Midwest Powerless in Winter's Icy Grip

KANSAS CITY, Kansas, December 11, 2007 (ENS) – Hundreds of thousands of homes across the Midwest lost power overnight due to worsening weather conditions across the region. More than 90,000 Kansans woke up to cold, dark homes without power this morning, up from 25,000 last night.

Ice storm warnings remain in effect for portions of extreme northern Texas through Oklahoma, Missouri, and Iowa and northeastward into northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

The storm has produced major power outages, broken tree limbs, and numerous traffic accidents and fatalities from northern Texas to Illinois, but there have been no impacts to nationally significant critical infrastructure.

Up to a half an inch of ice coated the ground, trees and power lines across the Midwest, and conditions worsened throughout the day in many areas. Over 600,000 total power outages have been reported by affected states.

President George W. Bush signed an emergency declaration for Oklahoma on Monday. The Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois State emergency operations centers are partially or fully activated.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Missouri Governor Matt Blunt have declared states of disaster and mobilized National Guard and emergency operations centers.

“We are ready to assist local governments as conditions worsen and make it possible that state resources will be needed,” Sebelius said. “We urge everyone to be extremely careful as conditions are expected to become very dangerous in some areas.”

Seeking to add federal resources to the state resources activated to assist Missourians, Governor Blunt is asking President Bush to approve his request for an Emergency Disaster Declaration for the state of Missouri as a result of severe winter weather. More than 170,000 utility customers statewide experienced power outages from freezing rain and ice.

The American Red Cross and the states report 73 shelters are housing 1,500 to 3,000 people overnight. To date there have been 13 confirmed fatalities related to the ice storm. Ice storms swept across the Midwest, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the dark. Westar is reporting approximately 50,000 customers without power. Kansas City Power and Light currently has more than 27,000 customers without power. Cherokee, Labette and Crawford counties in southeast Kansas reported more than 15,000 additional customers without power.

Additional power outages occurred throughout the day as more ice accumulated.

The Kansas National Guard has been asked to supply generators to several locations. Today two nursing homes without power in Nemaha County requested generators.

More than 15,000 people were without power in the Wichita area as the ice storm gripped Kansas, and an ice storm warning continues until midnight tonight. But Wichita may have escaped the worst of the storm. Temperatures hovered just above freezing so ice did not accumulate as thickly as forecasters projected.

Last night, the 184th Intelligence Wing in Wichita began transporting generators to southeast Kansas to reestablish power to sewer treatment systems. One generator are in route to Baxter Springs in Cherokee County and one generator is being set up in Chetopa in Labette County.

The Kansas Department of Transportation is reporting most highways are wet and slushy, with the exception of northwest and north central Kansas where roadways are snow packed. No roads have been closed at this time.

Schools were closed across the Midwest and in Iowa, political candidates cancelled campaign events as the ice prevented safe travel. The Mike Huckabee campaign cancelled its first three events today in western Iowa.

Spokesman Eric Woolson said Huckabee was in the air, but he couldn’t land in Omaha, Nebraska or in Des Moines. A number of flights into Eppley Airfield at Omaha were canceled, while the Des Moines International Airport was closed.

About 27,000 Ameren customers were without power across Missouri today, with most of the outages concentrated in mid-Missouri and areas just northwest of the St. Louis area. The utility company brought in hundreds of crews from other utilities and contract companies to help restore power lost in the ice storm that blanketed parts of the state late Sunday and Monday. The hardest-hit area is from Jefferson City to the Lake of the Ozarks.

All day, more freezing rain, sleet and snow fell on parts of the southern Rockies, Central Plains, and Midwest. Additional ice accumulations are forecast to reach up to an inch across northeastern Kansas into northern Missouri and Iowa before the precipitation tapers off tonight.

As the storm moves east, snow is expected across the Great Lakes region and portions of New England late Tuesday into Wednesday.

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