Update 8:20 p.m. with information on crash from KHP

OAKLEY — An Overland Park teenager was killed in a crash on Interstate 70 Thursday morning as a blizzard cause hazardous driving conditions across northwest Kansas.

The crash occurred around 10 a.m. at mile marker 74.5, or about 10.5 miles east of Colby, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

According to the KHP, a 2018 GMC Yukon driven by Justin Buerge, 42, Overland Park, was westbound when it was rear-ended by a semi driven by Robert Goodine, 50, Bartlesville, Okla.

The Yukon came to a stop on the right shoulder facing east, with the driver’s side pinned against the guardrail.

Jackson Buerge, 16, was transported to Logan County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver and other occupants of the Yukon, Trisha Buerge, 40, and Maxwell Buerge, 9, were transported to Logan County Hospital with suspected serious injuries.

All were wearing safety restraints, according to the KHP.

Goodine had no apparent injury, according to the report.

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Update 4:10 p.m., I-70 is open in both directions from Hays to Colorado.

Update 1:40 p.m.

The Kansas Highway Patrol confirmed a fatality from a crash near Oakley as a blizzard caused hazardous driving conditions Thursday across western Kansas.

Details were not immediately available about the fatal crash that occurred at milepost 75 on Interstate 70 just east of Oakley.

The interstate was closed at about 10:30 a.m. in both directions from Colby to WaKeeney. The range of closure grew through the rest of the morning, eventually encompassing the 144 miles between Goodland and Hays, largely due to visibility. 

U.S. Highway 40 in far western Kansas was also closed from the state line to the junction with Kansas Highway 27, according to the state’s KanDrive website. Many other highways in the region were listed as partially to completely covered with snow and ice.

On Wednesday, anticipating the heavy snowfall, Gov. Jeff Colyer declared a state of disaster emergency declaration for northwest Kansas. Blizzard warnings and winter weather advisories had been posted for the region through noon Thursday, with accumulations of up to a foot expected in some areas.

Colyer, interviewed after an event in DeSoto, said he signed a disaster declaration in advance to speed preparedness for the snow storm.

"I want people to be mindful of what the weather is doing," the governor said. "Don't go out unless you absolutely need to be out on the roads right now. We have crews that have been out salting and cleaning our roads. We're very fortunate that we didn't have a major ice storm component to this."

He said the added volume of traffic following Christmas made it more important for motorists to be wary of conditions in western Kansas.

"We want people to think twice about when they're driving. Do it it daylight hours. Make sure that you're observing rules of the road," he said.

The American Red Cross of Central and Western Kansas opened a warming center for travelers in Colby at the Thomas County Emergency Management. 

“The center is safe place where folks can warm up and wait out the storm. We can provide food, water, comfort, and information without sleeping services” said Red Cross Executive Director Becky LaPolice. “The situation remains fluid and we will provide updates to available services as they develop.”

 

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Update 12:45 p.m.: Kansas Highway Patrol Troop D Public Information Officer Trooper confirms a fatality in a crash on Interstate 70 near Oakley.

KDOT reports I-70 is closed both directions from Hays to Goodland.

Update at 12:30 p.m.: I-70 now closed from Goodland to Hays.

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Update 11:06 a.m. I-70 now closed from Goodland to WaKeeney, both directions.

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Update 10:30 a.m. I-70 is closed both directions between Colby and WaKeeney.

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Travel was discouraged Thursday morning across northwest Kansas as a storm front brought blizzard conditions to some areas.

While no roads in northwest Kansas were closed as of 8 a.m. Thursday, road conditions are reported as partially covered west of a line from Smith Center south to Gorham, according to the state’s KanDrive road conditions website. But not too much farther west, from about Phillipsburg south to Ellis, road conditions were listed as completely covered.

Visibilities were reported at one-tenth of a mile early Thursday morning in Trego County, with Interstate 70 completely covered with ice and snow, according to Trego County Emergency Management.

Snowfall is expected to be heavier west and north of Hays, generally with 6 to 10 inches and winds up 50 mph through noon. A blizzard warning is in effect until then.

Ellis and Rush counties are in a winter weather advisory through noon, with snowfall of 2 to 5 inches and winds gusting to 45 mph.