A blizzard caused numerous wrecks in Russell County and closed highways across western Kansas, but lower than forecast winds meant relatively few power outages Saturday afternoon.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much of western Kansas on Friday afternoon, advising up to eight inches of snow possible in some locations with winds gusting to 45 to 50 mph.
Snow started falling in Ellis County around 8:30 a.m., bringing upwards of 4 inches by noon.
Late Saturday afternoon, the NWS advised an additional two inches of accumulation was possible through 9 p.m.
At about 11 a.m. Saturday, a semi jackknifed in the eastbound lane of Interstate 70 at Gorham, blocking traffic, according to a tweet from Trooper Tod Hileman, public information officer of Kansas Highway Patrol Troop D in Hays.
One of our troopers car has been struck at this location and we have complete road blockage at on the eastbound side. It sounds like he's okay, thank God.
PLEASE DO NOT DRIVE, cars are starting to pile up at this location! https://t.co/eJBVxPQt5W
Multiple crashes ensued —including a Kansas Highway Patrol vehicle being struck — and the KHP, assisted by the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office and Hays Police Department, scrambled to block the onramps from Hays to Walker to prevent more traffic from congesting the area and possibly causing more crashes. The eastbound lanes were temporarily closed from Hays to Russell while KHP worked the accidents and wreckers cleared the vehicles.
Crash reports on those accidents were not yet available late Saturday afternoon.
The Kansas Department of Transportation closed I-70 in both directions from Goodland to Salina due to the snow and winds shortly after 1:30 p.m. U.S. Highway 183 north of Hays and U.S. Highway 283 north of WaKeeney were later closed as well.
Midwest Energy, which provides electricity to 50,000 customers 40 counties, reported 27 outages affecting 300 customers on its outage map, mostly in northern Stafford County.
The storm started early Saturday morning, moving into southwest Kansas and spreading to the northeast.