Blizzard in western Kansas leads to one death, numerous wrecks and power outages

HAYS, Kan. — A blizzard blanketed western Kansas with snow Thursday, causing whiteout conditions that led to numerous wrecks and highway closures, and knocked out power for thousands of homes.

The storm, which began late Wednesday, put about three dozen counties under blizzard warnings or winter storm warnings and advisories. The National Weather Service forecast accumulations of up to 12 inches of snow in some areas and drift-creating gusts of up to 50 mph.

The Kansas Department of Transportation closed a 75-mile stretch of Interstate 70 for several hours Thursday from Goodland to Wakeeney, citing poor visibility. That stretch of I-70 has since been reopened, but KDOT said road conditions are still dangerous.

Several other highways were either closed or snow covered in the western part of the state.

By noon Thursday, the snowfall was beginning to slow. The storm also dumped rain across central and eastern parts of the state, said meteorologist Jason Neilson.

The Kansas Highway Patrol responded to 15 accidents over a 12-hour span. The numbers don’t include accidents responded to by police and sheriff’s departments.

One person was killed on I-70 near Oakley after a crash involving a commercial vehicle and a car, Trooper Tod Hileman said.

In anticipation of the storm, Gov. Jeff Colyer on Wednesday declared a state of disaster that authorizes the use of state resources and workers to help affected areas.

Kansas Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director Angee Morgan urged Kansans to change or delay travel plans in affected areas until after the storm. She said those who do travel should be cautious and stock a car emergency kit.

The storm left some people in the dark. Wheatland Electric Cooperative was working to restore power to about 2,000 customers in Finney, Gray, Hamilton, Harper, Kearny and Scott counties.

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