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FIRST OF THE SEASON

Winter storm causes wrecks, expected to continue

POSTED December 20, 2011 4:26 p.m.
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DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune/

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It didn’t take long for the winter storm that started whipping through central Kansas Monday afternoon to wreak havoc for safety personnel.
According to a news release issued by the Barton County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning, BCSO deputies and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers worked the first of what they expected to be many slide-off accidents at 3:45 p.m. Monday.
Road conditions across the county varied, according to the BCSO, with reports of some being snow-packed Tuesday. Many of the back roads remained uncleared by the afternoon.
Since start of the storm, law enforcement had worked multiple slide-offs. Barton County Communications said there were three more serious weather-related wrecks as of late Tuesday.
Barton County Sheriff Greg Armstrong said by Tuesday afternoon, the number of sliding incidents had tapered off some.  These included at least one tractor-trailer truck.
Kansas Highway Patrol responded to one injury accident Tuesday afternoon in Barton County, and one Tuesday morning in Rice County. Both were weather-related.
The Barton County accident occurred at 12:25 p.m. on K-156, about three miles east and two miles north of Great Bend. Amber Nicole Gibbs, 25, of Salina was reportedly traveling too fast for conditions and lost control of a 2004 Pontiac on the icy road. The car entered the south ditch and rolled.
Gibbs, who was not wearing a seat belt, was transported to Great Bend Regional Hospital with possible injury.
Earlier in the morning, at 8 a.m., a 2011 Dodge passenger truck driven by Douglas P. Enge, 62, of Augusta, slid off K-14 in Rice County, about half a mile south of the junction with Ave. X and overturned. Enge was wearing a seat belt but sustained undetermined injuries and was taken to Promise Regional Hospital in Hutchinson.  The truck was towing a trailer and was left at the scene due to the weather.
As snow continued to fall Tuesday morning, Kansas Department of Transportation and Barton County Road, Bridge Department and township crews were at work clearing roads. The weather forced the closing of schools in Great Bend, Hoisington, Larned and other communities, as well as the cancelation of several events.
Fortunately, Armstrong said, there was not a lot of drifting around here.
“If you must travel in the county today, travel with caution and allow extra time reaching your destination,” Armstrong said. He suggested motorists having a cell phone, extra clothes, blankets and other emergency supplies packed in their vehicles.
The National Weather Service forecast shows a clear skies today with highs near 30 degrees and a low of 15. However, the area remains under a “hazardous weather outlook.”
A 50 percent chance of snow returns Thursday, dropping to 40 percent Thursday night. Highs will be in the 20s with lows in the teens.
Snow accumulations ranged from 1 inch in Reno and Seward Counties to 10 inches in Hamilton County with drifts of four to six feet, the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office reported.
Road closures included US-83 from I-70 near Oakley to Liberal, I-70 from Colby to Wakeeney, US-54 from Liberal to Bucklin, US-50 from the Kansas/Colorado border to Garden City, US-50 from Garden City to Cimarron, US-160 from the Kansas/Colorado border to Johnson and K-96 from the Kansas/Colorado border to Tribune, according to the KAG.
As of early afternoon Tuesday, US-50, US-83 and K-96 had all been re-opened to normal traffic. US-160 in both directions between the Colorado state line and the US-160/K-27 junction remained closed, and both directions of K-4 from the K-4/K-23 junction east to the Lane/Ness County line has been closed. While the storm is abating and road conditions are improving, highways, including ramp areas, bridges and overpasses, could be slick and motorists should drive with extreme caution. Use speeds appropriate for driving conditions.
Shelters were opened in hunting lodges and a church in Haskell County for stranded motorists while the roadways were closed. Meade County opened up an emergency medical services building for motorists due to the Cimarron Bridge around Arkalon Park between Kismet and Haynes being impassable.


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