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Guard patrolling roads looking for stranded motorists

Special to The Hays Daily News

State, city and county emergency crews across Kansas are working around the clock to clear heavy snowfalls and wind-blown drifting snow. Some areas of the state have received as much as 14 inches of snow with expectations of more before the storms move out of the state sometime tonight.

The Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Highway Patrol initiated a phased closure of Interstate 70 on Thursday Salina and Goodland. The Kansas National Guard tasked 16 soldiers and eight Humvees to patrol I-70 to search for stranded travelers and take them to the nearest town with available hotel space. Those Guardsmen are from the 235th Regiment in Salina and the 287th Sustainment Brigade, Hays.

Eight Kansas Guardsmen in four Humvees will also be patrolling Hwy 54 between Minneola and Pratt, and Hwy 400 from Dodge City to Bucklin. Those soldiers are from the 1st Battalion, 161st Field Artillery, Dodge City, and the 635th Regional Support Group, Hutchinson.

The consistent message from Gov. Sam Brownback and state emergency management officials has been to stay home until the storms subside and crews can clear the roads.

“Travel across the state continues to be our biggest concern,” Brownback said. “Highways remain snow-packed and slick.”

“It’s just not the right conditions to get out and travel,” he said. “If you don’t have to travel, don’t do it.”

Brownback said if anyone absolutely had to travel, they should be prepared with water, food, blankets, a charged cell phone and other emergency supplies.

Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, also cautioned the public that travel is not the only potential hazard the snow presents.

“As we move to the next phase, after the snow moves through, many people are going to be out trying to dig out from the storm,” said Tafanelli. “A reminder to everyone about shoveling heavy snow: this can lead to overexertion. The wind chills that we’re going to be experiencing tonight through the early morning hours can lead to frostbite. These kind of conditions can lead to slips and falls with the potential for injuries. We just remind everyone to please be careful.”