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KC area’s most damaging winter storm in 15 years leaves thousands still without power

Power outages continue after snow storm in Kansas City area

A crew worked to restore power near 72nd Street and Lamar Avenue in Johnson County Sunday after a snow storm knocked out power to tens of thousands across the Kansas City area. The storm on Saturday dropped up to 10 inches of snow in some places.
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A crew worked to restore power near 72nd Street and Lamar Avenue in Johnson County Sunday after a snow storm knocked out power to tens of thousands across the Kansas City area. The storm on Saturday dropped up to 10 inches of snow in some places.

More than 67,000 Kansas City Power & Light customers remained without power Sunday afternoon, a day after a winter storm dumped heavy snow across the metropolitan area, and outages were expected to continue into Tuesday.

Jackson County was among the hardest hit, where about 46,000 residents and businesses remained without power Sunday morning. Meanwhile, about 23,000 customers were without power in Johnson County, according to KCP&L’s power outage map.

The storm, which initially plunged 110,000 customers into darkness, was the most damaging Kansas City winter storm in more than 15 years, said Bruce Akin, KCP&L’s vice president of distribution operations.

Downed tree limbs had caused many of the outages, felled by snow measured from 4 to 10 inches in various parts of the Kansas City area Saturday. Many residents wondered on Sunday when power would be restored to their homes and whether they should find another place to stay.

“We know you’re there; we know it’s difficult,” KCP&L’s senior director of operation Jamie Kiely said in a brief video on Twitter to those who were without power. “We believe we will be restoring power through Tuesday.”

The company said it had restored power to more than 70,000 customers by Saturday evening.

More than 1,500 linemen, tree trimmers, engineers and support staff will be working Monday, many of them coming from neighboring utility companies, KCP&L reported.

Jenny Mohrfeld, who lives in the Waldo area of Kansas City, said the storm was brutal.

“We thought we were just getting some snow, but we ended up with a lot more snow than we thought and then we also lost power,” she said. “There are lots of trees down — lots and lots of trees.”

Her home lost power about 1 a.m. Saturday.

“When I woke up on Saturday, it was about 60 degrees in my house, so it was plenty chilly,” she said. “By the time I left at noon, it was 55 degrees.”

She checked into a hotel Saturday night to stay warm. She returned home Sunday and found that power remained out.

“There could be a hotel in my future again tonight,” she said.

A few doors down, Rachel Wilson of Prairie Village was checking on her parents’ house, which also was without power. She was trying to get the house ready for her mom, who was in the hospital after being injured in a fall before the storm.

“It’s been a while since we had a snow like this,” she said. “And we spent 15 years in Hawaii, all of us, so we don’t do snow very well.”

Wilson said she hasn’t had a chance to check her house yet or other property that she owns.

“It’s beautiful, but the novelty is wearing off,” she said.

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Utility crews worked overnight Saturday and restored power to about 15,000 customers, KCP&L said in a message on Twitter Sunday morning. Westar Energy also sent more crews Sunday morning to help restore power.

“We’ve made some good progress,” Gina Penzig, manager of media communications for KCP&L, said Sunday afternoon.

As of Sunday afternoon, about 67,000 remained with power. There were more than 4,400 active repair tickets that needed to get worked on to restore power to those customers, she said.

More than 1,000 utility workers from Kansas, Missouri and Iowa were working to restore power in the Kansas City area.

Wet, heavy snow from the storm clung to tree limbs and power lines, weighing them down and causing significant tree and wire damage, Penzig said.

The winter storm that moved through the area Saturday dumped 4 to 10 inches of snow around the Kansas City area. Some areas might have seen more than 10 inches.

Although the utility has a program to trim trees to keep limbs away from power lines and prevent outages, a storm like this one can bring down limbs previously thought to be a safe distance from the lines, Penzig said.

The weight of the snow toppled trees and knocked down power lines.

Even neighborhoods where lines are buried are not necessary immune to outages from such storms. Those lines are likely fed by overhead lines, Penzig said.

While outages with buried power lines occur less frequently, they take longer to repair because it takes longer to identify where the outage has occurred, she added.

A homeowner in Prairie Village clears snow from the driveway early Saturday morning after a winter storm blanketed the area in snow. Power outages were reported in many parts of Kansas City, including Prairie Village.

Because repairs were expected to stretch into Tuesday and cold temperatures were likely, people without power were being urged to seek shelter with a friend or relative. People were urged to check on the elderly and those with small children.

No additional snow was expected Sunday, but temperatures were expected to remain below freezing.

Roads cleared

While utility crews worked to restore power, road crews around the Kansas City area worked through the night clearing highways and major thoroughfares.

Kansas City officials said the city’s crews were out plowing residential and arterial routes. The arterial crews were clearing the snow from curb to curb while residential crews were checking for missed spots as well as widening paths through neighborhoods.

Residents were urged to park cars off of streets or only on the north or west side of each street so that plows could get through faster.

Because there could be some re-freezing overnight, crews planned to treat bridges and overpasses overnight Sunday. The city said its staff planned to return to normal duty Monday and respond to calls as needed.

Olathe said it would focus on clearing residential streets on Sunday.

The Missouri Department of Transportation said crews worked through the night clearing the highways in the Kansas City area. Some roads, however, remained partially covered and refreezing was a concern.

RideKC said downed trees and power outages affected bus routes, and the Three-Trails Transit Center was without power.

Most buses were running on time on their regular routes, the transit provider said on Twitter.

RideKC Freedom paratransit service, however, was using its Phase C plan. Delays of more than an hour are likely. Riders were urged to reschedule any nonessential trips by calling 816-842-9070.

Tips from the Missouri Department of Transportation for driving in winter weather.

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