Temps to stay brutal for a few more days

Today will offer more of the bitter wintry weather that encased Kansas on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Wind chills well below zero and temperatures in the low double digits are on tap for the Wichita metropolitan area as the cold weather refuses to budge.

"It's not going to be as windy, so that will help," National Weather Service meteorologist Mary-Beth Schreck said.

The Maize school district canceled classes today because of the cold.

In Topeka, Gov. Mark Parkinson shortened state office hours for today. Government offices in Shawnee County, which includes Topeka, will be 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

Districts delay start

Several inches of snow fell in parts of northern Kansas, but less than a half-inch was recorded in Wichita.

Temperatures were below zero in Goodland early Thursday, and wind chills in the negative teens buffeted most of the state during the day.

Several school districts around Kansas delayed the start of their school day because of the cold and snow on Thursday, but USD 259 maintained its regular schedule.

School officials urged parents to make sure their children were dressed appropriately for the cold weather, and advised those whose children ride the bus to wait with them at the bus stop until the bus arrived.

District spokeswoman Susan Arensman described the morning bus rounds as "smooth sailing."

District officials will continue to monitor weather conditions early this morning, she said.

Across the U.S.

Around the country, at least 15 deaths are blamed on the cold weather and slick roads that have plagued the nation between the Rockies to the Atlantic since the first of the year.

It's been 25 years since such a large swath of severely low temperatures struck the nation, chief meteorologist Joe Bastardi said on his blog.

Five straight days of double-digit subzero lows, including minus 19, were recorded by the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb.

"It's brutally cold, definitely brutal," meteorologist Tony Zaleski said.

Snow was piled so high in Iowa that drivers couldn't see across intersections and a North Dakota snowblower repair shop was overwhelmed with business as heavy snow and wind chills as low as 52 below zero blasted much of the Midwest on Thursday.

Frigid weather also gripped the South, where a rare cold snap was expected to bring snow and ice Thursday to states from South Carolina to Louisiana.

In Bowbells, in northwestern North Dakota, the wind chill hit 52-below-zero Thursday morning.

Pipes, cars and fires

Phone lines at A Good Plumber in Wichita were abuzz Thursday with calls from residents whose pipes had frozen overnight.

"All the guys are out on calls, and it's just going to get worse," said Tasha McKeever, a secretary for the plumbing service company. "People are at work now. When they get home is when they're going to find out they don't have water."

Wichita police on Thursday cautioned residents against leaving unattended vehicles running to warm them up.

"It only takes a few seconds to steal a car," police spokesman Gordon Bassham said.

Only one such theft had been reported this week through Wednesday, he said, but conditions are ripe for a spike in auto thefts.

Car thieves often work in pairs, he said, trolling parking lots, neighborhoods and convenience stores for idling vehicles left unattended.

Fire officials warned residents to be careful about not overtaxing their home's electrical circuits in their attempts to keep warm.

More than a half-dozen house fires over the past two months in the city started when circuits became overloaded and a fire broke out in the walls, Capt. Stuart Bevis said.

One fire occurred Wednesday, Bevis said. A passing motorist noticed smoke coming from the attic of the house at 1510 E. Morris at about 4:30 p.m.

No one was hurt, but the fire caused an estimated $40,000 in damage.

The fires happen because residents use space heaters or electric blankets to stay warm, and old or compromised electrical circuits can't handle the increased load.

Typically, Bevis said, a circuit breaker will shut off power and have to be reset before power resumes.

"If you reset your breaker a couple times, you probably need to have something checked because that's not normal," he said.

High temperatures in Wichita on Thursday actually exceeded expectations, reaching the mid-teens.

While temperatures today are expected to be colder than on Thursday, Schreck said, lighter winds should make the day more bearable.

Northerly winds that gusted above 30 miles an hour on Thursday will be steadily in the teens today.

The cold temperatures will persist into Saturday, with highs in the mid-teens, before a warmup begins Sunday.

Temperatures could top freezing on Sunday and surge into the mid-40s by Tuesday in Wichita, Schreck said.

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