Finger on the Weather

5 worst ice storms in Kansas history

An unforgettable ice storm coated the Kansas City area in 2002. This photo was captured from the Good Samaritan Towers in Olathe.
An unforgettable ice storm coated the Kansas City area in 2002. This photo was captured from the Good Samaritan Towers in Olathe. jsleezer@kcstar.com

The National Weather Service has put together a list of the five worst ice storms in Kansas history.

Overland Park traffic camera videos show the dangers of slick, icy streets. The clips from the city's network of traffic cameras show what can happen when drivers are not careful in winter weather.

All but one of them have happened within the past 20 years. They all had something in common: They covered a wide geographic area and involved widespread power outages and damage to infrastructure.

No one is calling the looming ice storm one for the record books at the moment, but we’ll only know that answer after the fact.

This video shows how the folks at Ricochet Home Consignment in Boise, Idaho, took care of the snow that had piled up in their parking lot. (Courtesy of Riley Elguezabal)

Five worst ice storms in Kansas history

1. Dec. 10-11, 2007: Nearly all of Kansas

Widespread moderate to heavy freezing rain resulted in 1- to 2-inch ice accumulations. Some areas were coated with 2 to 4 inches of ice. Damage to trees, power lines and power poles was staggering and made travel treacherous. Power outages affected an estimated 260,000 people. Many areas were without power for up to two weeks. Damage to the electrical infrastructure was estimated at $136.2 million, making this the costliest ice storm in Kansas history. Of this total, $37.5 million in damage was assessed in Reno County. Such damage included around 2,000 power poles and 7,900 spans of conductor. Around 5,400 lines and transformers required refusing. The statewide damage estimate is conservative, as most counties did not report their monetary losses. Damage estimates to buildings, trees and other foliage was unknown. No fatalities were reported.

2. Jan. 29-31, 2002: Southwest, south-central and all of eastern Kansas

Sleet and freezing rain caused 1- to 4-inch ice accumulations across most areas. The greatest accumulations was 2 to 4 inches in southwest Kansas. The roof of a livestock building at the Stafford County Fairgrounds collapsed. In northeast and east-central Kansas, the weight of the ice was so great that the roofs of several other buildings collapsed. One casualty was a marina at Lake Perry, where 19 boats were damaged or destroyed. Damage to trees, power lines and, in some cases, power poles was widespread, resulting in power outages that lasted up to two weeks. The total damage was estimated around $60 million.

3. Jan. 4-5, 2005: Nearly all of Kansas

This ice event coated nearly all of the state with 1/2 to 2 inches of ice. Although the primary culprit was freezing rain, sleet greatly increased the magnitude, accumulating to around 2 inches in many areas. Damage to trees and power lines was major. Trees as tall as 22 feet were split and fell. Many limbs, some 6 to 12 inches in diameter, fell onto roads and highways as well as power lines. Power outages were widespread and prolonged, with many towns experiencing multiple outages, lasting 1 1/2 to two weeks. On Jan. 5, the ice storm hit southeast Kansas, coating all but Labette County with 1 to 2 inches of ice. In all, 56 counties were declared disaster areas. Damage was estimated at $36.2 million, with about $30 million of the total occurring in south-central Kansas. Those damage estimates are likely conservative, as most counties did not report their monetary losses. Four people died and two others were injured in the winter storm.

4. March 18-19, 1984: Southwest to northeast Kansas

Freezing rain, some associated with embedded thunderstorms, produced 1- to 2-inch ice accumulations. Topeka was hit especially hard as the heavy weight of the ice severed power lines, causing outages for around 100,000 people, or about 82 percent of the city’s population. A large TV transmission tower collapsed, along with hundreds of trees, power lines and power poles. Damage was believed to be even worse than the F5 tornado of June 8, 1966. It is considered the worst ice storm in Topeka’s history. Power wasn’t restored to some areas for a week.

5. March 15-17, 1998: Southwest to north-central Kansas

This event, which lasted nearly two days, resulted in widespread accumulations of a half-inch to 2 inches. There were reports of 4- to 6-inch accumulations on extremely elevated structures such as radio towers. In fact, an 800-foot tower in southwest Kansas collapsed after a reported 6-inch accumulation. Every radio tower in southwest and west-central Kansas received significant accumulations resulting in damage that, in some cases, involved ice falling from the towers. Damage was estimated at $3.485 million, with power outages lasting six days.

Source: National Weather Service

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