Storm clears, road conditions improve in and around Wichita

While road conditions later Thursday afternoon, those driving to work in the morning had a messy commute.
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 5:50 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2022 at 5:59 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A strong winter storm made traveling difficult in south-central Kansas and dropped more than five inches of snow in some places after a wintry mix made Thursday’s morning commute treacherous. With skies clear and wind died down, the focus shifted to clearing roads, parking lots, sidewalks, and driveways. You can recap the storm’s progression and follow the latest information in its aftermath in the updates below.

Thursday evening: While the end of the storm and the sun coming out is allowing crews to make headway on clearing main roads throughout the Wichita area, the advice remains for drivers to take it slow. In Wichita, city crews started treating roads with dry material at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours ahead of the storm. The timing of the snowfall caused roads to become snowpacked.

“It coincided with rush-hour traffic. We had to or three inches down. It takes some time to get over all the routes,” said Aaron Henning with Wichita’s public works department. “So, when you have that two or three inches of snow exposed to traffic in these cold temperatures it gets compacted awfully fast.”

Henning said now that the wind and snow have died down, crews can really get to work clearing the roads. But their trucks can’t clear them completely when they’re snow-packed. They’ll need help from Mother Nature.

While the storm was a menace to some, the moisture was welcome across the state. Storm Team 12 meteorologist Cassie Wilson looked into the moisture content and found that a Thursday’s storm brought drier snow. That means, instead of a 10 to 1 ratio, this snow was 15 to 1, meaning that once the snow melts, we will likely get about a third of an inch of water out of this snow added to the soil in south-central Kansas.

Storm Team 12 meteorologist Cassie Wilson explains. Plus, how much of it will turn into much-need moisture.

3 p.m. While the storm has cleared, the efforts to clear roads are just beginning and road conditions will remain a concern with temperatures expected to remain below freezing through Friday morning. Especially on side streets, roads will likley remain snow-packed.

12:25 p.m. The latest snowfall totals from Wichita and communities in the area compared to northwest Kansas, which was spared from the bulk of this storm

11: 30 a.m. The City of Wichita took time to address current conditions and the challenge in trying to improve roads as snow continues to fall. The city said crews began treating roads once sleet began early Thursday morning. Snow drifting and wind are impacting road conditions. Improvements should begin by Thursday evening with show expected to stop by 3 p.m. When snow becomes packed, treating roads becomes more difficult for plows. The city said drivers may see trucks serving in pairs and if you see trucks with plows up, they are likely returning for fuel of material to restock.

“Crews are expected to continue treatment throughout tomorrow (Friday),” the city said. “We encourage folks to stay at home if they can due to low visibility. If you must travel, be sure to give yourself plenty of time.”

The snow removal effort was in high gear at McConnell Air Force base where Team McConnell’s 22nd Civil Engineering Squadron worked through Wednesday night into Thursday morning on ice removal and snow clearance.

“Rest easy knowing our team will win the fight and are ensuring the safety of our fellow Airmen,” the base said in a Facebook post with photos of the squadron’s efforts.

11 a.m. The Kansas HIghway Patrol shared photos from a Thursday morning crash in which a semi hit a trooper’s patrol vehicle on Interstate 70, eastbound at the West Union Road exit in Topeka. The semi hit the back of the vehicle and the trooper wasn not seriously injured. The KHP said the crash is just one example of how treacherous roads are across much of the state.

“We urge you to stay home. If you must be out then slow down, slow down more, and even more! Do not over drive your skills in snow and ice.” the KHP said.

10:40 a.m. We expect an update from the City of Wichita on road conditions and the response at the Mayor’s Watch, which you can watch LIVE in the player below.

10:20 a.m. Dispatch confirms cones are blocking the Kellogg off-ramp at eastbound K-96 and Hillside. Crews are working an accident, but no injuries are reported.

10:15 a.m. AAA says it’s seeing lower than normal assistance calls relative to the weather.

10:05 a.m. We promise we were taking it very, very slow...

9:25 a.m. While no major accidents have been reported, we passed the 25th St. exit on I-235, where it appeared the Kansas Highway Patrol was assisting with a towed vehicle and two semi trucks were stuck on the off ramp.

