Brunt of ice storm misses Wichita

A pedestrian walks north on Hillside among a canopy of ice-covered trees on Sunday morning. The Wichita area saw a slight accumulation of ice overnight, but not enough to knock out power or cause much damage.
A pedestrian walks north on Hillside among a canopy of ice-covered trees on Sunday morning. The Wichita area saw a slight accumulation of ice overnight, but not enough to knock out power or cause much damage. The Wichita Eagle

The weekend ice storm that threatened to wreak havoc on south-central Kansas appeared to go out with a whimper on Sunday afternoon – that is, if you live in the Wichita area.

Trees and other elevated surfaces were left with a glaze of ice on Sunday morning, but road conditions – despite being wet from overnight precipitation – were not hazardous in most places.

“We’re about done,” Robb Lawson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita, said early Sunday afternoon. “Temperatures never got cold enough to cause a lot of problems, and we don’t expect to get below freezing (Sunday) night, though we will get some more precipitation.”

But some people who live west of Wichita or had property farther out in the state and farther north closer to I-70 were getting ice by the hour.

“It is icy. We have some limbs that have come down around us,” said Sandy Smith of St. John in Stafford County. “It crunches under your feet. But we have had no power outages that I know.”

In western Kansas near Protection, as Dave Webb talked on his cellphone, tree limb branches could be heard snapping. He was without power Sunday morning, as were people who had outages in Coldwater and Ashland.

“There is ice all over the bushes and fences and trees,” Webb said. “We’ve already had an inch of rain. They say we could get another half-inch of ice. There is a 100 percent chance of more of this this afternoon and night. There is a limit to how much any tree branch can hold.”

In Great Bend, Myrna Perkins noted the freezing rain coming down.

“Everything is iced over,” she said. “It is slick out, but the good thing is that there is just no wind. It is cold, but it doesn’t feel that bad out. It has been coming down all day.”

Wichita should be done with the freezing ice, Lawson said late Sunday afternoon. More rain is expected, but the temperatures are expected to stay above freezing.

“I’ve just been watching ice melt off of trees,” Lawson said. “We’ll be getting rain on and off all night into tomorrow.”

The good news is that Kansas badly needed the rain and moisture, Webb said, just not necessarily in ice form.

The ice storm spread more slowly across the state than originally forecast, Lawson said.

As a result, on Monday, temperatures for the Wichita area are predicted to be in the 40s, while those farther northwest will struggle to get into the mid-30s.

More rain will follow.

“If there is a a silver lining, it’s that we really did need the moisture,” Lawson said.

The Wichita area received about a quarter-inch of icy precipitation Saturday into Sunday. Lawson said some areas north of Wichita got closer to a half-inch of precipitation.

City crews had been out treating streets with a salt and sand mixture for several days ahead of the storm.

According to Westar Energy’s online outage map, close to 1,400 customers were without electricity for about 25 minutes in northeast Wichita beginning at around 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Westar spokeswoman Yvonne Etzel said the brief outage was caused by the weather.

Before the early-afternoon outage was reported, Etzel said no significant weekend interruptions had been reported due to the weather.

“We had no sustained power outages in the Wichita area due to the storm,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of ice overnight (into Sunday), so we’re cautiously optimistic that we missed the worst.”

In Kansas near Kansas City, two highway patrol troopers escaped injury when their vehicles were struck while working a crash along northbound I-635 on Sunday, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Associated Press.

And in a separate incident, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper caught a powerful video as he was traveling east on I-70 in Russell County and a semitrailer truck traveling in the west lanes lost control and almost struck him. No one was hurt.

The news service also reported that nearly 10,000 power customers were without power in Oklahoma as a result of the ice storm, with most of those in northwestern part of the state.

Authorities said ice contributed to a fatal wreck in southwestern Kansas near Liberal that killed a 35-year-old Oklahoma man and injured several others Saturday night.

Thay Torres-Ocacio of Guymon, Okla., died after the sport utility vehicle in which he was riding went out of control on an overpass and overturned several times, according to the highway patrol.

While the chances for iced-over streets in Wichita had all but been eliminated Sunday, the Wichita Police Department still urged drivers to be careful.

“The police department would like to remind drivers to continue being cautious drivers even though temperatures remain above freezing,” Sgt. Nikki Woodrow said in an e-mail. “Be mindful of bridges and overpasses as they could still be slick. Slow down and get to your destination safely.”

A number of flights at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport were affected by the storm, but airport spokeswoman Valerie Wise said in a text message that its airfield was never closed.

“There have been cancellations earlier and a couple delays, but most everything is scheduled,” Wise said. “We encourage people to check our website for updates, and travelers should contact their airline for updates.”

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath,

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner,

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