Governor issues state of disaster emergency declaration following winter storm

The National Weather Service’s snowfall total map shows Osage County received as much as six inches of snow north of Burlingame, and as little as 1.2 inches near Melvern Lake, during Sunday’s storm.

As Gov. Jeff Colyer issued a statewide disaster emergency declaration, Kansans began to work on recovery efforts in the wake of the winter storm that blew through Kansas Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The governor’s declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties.

While crews continued to clean roads and streets Monday, the governor and state officials advised holiday travelers to be prepared for conditions they might encounter.

“Here in Kansas we make it a priority to take care of our neighbors,” said Colyer. “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 Kansas Division of Emergency Management activated the State Emergency Operations center in Topeka to a partial level, to monitor the weather and coordinate any state emergency response operations that might be requested.

During the storm, the Kansas Department of Transportation reported multiple road closures due to visibility including I-70 eastbound and westbound from Salina to WaKeeney. For an updated list of road conditions go to the Kansas Department of Transportation web site at kandrive.org. Winter road conditions are accessible by dialing 511 from your mobile phone anywhere in Kansas; outside Kansas call 866-511-5368 (KDOT).

KDEM received reports of vehicles getting stuck in the snow and those individuals leaving their vehicles and walking in the storm. KDEM advises that the safest place for travelers is to remain in their vehicle. Road crews may not see pedestrians due to visibility issues. If stuck, KDEM advises to stay in your vehicle, but 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, and keep a window cracked. If 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.

Following the storm, with the brunt moving through Kansas by Sunday evening, Westar Energy and Midwest Energy reported power outages across multiple counties in the western and northeastern portions of the state.  

Stay safe on the road

KDEM advises when traveling during winter conditions 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: 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.

Keep your family and pets safe

Keep your family safe by making sure you have your emergency supplies up-to-date, including a safe alternative heat source. Kerosene heaters are generally safe when used properly and a fireplace can provide some warmth, provided it is drawing properly. Never attempt to use a charcoal grill as a heat source. Charcoal generates carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in enclosed spaces.

In the event of power outages check on your neighbors to make sure they are all right, particularly older neighbors.

After the storm, when shoveling snow dress in layers. Use many thin, warm layers rather than a few thick layers. Be smart as you work. Don’t over-exert yourself and take frequent warming breaks. Work as a team or at least have someone inside to keep an eye on you as you work.

Outdoor pets are especially vulnerable to bitter cold and extreme wind chills. Bring outdoor pets inside if possible or ensure that they have a draft-free enclosure with straw type bedding that is large enough to sit and lay down, but small enough to hold their body heat if they must remain outside. Always make sure that your pets have access to food and non-frozen water.

For additional pet safety information, see www.avma.org or www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cold-weather-safety-tips.

For a complete list of items for an emergency kit, see www.ready.gov.

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