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Bitter cold embrace: Central Kansas wakes to cold snap
A trace of snow fell on Great Bend early Thursday. The courthouse, shown here, was closed due to the extreme cold. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Central Kansans awoke Thursday morning to bitter cold – minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit – with a trace of snow dumped on their homes like a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking.

The chill that arrived late on the first day of winter was not unexpected. A week earlier, weather forecasters warned that extremely cold air from Siberia would send the U.S. into a deep freeze.

Area offices that planned to be open through the end of the week announced they would be closed on Thursday. Daycare centers, the courthouse, the library and the Senior Center were among those that suspended services, at least for one day.

As bus driver Brad Halseth waited for the final group to board the Dolly Trolly in downtown Great Bend for a tour of Christmas lights Wednesday evening, he said the Thursday tours had been canceled but the bus would be operating again on Friday.

Great Bend streets were slick in places on Thursday, but the real hazard was the cold, with sub-zero temperatures. Today’s high is expected to be 11 degrees.

Shelter from the cold

Meanwhile, Buzz Birney with Live Like Jesus Today ministries was putting out a call for help and letting people living without heat know that they could find a warm hotel room thanks to area donations.

Two years ago, Live Like Jesus Today established a warming shelter in advance of another cold snap where temperatures plummeted to single digits and lower. On Wednesday, Birney said the building his ministry used in February of 2021 is not available now and he doesn’t have a building that will work for that purpose.

“The best we can do is put people up in hotels,” he said.

He posted a plea for help Wednesday on the ministry’s Facebook page, saying there was an urgent need for businesses, families or individuals that were willing to pay for a hotel room. “There are families and individuals that need to be in a warm and safe place over the next 3 to 4 days!” the post read, noting the dangerous cold front coming through our area. “If willing we need your name and contact number and as the needs arise we can contact you. Thank you for your caring heart! Merry Christmas!”

“We will help all we can,” Birney said, adding volunteers had talked to people who live under the Arkansas River bridge or in unheated, abandoned homes to let them know they could get rooms through Saturday. As of Thursday afternoon, eight people had taken advantage of that but Birney was aware the numbers would likely go up as the temperature goes down.

“I know there’s a lot more out there,” he said.

Birney said they also need to buy food cards for restaurants so the people can get hot meals. Live Like Jesus Today is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, so donations are tax-deductible.

LLJT works with other area agencies and ministries and has items available for those in need at its Kingdom Campus, located at 700 South Patton Road in Great Bend. Anyone in need of coats, blankets, sheets, pillows, socks, towels or cereal can receive these for free. People are advised to pull in the gate to the back of the warehouse.

Birney can be contacted by telephone at 620-397-3325. Donations can be made online at the website, and email can be sent to

In the future, Birney said he hopes someone will donate a building that LLJT Ministries could use for a halfway house or transitional home, which perhaps could double as a place to stay warm in extreme cold and cool in extreme heat.

Weather advisory

Kansas saw freezing drizzle and other weather hazards on Wednesday, which was also the first day of winter.

The National Weather Service office in Wichita issued a winter weather message that included Great Bend, with a Wind Chill Warning in effect until 1 p.m. Friday.

For the Wind Chill Warning, dangerously cold wind chills were expected, as low as 30 below zero and winds gusting as high as 40 mph.

The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

Kansans were warned to avoid outside activities if possible.

• When outside, make sure you wear appropriate clothing, a hat, and gloves.

The Winter Weather Advisory anticipating freezing drizzle and snow was canceled Thursday but NWS noted gusty winds could produce short periods of reduced visibility. Motorists were advised to carry an emergency kit in the car when traveling and to slow down and use caution on roadways.

• The latest road conditions for the state you are calling from can be obtained by calling 5 1 1.


• Barton County business operations closed Thursday and will reopen on Tuesday, Dec. 27. However, the Barton County Landfill will next be open on Monday, Dec. 26.

• Great Bend Public Library closed Thursday. It will reopen on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

• Great Bend Senior Center was closed Thursday, with no general public transportation. There will be no friendship meals or Meals on Wheels. All scheduling will resume as normal on Friday.

• The KansasWorks Great Bend Workforce Center was closed Thursday.

• The Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo was closed Thursday. It will reopen Monday, Dec. 26.

• Military and First Responders Night Out, which was scheduled for Friday, was canceled.