Sunny skies and unexpectedly warm temperatures are helping Wichita residents and street crews clean up following the second strong winter storm to hit the region in less than a week.
The storm contributed to the death of two people along I-70 on Monday and left more than 10,000 Westar customers around the state without electricity early Tuesday morning. That number had fallen to less than 2,500 as of late Tuesday afternoon, with less than 100 of the outages in Sedgwick County.
The storm delivered 6.8 inches of snow to Wichita, less than initially forecast but still enough to help set a record for the snowiest month in the city’s history. Combined with last week’s 14.2 inches of snow, this storm raised the total to 21 inches.
“That’s an any-month record, not just February,” said Jerilyn Billings, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The storms broke a record that was exactly 100 years old: 20.5 inches of snow fell in February 1913.
Temperatures lingered above freezing much longer than anticipated Monday, Billings said, allowing most of the snow that fell in the Wichita area to melt. Accumulation didn’t begin in earnest until late Monday night.
State officials said average accumulations as of 5 a.m. on Tuesday were led by the 6 to 8 inches in south-central Kansas. Southwest Kansas averaged 5.5 inches, while northeast and southeast Kansas averaged at least 4 inches.
Highways and arterial streets in the Wichita metropolitan area were in good shape late Tuesday afternoon, helped by sunshine and temperatures that climbed above freezing. The Emergency Accident Reporting Plan was lifted for the city of Wichita shortly after 2 p.m.
AAA had received only 120 calls for assistance statewide as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday, agency spokesman Jim Hanni said. About one-fourth of those calls were in the Wichita area, he said, and the most challenging of those calls came from the Goddard, Colwich, Derby and Rose Hill areas.
Road crews in Wichita will continue plowing streets into Wednesday before reverting to normal schedules, Lt. Doug Nolte said.
The storm is blamed for two deaths in Kansas, both on I-70. The first was Carlos Esqueda, 21, of Kansas City, Kan., who died Monday morning near Goodland when his vehicle hit a patch of ice and rolled in the median.
The second was a 28-year-old Ellis woman who was killed shortly after 7:30 p.m. on Monday when the car she was riding in skidded on ice eight miles west of Hays and rolled multiple times in the median, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. Kirsten Nelson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her husband, Eric Nelson, 31, and two children, a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy, were taken to Hays Medical Center for treatment.
Cleanup in the Wichita area should be aided by dry weather for the next several days, Billings said, and by temperatures climbing into the 40s by this weekend.