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19-008 KDEM will activate State Emergency Operations Center for winter storm

Moderate to heavy snow and near-blizzard conditions are possible with a winter storm system that is forecast for this weekend. The storm system will begin to affect western Kansas tonight and spread eastward across the state through tomorrow.

Current forecast predictions indicate that there will be a mixture of rain, freezing rain or drizzle before the snow begins across portions of the state. Widespread heavy snow coupled with northerly wind gusts as high as 45-55 mph will cause blowing snow throughout the day on Saturday, hindering travel conditions due to limited visibilities. Snow totals are expected to range from 1-6 inches across much of the state, with locally heavier amounts possible, especially in western Kansas.

Gov. Laura Kelly has issued a declaration of disaster emergency to expedite use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties if needed.

“Due to upcoming severe winter weather, I’ve declared a disaster emergency to make sure state assistance is readily available if needed,” said Kelly. “I encourage all Kansans to stay warm and safe during the snow storm in the coming days. Avoid travel if possible and keep an eye on the weather forecast as the storm moves and develops.”

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management will activate the state emergency operations center on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 a.m. through midnight, with additional staffing, if needed, into Sunday. Agencies in the SEOC will include the Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Highway Patrol, and Kansas National Guard. Additional support agencies will be contacted as needed.

The Kansas National Guard will activate and preposition 13 Stranded Motorist Assistance Response Teams to assist local public safety agencies reach stranded motorists if local resource capabilities are exceeded. Each team consists of four Guardsmen and two High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles operating out of prestaged areas to assist motorists stranded by heavy snow or ice.

Kansans are urged to change or delay their travel plans until the storm moves through. If you must travel, be sure your car’s gas tank is full and you have an emergency kit. 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. Make sure your cell phone is charged and someone is aware of your itinerary, including expected time of arrival.

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 make sure the vehicle’s tailpipe is clear of snow. 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 an updated list of road conditions go to the Kansas Department of Transportation web site at http://kandrive.org. Winter road conditions are accessible by dialing 5-1-1 from your mobile phone anywhere in Kansas; outside Kansas call 1-866-511-5368 (KDOT).