Wichita schools have canceled classes for a second consecutive day today as a winter storm that pummeled much of the nation continues to exact a heavy toll.
Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of disaster emergency for 53 counties in Kansas early Tuesday, essentially covering the eastern half of the state.
The emergency disaster declaration — which included Sedgwick, Harvey, Butler and Sumner counties — activated the state's emergency response plan.
At a news conference in Topeka, Brownback and Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the state's adjutant general, urged Kansans to stay off roads and highways.
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"First and foremost, stay home," Brownback said. "Please stay home. Don't make yourself a victim.
"If you don't have to get out, don't get out."
Brownback said those who must travel should carry blankets, water and a cell phone in case they get stranded.
"The first option, and by far and away the best option, is to just stay home," he said. "This is probably going to continue for a couple of days."
Brownback has closed state offices in Topeka and Shawnee County today. Offices also were closed Tuesday.
And for the second straight day, the Legislature has called off its session.
Tafanelli said the storm's only fatality occurred Monday in northern Kansas when a 61-year-old Agra woman was killed when her vehicle left the road and overturned near Kensington.
"There have been numerous other accidents but no other fatalities," he said.
Tafanelli said most of the state was fortunate to escape the ice that covered much of Oklahoma and Missouri.
"The wind temperatures and wind speeds will cause the most significant threats over the next 48 hours," he said.
The Adjutant General's Office will be sending resources where needed, with ice accumulations, strong winds and up to 13 inches of snow forecast in portions of the state. National Guard soldiers are helping transport medical personnel in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas to help keep hospitals staffed.
The Emergency Accident Reporting Plan is in effect in the city of Wichita, where authorities urged motorists to avoid travel if at all possible.
"We do ask people to be very careful out in this weather," Wichita police Lt. Doug Nolte said. "Be careful of drifting snow ... it can cause an accident."
More than 5 inches of snow had fallen in Wichita by early Tuesday afternoon, and reports of a foot of snow were widespread throughout southeast Kansas, said Vanessa Pearce, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.
The Kansas City metropolitan area was projected to receive 9 to 11 inches of snow, with even heavier amounts northeast into Missouri.
Roads throughout the eastern part of the state were snow-packed and icy, and visibility was near zero at times in Wichita and frequently in southeast Kansas.
Dozens of arrivals and departures were canceled Tuesday at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport. United has canceled its Chicago flights for today. Travelers should check with their airlines for the status of their flights.
The wind knocked out the vendor providing flight status information to the airport's www.flywichita.com site, so Valerie Wise, air service and business development manager for the Wichita Airport Authority, has been providing flight information via Twitter.
That Twitter feed can be accessed through http://twitter.com/FlyICT.
All Wichita Park and Recreation Centers and public libraries closed at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and no adult or youth arts classes were held at CityArts on Tuesday.
Also canceled was an event celebrating International Students Day at Wichita Ice Sports.
Many businesses were closed Tuesday and others, like Towne East Square and Towne West Square malls, closed early. The second and third work shifts at both Hawker Beechcraft Corp. and Hawker Beechcraft Services locations were canceled Tuesday, company officials announced.
Several staff members at Wesley Medical Center were planning to stay overnight at the hospital to better care for patients and to cover for third-shift employees who couldn't make it in, a hospital spokesman said.
The University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University were closed, as were many other colleges and most schools in eastern Kansas. Fort Leavenworth also closed.
Wichita-area schools, many of which had two snow days last month, will be closed again today.
Bitter cold and brutal wind chills will persist, forecasters say.
Highs today may reach 10, with gusty north winds plunging wind chills to nearly minus 20. Temperatures will struggle to rebound the rest of the work week, forecasters say, but should reach the 40s by this weekend.