KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Another blizzard bore down on the nation’s midsection early Tuesday after lashing the Texas Panhandle with hurricane-force winds, closing highways and cutting power to thousands in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. At least two people were killed in the storm, and Midwesterners still digging out from last week’s deep snowpack braced for more.
Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James declared a state of emergency, an unwanted encore just five days after a major snowstorm dumped nearly a foot of snow on his city. Flights in and out of Kansas City International Airport were canceled, schools, government offices and businesses across the region were closed and James urged residents to stay home if they could.
Up to 15 inches or more were forecast for parts of western Missouri, with a foot or more in Kansas City alone: “This one has the potential to be quite serious,” James said.
A strong low pressure system fueled the storm, which also included heavy rain and thunderstorms in eastern Oklahoma and Texas. Six counties in Arkansas and all parishes in Louisiana were under a tornado watch through Monday night.
The storm knocked power out to thousands of homes in Texas and Oklahoma and was blamed for the death of a 21-year-old man whose SUV hit an icy patch on Interstate 70 in northwestern Kansas and overturned Monday. In Oklahoma, a person was killed after 15 inches of snow brought down part of a roof in the northwest town of Woodward.
In the Texas Panhandle, wind gusts up to 75 mph and heavy snow had made all roads impassable and created whiteout conditions, said Paul Braun, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation. A hurricane-force gust of 75 mph was recorded at the Amarillo, Texas, airport. The city saw the biggest snowfall total in Texas with 17 inches.
Motorists were stranded throughout the Texas Panhandle, with the NWS in Lubbock reporting as many as 100 vehicles at a standstill on Interstate 27.
Texas Tech’s men’s basketball team stayed overnight at a hotel in Manhattan, Kan., after playing Kansas State on Monday night, rather try to drive back to Lubbock. Also late Monday, officials with Oklahoma State University announced it would be closed Tuesday due to the weather.
The American Red Cross opened a shelter Monday night in Woodward, Okla., for any travelers who get stranded. It also told its volunteers and workers in Kansas City to be prepared to help in the case of power outages or large numbers of stranded travelers.
Area hospitals closed outpatient and urgent care centers, and the University of Missouri canceled classes for Tuesday. The Missouri Department of Transportation issued a “no travel” advisory asking people to stay off affected highways except in case of a dire emergency.
Winds in excess of 30 mph were expected to cause whiteout conditions by early morning. There also was some concern that early rainfall could form a layer of ice beneath the snow, worsening driving conditions for those who dared the morning commute.