Weather

Blizzard warning issued for Kansas City area as Thanksgiving travelers head home

A blizzard warning has been issued for the Kansas City area Sunday as a strong winter storm threatens to make travel hazardous for those headed home from Thanksgiving.

Strong winds gusting between 40 to 50 mph are expected to produce blowing and drifting snow along with whiteout conditions in the Kansas City metro area as well as parts of northeast Kansas and northern Missouri, according to the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill.

Between 4 to 6 inches of snow is possible across much of the Kansas City area. Up to a foot of snow is possible in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri.

That has prompted the National Weather Service to “highly discourage” travel in the area. The winds could also create power outages.

The National Weather Service tweeted about 8:25 a.m. that rain was already transitioning to snow across northwest Missouri and will spread further south soon.

The blizzard warning for Kansas City is in effect from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Drivers should plan on slippery roads and reduced visibility because of blowing snow.

Kansas City hasn’t experienced a snowfall of 3 inches since February 2014. The last time Kansas City was under a blizzard warning was in Jan. 31, 2011, according to the Weather Service. It explained on Twitter that it’s a common misconception that the amount of snow is a criteria.

A blizzard, however, is defined as period of 3 hours or longer of sustained or frequent wind gusts to 35 miles or higher and considerable falling and/or blowing snow — for example the amount that reduces visibility frequently to less than a 1/4 mile, according to the Weather Service.

In the Kansas City area, Sunday got off to a rather warm start with temperatures at 50 degrees. But as the storm front moved closer, temperatures started slowing dropping. By 8 a.m., temperatures had fallen to the upper 30s.

The storm will start as rain and then turn over to snow sometime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in Kansas City This could cause flash freezing of rain and snow-covered roads in the area, the Weather Service warned.

The storm could produce thundersnow as well as snow rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour. Winds also could reach the criteria equal to severe thunderstorms, the Weather Service warned.

Overland Park said its snow crew reported for duty at 7:30 a.m. and started treating residential streets. They should be completed by 11 a.m., when snowfall is expected, according to a release from Overland Park.

With blizzard-like conditions and low visibility expected, plows will return to their shops and wait out the storm. They will resume treating and plowing roadways when conditions and safety improves.

Crews mounted plows onto their trucks. This may be the first storm in recent history where they actually had snow to plow instead of just treating roadways.

While parts of Kansas City could see up to 6 inches of snow, areas south of the metro area can expect between 1 to 4 inches of snow. Winds gusts of 40 to 45 mph are expected, which could also lead to whiteout conditions and snow-covered roads.

Travelers flying in or out of Kansas City International Airport will want to keep an eye on their flights by checking real-time flight status at www.flykci.com. As of 8 a.m. there were no significant delays or cancellations.

In Kansas, Interstate 70 remained closed west of Junction City to the Colorado border because of the storm. Also, all roads in northwest Kansas were completely snow-packed and icy, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer issued a “State of Disaster Emergency” declaration for the winter storm. Kansas officials urged people to stay off the roads.

Drivers were told not to try to go west because they would be turned around. Those headed east into Kansas were being stopped at the Colorado border.

More closures were imminent.

Numerous slide offs and jackknifed semi-tractor trailers were being reported in Kansas.

KDOT was urging drivers to stop in a safe place and let the storm pass if they were traveling to or through northwest Kansas.

For information on roads, go to kandrive.org/kandrive in Kansas, traveler.modot.org/map/index.html in Missouri and https://lb.511ia.org/ialb/winterdriving/routeselect.jsf in Iowa.

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