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Responders respond to blizzard
Despite storm, weekend could have been worse
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City of Great Bend Street Division crews clear snow from Williams Monday afternoon. This Sunday’s blizzard caused headaches for city and county officials, but they say it caused no serious problems. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving weekend, the Barton County Commission Monday morning thanked the efforts of county personnel who braved Sunday’s wind-whipped blizzard, a storm that choked roads with drifts and left many in the dark.

“We want to thank our Road and Bridge crews,” commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz said. “We are grateful they are out there.”

Commissioner Don Davis extended that thank you to law enforcement and other first responders.

The crews headed into the teeth of the storm Sunday, but couldn’t get much done because of the continual drifting, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. However, come 6:30 a.m. Monday, they were back at it.

“We were pretty lucky,” Sheriff Brian Bellendir said. He reported 20 vehicles that had slide off roadways, but no major accidents.

“We had zero visability for a while,” he said, adding he had four deputies out tracking conditions. “It was bad.”

However, most residents heeded forecasts and warnings to stay home, he said.

Within the City of Great Bend, “the ice was worse than the snow,” said Street Superintendent James Giles. But, all in all, “I think it went really well. We got done what we needed to get done.”

Giles said his guys were out early Sunday, dealing with streets and power outages. There were two traffic signals that stopped working, either from power outages or the freezing temperatures.

The powerful storm system emerged over the Central Plains states late Saturday night into Sunday spreading snow, very strong northwest winds and much colder air to the region, according to the National Weather Service. Blizzard conditions become widespread across much of central and northeast Kansas on Sunday with wind gusts over 60 miles per hour and snowfall accumulations exceeding six inches across portions of central Kansas, including Barton County. 

A handful of locations in northeast Kansas received over a foot of snow. 

The storm also knocked out power to many in the Golden Belt. Residents in Great Bend, Hoisington and surrounding area were without electricity sporadically or for sustained periods Sunday.

Statewide response

Gov. Jeff Colyer Sunday issued a State of Disaster Emergency declaration for the state in response to the winter storm. The declaration authorized the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties. 

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.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has reported multiple road closures due to visibility including I-70 eastbound and westbound from Salina to WaKeeney. And, the KDEM received reports of vehicles getting stuck in the snow and those individuals leaving their vehicles and walking in the storm. 

Westar Energy and Midwest Energy reported power outages across multiple counties in the western and northeastern portions of the state.