Update: The winter storm continued to impact road conditions and traffic Monday morning. A new story with updated information is posted here.
Road conditions in the Kansas City area became treacherous Sunday with snow and ice from a major winter storm that descended on the region.
Highways in the Kansas City area were snow-packed by early afternoon and conditions were expected to get worse later in the day, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Travel became difficult across Kansas and Missouri as a large winter storm, stretching as far east as Michigan, hit Kansas City on one of the biggest travel days of the year. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend was expected to see the most traffic in 12 years, according to the AAA motor club.
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By 4:30 p.m., Interstate 70 was impassable from Kansas City to Marshall, Mo., according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. State transportation officials urged drivers to avoid using the interstate.
In Kansas, the storm and resulting slide-offs and crashes forced I-70 to close west of Topeka for much of the day.
The westbound lanes of I-70 from Kansas 177 to the Colorado border reopened around 2:15 p.m. I-70 east of K-177 to Topeka remained closed.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer issued a “State of Disaster Emergency” declaration for the winter storm. Kansas officials urged people to stay off the roads.
Drivers were told not to try to go west because they would be turned around. Those headed east into Kansas were being stopped at the Colorado border.
More closures were imminent, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Amy Scott of Kearney, Mo., was keeping track of family who set out from the St. Joseph area to head home to Denver Sunday morning.
Her brother-in-law, his wife and son had been in the area visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday and were hoping to make it to Salina for the night. On the way, they saw slide-offs, crashes and an ambulance tipped over on its side.
The family was stuck in traffic on I-70 for about an hour and hoped they wouldn’t run out of gas, Scott said.
“They wanted to get as far as they could because they were supposed to be back to work tomorrow,” Scott said. “I’m just saying prayers for them and others who have to be out on the roads. I wish they didn’t have to, but I understood why they did have to.”
Meanwhile, Interstate 35 was closed from U.S. 75 to Emporia.
In Atchison County, all east-west roads were closed, according to the Atchison County Emergency Management.
In Missouri, northbound Interstate 35 was closed near Liberty about 4:30 p.m.
Interstate 29 in northwest Missouri was closed from St. Joseph to the Iowa state line because of whiteout conditions, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation and Missouri Highway Patrol.
The trend in the storm has been about 30 minutes to about an hour of sleet and then a quick transition to snow.
Because of the poor weather conditions in Kansas City, RideKC announced it was suspending service at 6 p.m. It had previously reported that half of the area’s buses were running 10 minutes late on average as of 1:30 p.m.
Overland Park police asked any motorist in a non-injury accident to bring their report to a police station later, rather than calling police, if the vehicles are still drivable.
Travel was highly discouraged because of expected blizzard conditions. The Weather Service advised people to invite any remaining family or friends in town for the Thanksgiving holiday to stay one more night.
Near-blizzard conditions were being reported about 10:35 a.m. in Topeka.
Meanwhile, dozens of flights were canceled at KCI as the are as the area braced for the storm.
KCI was advising passengers not to come to the airport if their flights had been canceled. Also, most airlines were waiving booking fees on flights not canceled.