TOPEKA — Kansas began the slow process of digging out Wednesday from under a thick blanket of snow that closed schools, made streets slick and forced hundreds of homeless people to seek shelter.
Teams in Topeka went out Tuesday and Wednesday to coax “hardcore outdoors folks” to come inside, said Barry Feaker, executive director of the Topeka Rescue Mission. More than 300 homeless people sought refuge at the shelter, Feaker said.
“We are out of room,” he said, adding that the facility could add more cots with the city’s permission.
Some mentally ill residents who don’t like being around others could be placed in hotel rooms, he said. The shelter serves an average of 1,200 meals a day from 5 a.m. through early evening.
The snow stopped falling early Wednesday as the storm tracked toward the New England states. The National Weather Service said more than a foot of snow fell in Topeka and surrounding cities.
Temperatures for Wednesday were forecast to stay under 10 degrees for much of the state, accompanied by wind chills well below zero. There was a slight chance of additional snow to return to Kansas through Monday with temperatures remaining below freezing.
Gov. Sam Brownback, who took to a snow plow during the storm Tuesday, closed state government in Topeka for a second day. The Department for Children and Families closed its offices statewide because of weather conditions. By midmorning, crews were using front-end loaders to clear the Statehouse grounds.
Most schools and universities also remained closed on Wednesday. Fort Leavenworth was operating on a four-hour delay at the northeast Kansas Army post.
Brownback signed a state disaster emergency declaration on Tuesday, which authorizes the state to assist communities in responding to the storm. The Kansas National Guard established nine teams that were prepared to assist motorists who were stranded or to transport medical and emergency personnel.
A section of K-44 in Harper County south of Wichita was closed because of blowing and drifting snow. The Kansas Department of Transportation reported most other major highways were still covered with snow or ice Wednesday morning.
Two traffic deaths Tuesday south of Pittsburg in Crawford County were blamed on the weather conditions.