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Winter storm prompts governor to close offices early

State officials are urging Kansans to brace for a winter storm that will bring bitter temperatures and brutal wind chills to the region later today and through the rest of the work week.

The storm's opening act will deliver freezing drizzle to some parts of the state before the precipitation transitions over to snow.

Snowfall should range from 1 inch around Wichita to 6 inches or more in northeast Kansas, forecasters say. But the storm's most threatening components figure to be the low temperatures and high winds.

Gov. Mark Parkinson ordered government offices in Shawnee County to close at 3 p.m. today due to inclement weather.

Those offices will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

"This is one of the colder shots we've had in a long time," said Jim Caruso, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Wind chills by Thursday morning will be minus 15 to minus 20 in Wichita, he said, and they'll persist well below zero all day and into Friday.

"I'd hate to be waiting for the bus over the next couple of days," Caruso said.

Some parts of the state could see wind chills of minus 35, state emergency management officials warned.

USD 259 officials will decide early Thursday morning whether to have school.

"We're monitoring the situation," district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said.

Light freezing drizzle this afternoon should change over to snow as evening approaches. Wichita will likely receive an inch or less, Caruso said.

"It's going to be a close call on whether it's going to be during the evening commute" today, he said.

With winds shifting from the south to the north and intensifying to more than 25 miles an hour, blowing snow can be expected in Wichita and throughout much of eastern Kansas tonight and overnight.

Lows will slip to about 5 overnight, Caruso said, and Thursday will see almost no warm-up. Highs may reach 10 in Wichita, but they'll stay in the single digits in most of northern and eastern Kansas.

"If you don't prepare for these weather conditions, it could be a dangerous situation, so plan for ways to survive the worst-case scenario in your car or home," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, Kansas Division of Emergency Management director and adjutant general.

Check Kansas.com for updates.

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