• Massive storm closes schools, shuts down area

  • Area school children get another day off today, thanks to Thursday’s massive dump of snow that made travel difficult and inadvisable.

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  • Area school children get another day off today, thanks to Thursday’s massive dump of snow that made travel difficult and inadvisable.
    Late Thursday, public and private schools across the area canceled school for a second straight day. Those included the Independence, Blue Springs, Fort Osage, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, Raytown and Lee’s Summit school districts.
    The snow easily broke the Feb. 21 record – 5.1 inches in 2010 – at Kansas City International Airport. As of 6 p.m. – as the second, lighter round of snow was under way – the National Weather Service had already recorded 8.3 inches of snow at KCI, were official records are marked.
    But the Weather Service also posted reports of far heavier snowfall as of early to late Thursday afternoon: nine inches in Independence, 11 inches in Lee’s Summit, 11 inches in Prairie Village, 13.5 inches in Overland Park.
    Officials activated the Jackson County/Independence emergency operations center in Independence, but Mike Curry, director of the county’s Emergency Preparedness & Homeland Security Department, said overall the day was relatively quiet. People generally heeded local officials pleas to stay off the streets if possible.
    “Surprisingly, it’s just been noneventful,” he said.
    Curry also pointed out that the Weather Service, as it did in late December with the last large snowfall, put up a forecast that was on the money.
    “They just hit it right on the nose,” he said.
    The storm largely shut down the metro area and had a variety of effects:
    • KCI was closed for the day, and crews were working to get it reopened by 7 a.m. today. As of late Thursday, the airport listed most flights after 7 a.m. as still scheduled, but a handful have been canceled. Travelers are urged to check their flights frequently – the airport’s website is at www.flykci.com – and monitor local media before heading for the airport.
    • The Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City says it is in urgent need of blood after the storm forced it to close its six donation centers. It’s lost two full days of donations. Get more information or make an appointment at savealifenow.org or 816-753-4040.
    • Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, allowing state agencies to coordinate directly with cities and counties to provide emergency services. Jackson County also declared a state of emergency, as did the cities of Independence, Lee’s Summit and Kansas City.
    • Government offices generally are scheduled to be open today. Blue Springs says city offices and Vesper Hall will be open, though the Municipal Court will not be. Jackson County Circuit Courts are closed Friday, but other Jackson County offices are scheduled to open at 8 a.m.
    Page 2 of 3 - The official 8.3 inches at KCI gives the area 13.2 inches for the winter, a little shy of the 15.1 inches that normally would have fallen by now. Kansas City gets about 18 inches of total snowfall in an average winter.
    It might take a while for all this new snow to melt, and the area could get more starting late in the weekend.
    The Weather Service says there’s a slight chance of snow before 8 a.m. today. It’ll be cloudy with a high of 27. Tonight it’s cold, with a low of 8.
    It’s sunny but cold Saturday: high of 32, but the wind out of the south-southwest at 6 to 11 mph and wind-chill values of minus 2 to 8 above. Overnight low of 17. Sunny and warmer – 40 – on Sunday.
    But Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday bring a chance of rain and snow. Highs above the freezing mark, and lows below it.
    Thursday’s storm hit the Midwest hard, with up to a foot and half of snow in some places. The storm system swirled to the north and east Thursday night, its snow, sleet and freezing rain prompting winter storm warnings in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. The snow accumulation was impressive, especially in western Kansas, where 17 inches fell in Hays.
    Several accidents and two deaths were blamed on icy and slushy roadways; two people died in crashes Wednesday. Most schools in Kansas and Missouri, and many in neighboring states, were closed Thursday and legislatures shut down in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
    National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said it was “pouring snow” at times Thursday, with it falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour or more in some spots.
    Transportation officials urged people to simply stay home.
    “If you don’t have to get out, just really, please, don’t do it,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said. Interstate 70 through Kansas was snow-packed, and a 200-mile stretch between Salina and Colby was closed.
    In Iowa, visibility was down to a quarter- to a half-mile on some southern and central Iowa roads, the state Department of Transportation said early Thursday evening.
    Heavy, blowing snow caused scores of businesses in Iowa and Nebraska to close early, including two malls in Omaha, Neb. Mardi Miller, manager of Dillard’s department store in Oakview Mall, said most employees had been sent home by 4 p.m., and she believed “only two customers are in the entire store.”
    The storm brought some relief to a region that has been parched by the worst drought in decades.
    Vance Ehmke, a wheat farmer near Healy, Kan., said the nearly foot of snow was “what we have been praying for.” Climatologists say 12 inches of snow is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain, depending on the density of the snow.
    Page 3 of 3 - Near Edwardsville, Ill., farmer Mike Campbell called the precipitation a blessing after a bone-dry growing season in 2012. He hopes it is a good omen for the spring.
    “The corn was just a disaster,” Campbell said of 2012.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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