Holiday travelers urged to prepare

State officials are urging Kansans to prepare for holiday travel as a major winter storm arrives in the state.

Freezing drizzle, heavy snow at times and strong winds are expected to make travel extremely hazardous in much of the state. Freezing drizzle was expected to begin falling overnight in western and central Kansas and change over to snow today.

Wichita may well see snow on Thursday, meteorologists said.

"The simple actions you take to be ready for this storm can save your life and the life of your family," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and the state's adjutant general.

Bunting urged motorists to make sure their vehicles have plenty of gas, antifreeze and window washer fluid, and to take along a survival kit: blankets, water, nonperishable food, a flashlight, snow shovel and other emergency supplies.

Computer simulations indicate the storm system will take a more northerly track than initially suspected, with Wichita on the edge.

"Nebraska's going to be the main event," said Stephanie Dunten, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. "It just keeps shifting north."

Some parts of northern Kansas could see 4 to 6 inches of snow, she said. Wichita could see rain change to snow on Thursday and continue into Christmas Day, she said.

By the time snow ends Friday, forecasters say, Wichita could see 1 to 3 inches of snow. But if the system continues to shift north, Dunten said, Wichita may end up with only rain from the event.

Mike Smith, chief executive officer for WeatherData Inc., a subsidiary of AccuWeather, cautioned residents not to get complacent at the reduced snowfall forecasts for the metropolitan area. With steady winds of more than 35 mph expected, he said, even an inch of snow is enough to create near-blizzard conditions and cause serious travel issues.

"We will get some snow, and it will have high winds," he said.

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