. If you have a cell phone, call a Kansas Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (47), or *KTA (582) while on the Kansas Turnpike.

For general winter preparedness information, go to www.ready.gov.

Information from a news release was used in this story.

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