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Headlines for Monday, June 10, 2024

A graphic representation of eight radios of various vintages, underneath the words "Kansas Public Radio News Summary"
Emily Fisher

Heavy Rains Lead to Flooding in Eastern Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Heavy rains fell over portions of northeast and east-central Kansas over the weekend, causing flooding in several areas. The National Weather Service has issued Flood Warnings until Wednesday afternoon for the:

  • Marais Des Cygnes River near Quenemo, affecting Osage and Franklin counties
  • Cottonwood River near Emporia
  • Neosho River near Neosho Rapids, affecting Lyon County

Motorists should not attempt to drive around barricades or drive cars through flooded areas. People should be especially cautious at night when it's harder to recognize the dangers of flooding.

Evergy Using New Strategies to Rebuild Grid After Power Outages

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) – When thunderstorms like the ones that hit Friday night---take out power lines, companies are rebuilding the grid differently. KCUR reports that’s a direct response to climate change. As storms knock down high voltage lines this year, power companies are replacing them with stronger stuff. Ryan Mulvany, vice president of distribution at Evergy, says that new power poles, for instance, are typically 20-to-25 percent bigger than old ones. "The things that we are replacing, our assets that are down and typically aged, are beefier, are stronger, because we know things are getting more severe over time," he explained. It’s not just thunderstorms and tornadoes. Derecho wind storms are growing more common. Temperatures swinging between record cold days in winter and record hot ones in summer also stress the grid.


Kansas City Royals Hire Lobbyists for Special Legislative Session

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) – The Kansas City Royals want in on the conversation about jumping the state line into Kansas. KCUR reports that the organization plans to lobby legislators during the June 18th special session. Kansas Secretary of State records show that the Royals have hired eight lobbyists. Lawmakers are expected to discuss a plan to use STAR bonds to help pay for a new Chiefs stadium. In a statement, the Royals said that the team needs a place to play baseball in the near future and, quote, “the recent STAR bond discussions in Kansas provide a path for us to explore.” The Royals hired two big lobbying firms in Topeka plus Lawrence lawyer Paul Davis, the 2014 Democratic candidate for governor. Last Tuesday Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins released a letter to the Chiefs saying they had an exciting opportunity for the team. Hawkins told a local radio station that the Royals previously seemed uninterested in Kansas. “The Royals hadn’t really shown any interest. The Royals were focused on downtown Kansas City, Missouri,” Hawkins said. Royals spokesman Sam Mellinger says the team has always kept its options open since losing that sales tax vote in April. He wouldn’t say exactly when the team hired the lobbyists – only noting that it would be safe to say "recently".


Drought Emergency Warnings Updated for Kansas

LIBERAL, Kan. (KNS) – The state of Kansas has updated drought emergency warnings just before summer starts to heat up. The Kansas News Service reports that Ness, Pawnee, Hodgeman and Rush counties in western Kansas were placed into emergency status this week. As temperatures heat up, the Kansas Water Office in a news release says counties under drought warnings should be mindful of water usage as less precipitation is expected. Western Kansas depends on irrigated grain crops, but as the state experiences major drop-offs in water resources, drought can cause the overpumping of that vital source. The Kansas Water Office will continue to monitor drought conditions and make recommendations to balance the water supply with farming needs.


Electronic Records Access for Some Ascension Facilities Now Restored, More than a Month After Cyberattack

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Ascension Via Christi says it has restored access to electronic medical records at its Wichita hospitals and clinics, and its hospital in Pittsburg. The Kansas News Service reports that the company's announcement comes more than a month after the health care nonprofit first reported a ransomware attack that took many electronic systems offline. That resulted in hospitals temporarily diverting some patients. Health care providers were locked out of many online systems. Ascension says the restored access should result in shorter wait times for patients. Access has not yet been restored at Ascension’s Manhattan hospital and Wamego health center.


One Dead, 2 Hurt in Early Monday Shooting Near KC's Power and Light District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Kansas City police are investigating an overnight triple shooting near the Kansas City Power and Light District, which has left one man dead. WDAF TV reports that the shooting happened near Truman Road and Grand Boulevard. Police say a man was found with gunshot wounds outside Prime Bar & Grill. He was taken to the hospital and later died. That man has now been identified as 28-year-old McKinley Johnson Jr. Two women were found in a nearby parking lot — both with gunshot wounds. Police say their injuries are not considered life-threatening.


Dozens of Open Seats in the Kansas Legislature Could Tip Scales of Power in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (Wichita Eagle) - Every seat in the Kansas Legislature is up for election this year. There are 125 seats in the House and 40 seats in the state Senate. Republicans will attempt to hold onto and possibly expand their veto-proof majorities in both chambers. That would allow the GOP to pass laws without support from Democratic lawmakers or Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.

The Wichita Eagle reports that Democrats will try to break the veto-proof majorities and could do so by picking up an additional three seats in the Senate and two seats in the House. The 2024 statehouse races could reshape the Legislature in an election cycle that looks to be competitive. Across the state, Republicans will have 32 primary races — 12 in the Senate and 20 in the House — while Democrats will have 11 contested primary races — four in the Senate and seven in the House.

On the other hand, dozens of legislators could win their races by default. Forty-four candidates for the Legislature are so far the only candidate — of either party — to run for a particular seat.

