(New throughout, updates with details of storm in Kansas,
Arkansas, Missouri, adds background)
By Kevin Murphy
Kansas City, Mo. Feb 21 A major winter storm
barreled through the U.S. Great Plains on Thursday, creating
hazardous travel that resulted in at least one death, closing
schools, scuttling air travel and cutting off power to some
More than a foot of snow fell across parts of Kansas, while
blowing winds created massive snowdrifts, exacerbating hazardous
driving conditions. Highway I-70 was closed for 90 miles from
Hays, Kansas eastward to Salina and hotel rooms were fast
filling up along the corridor. Shelters were opened for stranded
Winter storm warnings and advisories continued for much of
the central and southern Plains and into the upper Midwest and
Mississippi River Valley as the storm moved east dropping snow,
sleet and freezing rain, the National Weather Service said.
The fierce storm was expected to spawn thunderstorms and
rain on its southern edge from eastern Texas to Georgia, the
forecaster said. Ice storm warnings were in effect for parts of
Thunder accompanied snow in Kansas City, hit by 2 to 3
inches of snow per hour on Thursday morning.
"When there is thunder and lightning, it's a pretty
screaming clue that you are going to have massive snowfall,"
said Andy Bailey, a meteorologist with the National Weather
Service in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.
Snow tapered off by early afternoon.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas Governor Sam
Brownback declared states of emergency because of hazardous
travel and possible power outages. Brownback ordered state
offices closed because of the storm.
Kansas City International Airport was closed on Thursday
while crews cleared runways. It was unclear when the airport
would reopen, spokesman Joe McBride said.
At Denver International Airport, some 55 commuter flights
were canceled overnight, spokeswoman Laura Coale said. More than
320 flights in and out of Lambert-St. Louis International
Airport were scrapped and nearly 50 flights in and out of
Omaha's Eppley Airfield were listed as canceled by midday.
In Nebraska, a 19-year-old woman was killed in a two-car
accident on Wednesday on Interstate 80 near Giltner. The
Nebraska State Patrol said weather was a factor.
The brunt of the snowstorm churned through Kansas, causing
scores of accidents and forcing vehicles off roads, but there
were no fatalities, according to the state highway patrol.
Six Kansas Highway patrol cars and some tow trucks were
stuck in the Lawrence, Kansas, area Thursday afternoon as they
tried to reach stranded motorists, highway patrol spokesman
Joshua Kellerman said.
"People are getting stuck in the middle of the roadway, it's
just that deep," Kellerman said.
The Missouri Highway Patrol reported a dozen accidents in
the district around St. Louis as sleet and snow began to blanket
area roads around midmorning, Sergeant Al Nothum said.
Some parts of southeast Kansas reported power outages
because warmer temperatures created sleet and ice on power
lines, said Sharon Watson, a spokesperson for the Kansas
Division of Emergency Management.
Up to 12.5 inches of snow fell in the northern part of
Oklahoma, while Nebraska received 5 to 9 inches, the National
Weather Service said. Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, were bracing
for 8 inches of snow or more.
Schools across parts of Iowa sent students home Thursday
morning as snow arrived there, officials said.
Drought-stricken farmers in the Great Plains, one of the
world's largest wheat-growing areas, welcomed the moisture
brought by the storm, although experts said more rain or snow
would be needed to ensure healthy crops.
Snow from the powerful storm fell as far south as Tucson,
Arizona, on Wednesday. The rare snowfall halted play at the
World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play tournament near
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson, Ben Berkowitz, Keith
Coffman in Denver, Suzi Parker in Little Rock, Kay Henderson in
Des Moines, Steve Olafson in Oklahoma City and Tim Bross in St.
Louis; Editing by Paul Thomasch and David Gregorio)