|An abandoned car sits in a ditch along the I-635 in Kansas City, during a blizzard February 21, 2013. REUTERS/Dave Kaup
KANSAS CITY, MO. - A powerful winter storm barreled through the U.S. southern Plains on Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow and creating blizzard conditions in Oklahoma, Texas and parts of Kansas still digging out from a winter storm last week.
Interstates and smaller highways in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles were closed by the heavy and drifting snow that cut down visibility and forced flight cancellations at airports across the region.
Some 17 inches of snow fell near Amarillo, Texas by noon on Monday, according to the National Weather Service, and the storm potentially could be in the top three all time. Other areas in the Texas panhandle also reported more than a foot of snow.
The National Weather Service warned that “most roads are impassable” and Texas Governor Rick Perry activated Texas Military Forces to be ready to respond to assistance calls.
Airports in Amarillo and 120 miles (193.1 km) to the south in Lubbock, Texas, were closed while Interstate 27 between the cities was shut because of blowing snow, state officials said.
Parts of northwestern Oklahoma could get 16 inches (40.6 cm) to 24 inches (51 cm) of snow, with high winds that could create drifts up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) high, according to the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma.
“It’s the biggest in the last several years, really,” said James Hand, emergency management director in the small town of Mooreland. “Last year we didn’t have anything to shovel.”
Tyson Foods Inc said its Amarillo beef plant was closed Monday because of the storm. Also, USDA officials in Amarillo were working from home.
“We weren’t able to make into the office this morning,” said Kenneth Gladney, officer in charge at USDA’s Amarillo market news office.
He said there was 14 inches of snow on the ground and more forecast. “I can hardly see 100 yards out my back window.”
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said it closed all highways in the Oklahoma panhandle because of blizzard conditions. Interstate 40 in the Texas panhandle was also closed, along with numerous highways and other roads.
In Oklahoma City, some afternoon flights from Will Rogers World Airport were canceled due to the approaching storm.
Kansas, hit by a foot or more of snow in spots last week, braced for possible worsening conditions on Monday and Tuesday.
Blizzard conditions struck southwest Kansas on Monday morning and were expected to spread east to Wichita in the afternoon. A winter storm warning stretched from west-central Kansas to the northeast across Missouri and into Illinois.
Dodge City in southwestern Kansas began receiving snow overnight whipped by up to 40 miles per hour (64.4 kph) winds, said Marc Russell, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“We had all that snow last week and the ditches are full, so snow will blow over the roads pretty quickly and make them impassible,” Russell said.
Four highways were closed in southwest Kansas by late morning and Kansas National Guard troops were standing by to help motorists, officials said.
Flights were halted on Monday at Wichita, Kansas, Mid-Continent Airport. Schools in Wichita and many other districts in central and western Kansas were closed. State offices in central and western Kansas also were closed.
“Take this storm seriously,” Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said. “Postpone travel plans if you are in the path of the heaviest predicted snow.”
Last week, about 200 miles of Interstate 70 in Kansas were closed because of the massive winter storm that dumped well over a foot of snow in parts of the state. Winds are forecast in the 25 mph (40.2 kph) to 40 mph (64.4 kph) range.
In the Kansas City area, which was hit hard in last week’s storm, bread aisles at area grocers were nearly bare and snow shovels and other equipment was flying off store shelves.
A Home Depot in Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb, received 300 snow shovels Sunday night and nearly all were sold within an hour after the store opened Monday, a manager said.
From 6 to 10 inches of snow was expected in all but the northwestern region of Missouri through midday Tuesday with snowfall rates above 1 inch per hour in some parts of the state, along with blowing and drifting, the weather service said.
The same storm blanketed eastern Colorado with snow on Sunday, prompting the cancellation of 200 flights in and out of Denver International Airport.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ordered all non-essential state personnel to report to work two hours later than scheduled on Monday to give Denver snow plow drivers more time to clear city streets.