ST. LOUIS (AP) — Blinding snow, at times accompanied by
thunder and lightning, bombarded much of the nation's midsection Thursday,
causing whiteout conditions, shutting down large swaths of interstate
highways and forcing schools, businesses and even state legislatures to
Kansas was the
epicenter of the winter storm, with parts of the state buried under 14
inches of powdery snow, but winter storm warnings stretched from eastern
Colorado through Illinois. Freezing rain and sleet were forecast for
southern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas. St. Louis received all
of the above — a treacherous mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
accidents were blamed on icy and slushy roadways, including two fatal
accidents. Most schools in Kansas and Missouri, and many in neighboring
states, were closed. Legislatures shut down in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas,
Nebraska and Iowa.
accompanied the winter storm in parts of Kansas and Missouri, which
National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said is the result of
an unstable air mass, much like a thunderstorm.
pouring rain, it's pouring snow," Truett said. And pouring was a sound
description, with snow falling at a rate of 1 1/2 to 2 inches per hour in
some spots. Kansas City, Mo., got 5 inches in two hours.
passed the foot mark in many places: Monarch Pass, Colo., had 17 ½ inches,
Hutchinson, Kan., 14 inches and Wichita, Kan., 13 inches. The National
Weather Service said up to 18 inches of snow were possible in central
With that in
mind, Kansas transportation officials — and even the governor — urged
people to simply stay home.
particularly warned away from the Kansas Turnpike, which had whiteout
conditions. Interstate 70 was also snow-packed and a 90-mile stretch of
that road was closed between Salina and Hays.
Sam Brownback closed executive offices, except for essential personnel.
"If you don't
have to get out, just really, please, don't do it," Brownback said.
filled hotels rather than skating across dangerous roadways. At the Econo
Lodge in WaKeeney, Kan., assistant manager Michael Tidball said the
48-room hotel was full by 10 p.m. Wednesday and that most guests were
opting to stay an extra day.
Just south of
Wichita, near the small community of Clearwater, Scott Van Allen had
already shoveled the sidewalks Thursday and was out on his tractor
clearing the driveway of the 10 inches of snow — just in case he might
need to go out. For once, he didn't mind the task.
"I kind of
enjoyed it this time," he said. "We were certainly needing the moisture
brought moisture to a region of the country that has been parched for
nearly a year, engulfed in the worst drought in decades. Climatologists
say 12 inches of snow is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain, depending on
the density of the snow.
Vance Ehmke, a
wheat farmer near Healy, Kan., said the nearly foot of snow was "what we
have been praying for."
question is, 'Is the drought broke?' " Ehmke asked. "We desperately need
Edwardsville, Ill., wheat farmer Mike Campbell called the snow — or any
precipitation — a blessing after a bone-dry growing season in 2012. He
hopes it is a good omen as he prepares to plant corn this spring.
"The corn was
just a disaster," Campbell said.
the U.S. Forest Service planned to take advantage
of the snow to burn piles of dead trees on federal land.
Nebraska-Kansas border, as much as 8 inches fell overnight, while western
Nebraska saw about half of that amount, National Weather Service
forecaster Shawn Jacobs said.
western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle also had up to 8 inches of snow
by Thursday morning. Christy Walker, a waitress at the Polly Anna Cafe in
Woodward, Okla., got stuck on her drive into work. But business in the
western Oklahoma town was brisk, she said.
affecting everybody who is hungry and wants to come out to eat," she said.
"I'm extremely busy right now."
Arkansas saw a mix of precipitation — in places, a combination of hail,
sleet and freezing rain, others saw 6 inches of snow. Forecasters warned
northern Arkansas could get a half-inch of ice.
accidents were attributed to winter weather on Wednesday. In Oklahoma,
18-year-old Cody Alexander of Alex, Okla., died when his pickup truck
skidded on a slushy state highway into oncoming traffic and struck a
truck. And in Nebraska, 19-year-old Kristina Leigh Anne Allen of Callaway
died when a SUV lost control in snowy, icy conditions, crossed the median
and struck her car.
Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Thursday morning and activated the
State Emergency Operations Center. By midmorning Thursday, the snow was
coming down so hard that Kansas City International Airport shut down. More
than 200 flights were also canceled by Thursday afternoon at Lambert
Airport in St. Louis.
a meteorologist for Accuweather, said the storm will push off into the
Great Lakes and central Appalachians, and freezing rain could make it as
far east and south as North Carolina. He also said a "spin-off" storm was
expected to create heavy snow in New England, and could push Boston to a
said that by the time the storm dies out, at least 24 states will be