A deadly winter storm has made Kansas roads so treacherous that state emergency management officials are urging motorists not to travel after 6 p.m.
The combination of snow, strong winds and slick roads has virtually shut down some areas of the state — particularly northeast Kansas, officials said.
"This is an extremely dangerous situation we are facing, and everyone should heed these warnings," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, state adjutant general, in a prepared statement. "If you must travel, do so before 6 p.m. and plan to stay there tonight."
The winter storm led Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson to close state offices in the Topeka area early today.
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Parkinson told state workers in the area that they could leave for the day at 3 p.m.
Spokeswoman Beth Martino says Parkinson acted to keep employees safe.
Freezing rain and sleet gave way to snow around Topeka this afternoon.
Topeka police reported slick streets and said they'd seen more than a dozen vehicle accidents.
At least seven people have been killed around the state as a result of the winter storm over the past couple of days.
Wichita awoke today to a light glaze of ice, and then the precipitation changed to snow.
Strong winds have sharply reduced visibility at times, and crashes on Kellogg have been common in the city.
One prompted authorities to shut down westbound lanes west of 151st Street West for a short time this morning so debris from the collision could be cleaned up.
At least seven flights have been canceled at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, and the Emergency Accident Reporting Plan is in effect inside the city limits.
Visibility will be at or near zero during periods of heavy snowfall this afternoon and tonight, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mary-Beth Schreck.
The weather service now predicts Wichita will get 1 to 2 inches of snow, and El Dorado could get 4 inches. Points east of the Flint Hills will get still higher amounts.
Some areas of northeast Kansas could see a foot of snow, forecasters say.
Several churches around the state have canceled Christmas Eve services as a result of the storm. Among the cancellations in the Wichita area are Winfield First Baptist and the First United Methodist Church in Valley Center.
First United Methodist canceled its 9 p.m. service but is holding its 4:30 p.m. service, pastor Dennis Livingston said.
"Normally, the bulk of the congregation comes to the earlier service anyway," Livingston said. "The 4:30 service is before it gets dark, and we're assuming the temperature will continue to drop. And it's very cold, so those are the primary reasons for canceling.
"We debated about it, because there may be some who will be at work and will miss the service," he said. "But there's just a good possibility that no one will show."
This is the first time he's had to cancel a Christmas Eve service in nearly 20 years at the church, Livingston said.
"And that includes 11 years out in western Kansas where this sort of thing is more common," he said.
Seven deaths have been reported in storm-related crashes. Five of them occurred Tuesday.
A 57-year-old Uniontown woman died after a crash in Bourbon County shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said.
Sonja Davis lost control of her Versa as she was driving east on Hackberry Road two miles south of Redfield, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported. The vehicle struck a concrete culvert, then rolled three times as it entered the ditch. She was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the rolling vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sharon Kelty, 61, of Cheney, was killed just after 5 p.m. Tuesday when she lost control of her Toyota and it overturned northwest of Cheney. She was not wearing her seat belt, the Highway Patrol reported.
A young Arkansas couple was killed in Thomas County, in northwest Kansas, Tuesday night, the patrol reported. Brandon and Keely Trusell, 25 and 23, of Fort Smith, died when their eastbound Toyota SUV spun out of control on I-70, crossed the grassy median and was struck by a westbound semi-trailer truck at 8:45 p.m.
A Colorado Springs man was killed in Sherman County on Tuesday night in a one-vehicle crash near the Kansas-Colorado border, state officials said.
A 53-year-old Scott City woman died in a crash Wednesday morning.
The Kansas Highway Patrol reported that Marie Bruner lost control of her car on U.S. 83 11 miles north of Garden City at 8:30 a.m. The car slid into the ditch and rolled. Bruner was not wearing her seat belt and died in the crash.
Two passengers were taken to St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City for treatment of possible injuries. Authorities said U.S. 83 was slick at the time of the crash.
A Texas man died in a rollover accident in Russell County early Wednesday, state officials said.
Check Kansas.com for updates.