Wichita dodged a major snowfall predicted for the area Monday, but a dusting of snow atop a layer of ice caused trouble for motorists, airline passengers and others.
Forecasters said Wichitans shouldn’t have to worry about any significant precipitation over the next several days but should prepare for an extended blast of arctic temperatures.
“We’re looking at pretty much the coldest air of the season” so far, said Jim Caruso, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Wichita.
Low temperatures overnight Monday were expected to dip to 14 degrees, and Tuesday’s daytime temperature is expected to top out in the mid-20s, Caruso said. Cold air coming south from Canada should keep Wichita’s temperatures below freezing for much of the week.
“We were due, though,” he said. “We were overdue for some seasonal temperatures.”
Winter’s debut featured sleet, freezing drizzle and freezing rain across south-central Kansas but only a trace of snow, not the 4 to 7 inches most forecasters had predicted. Even so, the weather caused plenty of headaches.
Several Wichita-area events were postponed or canceled. Wichita State’s men’s basketball game against New Mexico State was postponed indefinitely because the opposing team’s commercial flight out of Texas was canceled.
Hospitals treated dozens of people who had fallen on the ice.
Weather-related accidents were many – Sedgwick County dispatchers had received 911 calls about 200 accidents as of 7 p.m. Monday – but mostly minor injuries were reported.
During the morning commute, authorities shut down K-96 from Ridge Road to West Street after several slide-offs were reported along that stretch of highway.
One driver who slid off a road into a pond near Zelta and Lincoln, east of Greenwich, around 11:30 a.m. Monday climbed atop the vehicle’s roof to wait for help, a dispatch supervisor said. Wichita police came to the rescue, and no one was hurt.
Wichita road crews had dropped 1,000 tons of salt – nearly a tenth of the city’s reserves – on city streets by Monday morning, streets, said Alan King, city director of public works and utilities. They started dusting streets with salt and sand Saturday evening to try to beat the wintry precipitation.
Residents can track the city’s snow plows in real time on www.wichita.gov/snowremoval.
The emergency accident reporting plan is in effect for Wichita and Goddard through at least 10 a.m. Tuesday, when officials will re-evaluate road conditions.
If you’re involved in a non-injury accident that does not involve alcohol or drugs and the vehicles can be driven, you are asked to exchange personal, insurance and vehicle information and fill out an accident report form.
In Wichita, the forms are available at QuikTrip locations, at police department substations and at www.wichita.gov. You can find the report forms for Goddard at http://goddardks.gov/Departments/Police.
Hospitals see ice-related injuries
Local emergency rooms saw quite a few weather-related injuries.
By Monday afternoon, Wesley Medical Center had treated at least 17 people who had fallen on the ice and four who were involved in weather-related motor-vehicle accidents, said hospital spokesman Nick Adams.
Nate Goold, spokesman for Via Christi Hospitals, also reported dozens of people being treated for falls at those hospitals – about 20 each at Via Christi St. Francis and Via Christi St. Joseph’s emergency rooms – as well as one person who was in fair condition after a weather-related car accident.
“They’re really busy,” Goold said. “Lots of walk-ins, and others being transported by ambulance.”
Flights postponed, canceled
One taxiway at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport remained closed Monday after an Allegiant Air jet slid off late Sunday night.
Airport spokeswoman Valerie Wise said the taxiway closure did not affect flights – two of Eisenhower’s three runways were open Monday evening – but weather problems across the country affected travelers trying to get to or from Wichita.
As of Monday afternoon there were 15 cancellations and seven delays of flights to and from Eisenhower, according to the airport’s website.
Karen and Carl Cravens flew with their teenage son from Galloway Township, N.J., last week to visit friends and family in Wichita for Christmas. When their flight back on Monday, through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, was canceled, the airline told Cravens it couldn’t get them onto another flight until Thursday.
The family decided to stay an extra night in Wichita, rent a car and drive to Dallas on Tuesday in hopes of getting a non-stop flight to Philadelphia, the airport closest to their home.
“We’re pretty exhausted and frustrated,” Karen Cravens said Monday night. “Somebody needs to warn the DFW agents that if they cancel us there, I will just break down bawling on their shoulder.”
Major snow never materialized
Some areas southeast of Wichita received 1 to 3 inches of sleet and snow on top of ice, said Caruso, the meteorologist. Westar Energy was reporting “significant damage” to areas around Arkansas City and Independence, with more than 2,000 customers without power.
“We are still assessing the damage but restoration times may be longer than estimated,” said an alert on Westar’s website. “As crews work in the areas, estimated restoration times will be updated.”
Caruso said he and most other local forecasters weren’t sure why their snowfall predictions for the Wichita area were so far off base.
“One of the things we overdid was the snow amounts,” he said. “We’re definitely going to go back and look and see if we can find the reasons why.”
Reviewing the case will mean looking at the thermal and moisture profiles in the atmosphere to see “why we incorrectly diagnosed that,” Caruso said. “It’s going to take a little while. It’s not one of those things where we can say right away, ‘This is what happened.’”
Contributing: Jerry Siebenmark of The Eagle