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State seeks to find, rescue stranded travelers, governor says

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 11:27 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at 6:15 p.m.

Parts of I-70 in western Kansas could be closed all night, and National Guardsmen are driving Humvees on I-70 and U.S. 54 looking for stranded drivers as night falls, Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday afternoon.

“If you don’t have to travel, don’t do it,” Brownback stressed during a news conference with other state officials. “We’re not out of this yet.”

The Governor said it’s important to identify any stranded travelers and get them to shelter before it gets dark and temperatures decline, making it more dangerous and more difficult to assist people.

Two teams of two National Guard members are traveling I-70 between Colby and Salina and one team is searching a stretch of U.S. 54 from Mineola to Pratt, Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli said. More guardsmen stand ready to help if needed, he said.

The search teams were dispatched after as much as 15 inches of snow fell in south-central Kansas and other areas reported similarly historic amounts. Kansas Highway Patrol troopers, meanwhile, have assisted many travelers stranded along the state’s roads.

No fatality accidents have been reported, officials said.

It’s unclear when I-70 and U.S. 54 will re-open, said Kansas Department of Transportation Sec. Mike King. He urged people to check the KDOT website or dial 511 for road condition updates.

Brownback said many parts of the state will get one to four inches of additional snow

Kiowa County has opened a shelter now housing 30 people. Franklin and Pratt counties also have shelters ready on stand-by.

About 1,000 state workers are working to clear roads in two shifts around the clock, King said. But windy conditions have hampered plowing, particularly on ramps leading on and off some major highways, he said.

Reach Brent Wistrom at bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

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