The first major winter storm of the season arrived on the last day of fall this morning, forcing schools to cancel and causing a commute headache on many slickened area roadways and interstates.
It wasn’t much snow. In fact only about 1 to 2 inches of snow had fallen by 7 a.m. in Kansas City.
Still it was enough, when combined with the strong winds, to cause airlines to cancel nearly 90 flights and delay about 20 others out of Kansas City International Airport as of noon.
“It’s very difficult to explain — it was a perfect storm,” said Joe McBride, a spokesman for KCI. “We only had 2 ½ inches of snow, but the conditions — the wind speed, the rain to ice and the freezing, very cold temperatures — made it very difficult to give optimal services for taking off and landing.”
The streets weren’t much better. Interstate traffic slowed to 30 mph or even a standstill. Some city streets, especially on hills, reportedly turned into ice rinks as the temperature dropped below 30 degrees, where it was expected to stay all day.
Northbound Bruce R. Watkins Drive eventually grew slippery enough that it turned into a parking lot, with traffic backed up solid from Interstate 435 to 75th Street through much of the morning drive. All three traffic lanes became a solid sheet of ice, and brutal winds whipped some cars around as they inched up the road.
Traffic was stop-and-go for miles after two tractor-trailers lost traction just north of 75th Street and couldn’t get up an incline, blocking all the lanes.
Kansas City police shut the northbound lanes and diverted traffic onto 75th Street, turning a typical 30-minute drive for some commuters into hours.
Other slippery spots were reported throughout the metropolitan area, including on many highway ramps. Authorities closed two stretches of Interstate 29, and Noland Road in Kansas City reportedly was a sheet of ice from U.S. 40 south to Missouri 350.
Kansas City Power & Light reported that about 40,000 customers had lost power since 3 a.m. As of noon, about 16,871 customers remained without power, primarily in Missouri.
“We’ve gotten over 60 percent of the power shortages restored,” said KCP&L spokeswoman Courtney Hughley. “It’s kind of slow for our crews because of congestion and bad road conditions.”
Wind primarily caused the outages by blowing down lines, blowing lines into contact with each other and causing fuses to be blown.
Also Thursday morning, snow blown by strong winds caused wrecks that closed parts of Interstate 29 near St. Joseph and near Kansas City International airport.
Some of the major school closings included Basehor-Linwood, Blue Springs, Blue Valley, Bonner Springs, Grain Valley, Kansas City, Kan., Kansas City, Kearney, Lawrence, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City, Park Hill, Platte Co., Raytown, Shawnee Mission, Tonganoxie and West Platte. For a complete listing, go to Closings on www.kansascity.com.
Early in the morning, a FedEx Corp. Jet at KCI was not able to turn at the end of a runway after it landed safely, according to McBride. The plane was towed to a gate.
The overnight rain changed to snow early this morning across eastern Kansas and Western Missouri, according to the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill.
In the Kansas City area, the rain transitioned to snow about 5 a.m., which combined with the strong winds to create a fairly dangerous rush hour, the National Weather Service warned.
Snowfall was relatively short-lived, but the strong winds were forecast to continue into the afternoon.
Fort Leavenworth told only essential military and civilian personnel to report for duty today.
Meanwhile, North Kansas City canceled a special council meeting for tonight because of the weather.
In Liberty, trash and recycling will not be picked up today due to the weather, the city announced. Allied Waste plans to resume service Friday and will run Saturday. The Liberty Silver Center is closed and Meals on Wheels is not running today, according to the city.