WICHITA — Closings, cancellations and accidents were piling up with the snow in the Wichita area today as the latest in a series of winter storms dumped heavy snow on the metropolitan area.
Wichita's parochial schools closed at 2 p.m. today, and all USD 259 after-school and evening activities were canceled as the snow continued to fall.
Up to a foot of snow is possible in northern sections of the city and county, forecasters say. The rest of the metropolitan area should see at least 6 inches.
"The snowfall rate is higher than we expected," National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Cook said.
About 5 inches of snow had fallen by 2 p.m. in northeast Wichita and eastern Sedgwick County, WeatherData president Mike Smith said. Perhaps 3 inches had fallen in downtown Wichita.
A mid-afternoon Delta flight from Atlanta was canceled at Mid-Continent Airport, along with the related return flight to Atlanta.
More than 90 accidents had been reported between midnight and 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sedgwick County emergency communications officials said. Injuries were reported in 19 of those accidents, though none were considered serious.
Dozens of slide-offs were also reported.
The number of accidents occurring troubled Tom Hein, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
"I don't know what it is," Hein said. "You can tell it's icy.
"There's just a lot of fast driving going on."
Late Tuesday afternoon, Newton city officials urged motorists to stay home as street conditions worsened.
"Street crews are working on the snow route only, and outlying areas could become impassable," Erin Newton, public information officer for the city, said in a prepared statement.
"Newton is receiving about 1 inch of snow per hour," Newton said. "If that continues to hold through the night, Newton could see up to 14 inches of snow. In that event, it will take street crews a significant amount of time to clear even the snow route."
Newton was in a heavy snowband that pounded cities north and west of Wichita on Tuesday afternoon and evening: 11 inches had fallen by 3:30 p.m. near Burns in Marion County, 10 inches in McPherson, and more than 9 inches in Hutchinson and Lyons and north of El Dorado in Butler County.
The Emergency Accident Reporting Plan is in effect for the city of Wichita. Police are encouraging residents not to drive if they don't have to.
Crews are applying a dry salt-sand mixture to ramps and bridges, Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hein said.
"It's not that blowing snow that we had last week, but it's a wet accumulator — so we're going to see more buildup," Hein said.
It's been nearly 50 years since a foot of snow fell in Wichita, according to weather service records.
That last happened on Jan. 18, 1962. Given the track of the heaviest snow, a foot may fall in northern parts of the city but not at the official recording station in southwest Wichita.
The USD 259 cancellations include rehearsals, parent conferences, athletic practices and competitions, and the middle school after-school program, district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said.
Elementary latchkey programs will continue as scheduled, though parents will be encouraged to pick up their children as soon as possible after school.
The status of Wednesday classes will be reviewed during a weather team meeting at 9 p.m., Arensman said.
City libraries and recreation centers closed at 5 p.m., and CityArts classes and activities were canceled, too.
All Wichita Clinic immediate care centers closed at 5 p.m.