Kansans urged to prepare for winter storm

It is too soon to tell if we will have a white Christmas, but snow is definitely in the forecast for Kansas. A severe winter storm will enter the northwest region of the state tonight, there is a potential for up to six inches in south-central Kansas.  The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is urging all Kansans to take precautions, especially when traveling.

A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for South Central Kansas beginning Wednesday afternoon with increasing confidence for accumulating snow into Thursday. Light snow could begin in Southwest Kansas with blowing and drifting possible and intensify by afternoon and evening in parts of Central and Southwest and Central Kansas. Snow accumulations could be up to four inches in parts of the South Central region with one to two inches in the western and northern parts of the state.

“Please make sure you and your family stay safe by having an emergency kit at home and in your car and stay tuned to your local weather stations,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “If you must travel, take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.  Don’t travel if you are not feeling well, wear your mask, stay six feet away from individuals outside your household and wash your hands often.”

“Now is the time to make sure your home and car emergency kits are stocked,” said Angee Morgan, KDEM deputy director. “Review your home emergency plan and update any phone numbers, addresses, and other information so you can keep in contact with family and friends.”

A home emergency kit should include food, water, medications, extra clothing, flashlights and batteries, battery-operated NOAA weather radio and other necessities. Make sure your kit includes supplies for your pet.

Vehicle emergency kits should include blankets, flashlights, batteries, a cell phone charger, hand-warmers, high-energy food snacks, bottled water, necessary medications, a snow shovel, flares and other emergency supplies. Make sure your cell phone is charged and someone is aware of your itinerary, including expected time of arrival.

On the road, remember the following:

*       Allow extra time for delays and slower traffic speeds.
*       Buckle up and properly secure children in safety seats.
*       Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Ice and snow significantly increase your stopping distance.
*       Accelerate and brake gently. A light foot on the gas is less likely to make wheels spin on ice and snow. Braking is best accomplished by pumping the pedal. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, it is very important that you understand how to use it. Read the owner’s manual or check with a dealership for more information, and practice using it correctly.
*       Make turns slowly and gradually, especially in heavily traveled areas (e.g. intersections that may be icy from snow that melted and refroze).
*       Visibility is very important. You must be able to see out, and other drivers must be able to see your vehicle. Clean frost and snow off all windows, mirrors, and lights. Use headlights as necessary.
*       If your car loses traction and begins to slide, steer into the swerve, or in the direction you want to go. Anticipate a second skid in the opposite direction as the car straightens out.

If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not panic. Stay in the vehicle, keep fresh air circulating through a downwind window, run the motor sparingly, turn on the dome light, and make sure the vehicle’s tailpipe is clear of snow. Stimulate circulation and stay awake by moving arms and legs.

If you leave the car, work slowly in the snow to avoid over-exertion and the risk of a heart attack. If you have a cell phone, call a Kansas Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (47), or *KTA (582) while on the Kansas Turnpike.

State road and travel conditions are available at the Kansas Department of Transportation’s website – www.Kandrive.org. Impacts to traffic are updated 24/7, including maintenance and construction activities, winter highway conditions, flooded roadways, incidents and crashes affecting traffic and closed highways. You may also call 5-1-1 for Kansas road conditions, outside Kansas call 1-866-511-5368 (KDOT).

Avoid travel if you can, but if you must travel, make sure someone knows your travel plans, fill your car’s tank with fuel, ensure your mobile phone is charged, and make sure your car’s emergency kit is up-to-date. Whether at home or on the road, listen to your local radio and television stations for the latest weather information.

You can follow the Kansas Highway Patrol on Twitter and Facebook at www.kansashighwaypatrol.org.