School closings, power outages reported following snowstorm

By Corene Brisendine

The snowstorm that blew in overnight had some cheering and others jeering.

Schools closed, Westar Energy customers lost power and all flights were canceled at the airport because of the blustery conditions and nearly 3 inches of snow reported in the area.

Some students in Manhattan were supposed to be taking finals today in preparation for the end of the semester and the beginning of winter break, but those finals have been postponed until Friday. Along with all the private schools in Manhattan, public schools across Riley County were closed for the day.

All programs and the Riley County Seniors Center were canceled for the day, including Meals on Wheels distributions. Riley County Daycare Center also closed its doors, requiring some to scramble to find childcare.

Holiday travel plans were put on hold for many passengers flying in and out of Manhattan Regional Airport when American Airlines announced the cancellation of all flights beginning Wednesday evening until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Shane Wright, assistant director for the airport, said the runways have been cleared and ready to receive planes since early this morning. He said workers started clearing runways at about 5 a.m., and while the conditions on the runways weren’t bad, there was moderate drifting in the parking lot and at the terminal. Wright said they had cleared the parking lot and terminal by 9 a.m.

He said that while commercial flights were canceled, private owner operators could still use the airport, but most have chose to stay on the ground as well.

“The wind has kept most of the folks from flying,” Wright said. “Only those that have to be out are flying.”

Drivers also had to contend with poor road conditions, and the Riley County Police Department, dealing with a glut of snow-related accidents, announced it was switching to emergency traffic accident reporting Thursday morning.

Officials said they wouldn’t be able to respond to accidents unless they involved injuries or road blockage. They asked that drivers involved in minor accidents remove vehicles from the roadway, exchange information with other drivers involved and plan to report the incident later in the week, according to a press release.

Westar Energy reported on its website that hundreds of customers in the area had lost power overnight. By this morning, Westar Energy outage map showed one customer was still without power in Manhattan, and nine more customers between Wamego and St. Marys were still without power.

Although the cancellations and outages are causing some to complain, the moisture should help farmers with a total of 2.8 inches of snow reported at the K-State campus.

Mary Knapp, state climatologist, said they would round that up to the nearest inch, and officially report it as 3 inches of snow. Further north, the snow tapered off somewhat with Riley 8 weather station, 2.4 miles northwest of Manhattan, reporting 2 inches.

Knapp said this is the largest snowfall for the year, with the previous record set in February at 2 1/2 inches.

While this snow is the most we have seen at one time for more than a year, it did not surpass the total snowfall for last winter. Knapp said Manhattan received 1 inch of snow in November 2011, 1.3 inches in December 2011 and 2.8 inches in February 2012 marking last year’s winter season total 3.9 inches.

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