I-235 at 25th St.
I-235 at 25th St.(KWCH)

9:20 a.m. Crews from Lincoln and Ellsworth Counties are battling a grass fire. We’re told no structures or livestock are in danger.

9:10 a.m. We spoke with Tom Hein of the Kansas Department of Transportation about the challenges crews are facing with the poor road conditions created by the storm.

9 a.m. We’re happy to report that Storm Team 12 meteorologist Cassie Wilson made it into work safely, with help from her version of a security detail.

8:55 a.m. Check out our photo gallery from today’s winter storm, with viewer-submitted pictures from Wichita, Winfield, McPherson and Yates Center. You can also submit your own photo by following the link.

8:45 a.m. Our reporters say Kellogg is snow-covered and visibility is lessening. They’re traveling about 15-20 mph on westbound Kellogg near Eastborough. It is advised that you keep your headlights on while driving.

8:35 a.m. We spoke with Trooper Chad Crittenden of the Kansas Highway Patrol about driving safely in harsh conditions.

8:25 a.m. Submit your questions to field reporter Hailey Tucker here.

Snow is coming down harder as roads continue to be snow- and ice-packed. The camera on the KWCH Mobile Weather Lab is losing visibility.

Mobile Weather Lab visibility.
Mobile Weather Lab visibility.(KWCH)

8:15 a.m. Traffic has begun moving again on southbound I-135 following a standstill.

Meanwhile, snow is blowing around the KWCH building:

8:05 a.m. There is a backup on southbound I-135. There is a red truck that has slid off the side of the road. We are working to figure out if that is the cause of the backup. There may be an accident at I-135 and 17th St.

Stalled traffic on I-135 SB near 17th.
Stalled traffic on I-135 SB near 17th.(KWCH)

7:55 a.m. Here’s how the City of Wichita is treating the roads before, during and after today’s winter storm:

7:50 a.m. The latest from KWCH Storm Team 12 meteorologist Jake Dunne:

7:45 a.m. This is the view outside of the KWCH studios:

Snow at KWCH
Snow at KWCH(KWCH)

7:35 a.m. The KWCH Mobile Weather Lab is traveling at 20 mph on northbound Rock Road. The road is snow covered with a layer of ice underneath. Give yourself a lot of extra time if traveling for work this morning.

Dispatch confirms two injuries - one potentially serious - in an accident on W 53rd St. N and Meridian.

7:10 a.m. Snow seems to be lightening up, though snowfall is expected through the morning and possibly into the early afternoon. Roads appear to be slicker downtown as the KWCH Mobile Weather Lab travels near Douglas and Washington.

Scanner traffic reports an injury accident on Kellogg. Dispatch confirms and says minor injuries are reported. Police are working “a couple other accidents” but no injuries have been reported.

7:05 a.m. Scanner traffic: “Kellogg is a sheet of ice right now.”

7 a.m. While driving northbound on Hydraulic near Harry, Hailey Tucker reported seeing a car spin out in an intersection, though there was no accident. Roads remain slick and the KWCH Mobile Weather Lab is taking precautions, driving 20-30 mph even on the highway.

6:35 a.m. The Mobile Weather lab is at I-235 near Zoo Blvd., where on-off ramps are slick and snow packed. Snow is blowing sideways, and wind is hindering visibility. Our reporters still have not witnessed an accident or slide-off.

6:25 a.m. Hailey and Rami are at 21st and Maize, where they report heavier snow and slicker roads than on Wichita’s east side. Some of the conditions are due to the rain that fell overnight and froze onto the roads before snow packed on top of it.

Stay tuned to this page, Facebook Live and KWCH and KSCW for updates throughout the morning.

6:15 a.m. The Emergency Accident Reporting Plan is in effect.

6:05 a.m. Hailey Tucker and Rami Dahdal are driving on I-235 near K-96 and report that road conditions aren’t too slick yet; they haven’t noticed any accidents or slide-offs so far. While driving about 30 mph, Hailey says their vehicle is being blown around by strong winds that are also blowing snow across the roadway.

If you’re headed out the door for work this morning, you’re going to want to give yourself some extra time.

We are starting to hear of at least one possible accident in Wichita via scanner traffic. We will keep you updated on conditions throughout the morning.

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