The drive home could become dangerous for drivers in western Kansas on Thursday, according to a winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service.
Gov. Jeff Colyer declared a state of disaster Wednesday afternoon for the state. Kansas' emergency management division is urging people to change or delay their travel plans until the storm passes. Snow and rain are expected to hit the roads at the same time as holiday traffic on major highways Thursday morning.
Snow accumulations could range from 3 to 8 inches in northwest and west-central Kansas starting Wednesday night, the warning says, with the hardest-hit areas getting up to 12 inches. Coupled with rain, snow on the roads could create a dangerously slick situation for drivers.
Rain and heavy snow are expected on Wednesday night and throughout the day on Thursday, the warning says.
Almost a quarter-inch of ice could accumulate on the roads. Snow blowing across the roadways in 30- to 40-mph gusts could "significantly reduce visibility," the warning says.
It is important to be prepared when we see a winter event like this approaching, and we appreciate our emergency responders who stand ready to provide any aide that may be needed," Colyer said in a news release. "We hope that travelers will be wise by paying attention to weather alerts and not unnecessarily placing themselves in harm's way as the storm moves through."
Finney County is under a winter weather advisory for Wednesday and Thursday, as well as area counties, Lane, Scott, Wichita, Grant, Greeley, Hamilton, Kearney Stanton, Grant and Greeley.
Cheyenne, Decatur, Gove, Graham, Logan, Morton, Norton, Rawlins, Sheridan, Sherman, Stevens, Thomas, Wallace counties are also under advisory.
The winter storm is also expected to hit east-central and northeast Colorado and southwest Nebraska, the warning says.
Colyer's State of Emergency declaration frees up funds and personnel to assist with response to storm. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management will monitor the storm. Portions of central and eastern Kansas are expected to receive rain.
"Although blizzard-like conditions are not currently expected, increased winds could cause blowing snow, creating visibility issues," said Angee Morgan, director of the emergency management division.
"Just the same, road conditions may become snow packed and icy. Kansans are urged to change or delay their travel plans if possible in these areas until the storm moves through."
Air travelers should check with their airlines to monitor delays and cancellations near departure time.
To keep up with road conditions before traveling in inclement weather, here are some tips and resources provided by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management:
— Winter road conditions in Kansas are accessible by dialing 5-1-1 from your mobile phone anywhere in the state; outside Kansas call 1-866-511-5368 (KDOT). Road conditions may also be viewed on the Kansas Department of Transportation web site at http://kandrive.org.
— If you must travel, be sure your car's gas tank is full and you have an emergency kit. Vehicle emergency kits should include blankets, flashlights, batteries, a cell phone charger, hand-warmers, high-energy food snacks, bottled water, necessary medications, a snow shovel, flares and other emergency supplies. Make sure your cell phone is charged and someone is aware of your itinerary, including expected time of arrival.
— Information on winter driving tips is available from the Kansas Highway Patrol at www.kansashighwaypatrol.org/259/Winter-Driving-Tips. You can also follow the Kansas Highway Patrol on Facebook and Twitter at www.kansashighwaypatrol.org.