In anticipation of a foot of snow and white-out conditions, many of the city’s biggest entities were closed on Thursday, and emergency management officials urged people to stay at home and off the roads if they could.
K-State and other area schools called off classes for the day. (Classes for K-State were expected to resume Friday.) The city of Manhattan and Riley County also closed their offices and cancelled all meetings.
Fort Riley announced that it would operate on essential-mission-only status on Thursday, and on a two-hour delay on Friday. Until 5 a.m. Friday morning, the only open gates will be Ogden, Henry, Trooper and Four Corners.
Regular flights into Manhattan Regional Airport were cancelled Wednesday night, as were flights out Thursday morning.
Those interestted in additional closings for Friday can consult www.themercury.com for updated listings.
At 5 a.m., only a dusting of snow had accumulated on the ground. But by 5:30, it was falling in earnest, blanketing the streets through the morning. Manhattan had 4 inches at 7 a.m., according to measurements taken at the K-State campus, and the area was expected to get 11 to 14 inches total.
State climatologist Mary Knapp said that the snow could continue to fall through the early evening, with some flurries possibly falling through Friday morning.
“It just depends on whether it starts moving faster or whether it continues to dawdle,” she said.
The good news was that reports of freezing rain and sleet following the snow had been cancelled for the Manhattan area, she said, meaning less chance of ice on the roads.
But the forecast still called for winds of 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
Across the state, some regions were expected to get as much as 20 inches of snow as a result of the weather system, dubbed Winter Storm Q.
Gov. Sam Brownback signed a Declaration of Disaster Emergency for the state to activate the Kansas Emergency Response Plan and closed all but essential state offices.
“I do want to urge everybody in the state: If you don’t have to travel, don’t,” Brownback advised. “Get out a board game, play with the kids, drink a cup of coffee.”
Kansas, Washburn, Emporia State and Baker universities all cancelled classes for the day.
Knapp said the storm started in the west and was moving east across the state.
By 9 a.m. there were reports of 13 inches of snow near Wichita, Knapp said. The Kansas Department of Transportation reported that motels in Ellis, WaKeeney and Oakley were full as of Wednesday night. All three communities are in northwest Kansas along Interstate 70. About 10 inches of snow had fallen there, according to reports.