Weather

Midwestern ice storm falls short of dire predictions

Jan. 14, 2017: Traffic moves past an icing warning sign at night on I-70 west of Lawrence, Kan.

Jan. 14, 2017: Traffic moves past an icing warning sign at night on I-70 west of Lawrence, Kan.  (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Sleet and drizzle glazed swaths of the central U.S. on Sunday, extending icy weather that some meteorologists acknowledged fell short of dire forecasts.

Much of the region remained under an ice storm warning on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as stretches continued getting pelted by rain, often in areas where temperatures hovered around freezing. A National Weather Service ice storm warning for the Kansas City and St. Louis areas expired Sunday afternoon as temperatures exceeded freezing. An identical warning remained in effect until Monday morning to the north, as the storm pressed into Nebraska and Iowa.

The freeze made roads harrowing. In Kansas near Kansas City, two troopers escaped injury when their vehicles were struck while working a crash along northbound Interstate 635. And in central Nebraska, authorities believe icy conditions contributed to a fiery crash involving two tractor-trailers shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday on Interstate 80, forcing a three-hour closure of 15 miles of Interstate 80. There were no injuries.

The Nebraska State Patrol urged motorists to use extra caution as the freezing rain made several roads dangerous to travel.

Authorities say ice contributed to a southwestern Kansas wreck Saturday night that killed a 35-year-old Oklahoma man and injured several others. The Kansas Highway Patrol said Thay Torres-Ocacio of Guymon, Oklahoma, died after the sport utility vehicle in which he was riding went out of control on an overpass and eventually overturned several times.

Some people lost power amid the storm. Nearly 11,000 electric customers were without power in Oklahoma, nearly all in northwestern part of the state. Woodward County Emergency Management Director Matt Lehenbauer said Sunday that the county was likely the hardest hit. He said that as some power is restored, the ice that's bent tree limbs begins to melt and the limbs snap back into place, sometimes knocking down additional power lines.

South of Kansas City, the latest round of storms dumped three-quarters of an inch of precipitation overnight, resulting in about one-quarter of an inch of ice.

Jared Leighton, a National Weather Service meteorologist near Kansas City, Missouri, said Sunday that while the breadth of the ice accumulations fell short of expectations, "that shouldn't distract from the impact of the storm."

"The amounts were never really the story; the impacts were," Leighton told The Associated Press. "The roads are still a mess, and the Highway Patrol is having their vehicles run into."

Becky Allmeroth, a state maintenance engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said ice is "the most difficult storm to fight."

"We are keeping up with the changing conditions, but it is a continual battle," she said of the department's around-the-clock scrambling to treat the glazed roads. "The precipitation is coming in waves, and we have to apply more salt."

Many residents had prepared for the storms by stocking up on bread, milk and other necessities and by buying flashlights and generators to have on hand in case power gets knocked out.

The storm prompted the NFL to move the AFC divisional playoff game in Kansas City between the Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers to Sunday evening to allow more time to treat roads and parking lots at Arrowhead Stadium. The game was scheduled to kick off at noon but was pushed back to 7:20 p.m.

Hours before that game, rain that continued falling didn't dampen the tailgating that was in full swing outside of Arrowhead, where a gray tarp covered the field and hot air was being pumped under the tarp to keep the turf warm. The Chiefs put new sod on the field earlier this week.