Neal Allen, a political science professor at Wichita State University, says he expects the Kansas legislative elections to largely depend on national issues in the presidential race. “Democrats are going to try to make this election about abortion and women’s reproductive rights as much as possible, and that will help Democrats a lot in northeast Kansas and will help them some in the Wichita area as well,” Allen said. “Republicans are going to try to run on immigration as much as they can and tying Democrats to Joe Biden,” Allen said. Taxes, Medicaid and marijuana are also likely to dominate campaign messaging, Allen said.

The next class of Kansas lawmakers will be making more money next year. The Legislature nearly doubled its members’ pay for 2025, bumping up annual wages from about $30,000 a year for rank-and-file lawmakers to nearly $58,000. The Legislature is usually in session for the first five months of the year.


Kansas Trans Athlete Ban Hasn't Been Employed Yet

UNDATED (The Beacon) - A Kansas law banning transgender women and girls from female sports hasn’t prompted any specific cases yet. That's according to the Beacon. The Kansas State High School Activities Association and multiple public universities say the almost one-year-old ban didn’t prevent anyone from competing in any sports. The ban applies to sports from kindergarten through college. Republicans knew few athletes would be affected, but they argued it protected women’s and girls’ sports from unfair competition. Taryn Jones, with the LGBTQ rights group Equality Kansas, says the law is still harmful even if nobody has been officially banned. “It harms a lot of people in the trans community who don't feel safe and who don't feel welcome here anymore," she said. Jones also worries that trans athletes may not consider playing sports at all. “This has done real harm, even if it doesn't show in numbers.


Gas Prices Dropping; Kansas and Missouri Among States with Cheapest Costs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) – Gasoline prices are dropping, and Kansas and Missouri are among the cheapest states to fill your tank. KCUR reports that prices should remain steady as summer approaches. The American Automobile Association (AAA) says the average price in Kansas is $3.05 a gallon, down 20 cents from a year ago. In Missouri, the average price is down 12 cents from last year and stands at $3.08. In some locations, gas is below three dollars. AAA spokesman Nick Chabarria says it’s all about crude oil prices. “Just this week crude oil reached a six-month low and crude oil accounts for about 50-to-60 percent of what drivers pay at the pump,” he explained. Chabarria says typically summer blend gas is more expensive but right now, demand for gas is lower than usual.


2024 an Active Year for Tornadoes and Severe Storms

UNDATED (HPM) – It’s been an extremely active year for tornadoes and other severe storms in the middle of the U.S. Harvest Public Media reports that there were more than 6,000 severe storms across the country in May, many occurring in the Midwest and Great Plains. That makes last month the second-most active May for tornadoes and other big storms in the past 20 years. Weather conditions were ripe, according to Patrick Marsh, the chief of science and support for the national Storm Prediction Center. “We’ve had ingredients in place for supercell thunderstorms over the Plains for pretty much the entire month of May. And when you have that many of these kinds of thunderstorms, inevitably you will have an increase in tornadoes as well,” he added. Marsh and others studying storms anticipate tornado activity to wind down early this month. Beyond that, Marsh says it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect.


Bear Tunnels Out of Zoo Enclosure in Southeast Kansas, Almost Escapes

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (KSNW) - Some tense moments Sunday at a zoo in southeast Kansas when a bear went missing. KSNW TV reports that the Siberian bear appeared to be missing from its enclosure at the Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence. Within minutes, the entire zoo was cleared of all visitors. A few minutes later, the bear was located. The female bear partially tunneled out of her enclosure and under the public viewing platform. City officials say the bear never made it out of the enclosure itself but was briefly out of sight of zoo workers. Staff members eventually coaxed the bear back into her pen.


K-State Launches Agriculture Innovation Initiative

LIBERAL, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas State University has broken ground on its Agriculture Innovation Initiative to attract more students from diverse backgrounds into the state’s ag industry. The Kansas News Service reports that Kansas farmers are aging and there’s a need for a new generation to contribute to the multibillion dollar ag industry. K-State hopes to bolster its agriculture department with new buildings and programs to study the challenges Kansas farmers and ranchers face. Ernie Minton is dean of the College of Agriculture at K-State. He says the initiative will also focus on lesser-known parts of the industry, like the pet food corridor that stretches from Wichita to central Missouri. “In order to sustain a student population, we're going to have to find things that are also attractive to students from more urban settings,” he explained. The new academic programs are slated to start in 2026.


Kansas and Missouri Continue to Lose Wetlands

UNDATED (KNS) - Experts say Kansas and Missouri continue to lose wetlands that are vital to fighting pollution and floods. Missouri had already lost most of its wetlands since Europeans arrived. And Kansas, about half. The latest 10-year survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows the trend continued in eastern Kansas, south-central Kansas and southern Missouri. Low land susceptible to being wet gets filled in or drained to build on it or farm. Ponds get added to consolidate surface water into smaller areas. But eliminating wetlands makes floods and droughts hit harder. And exposes people to more water pollution.


Tick Season Underway Across Kansas and Missouri

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Ticks are likely creeping around your neck of the woods. Entomologists say tick season generally runs from April to September and some of these ticks could be carrying crippling diseases. WIBW TV reports that ticks in Kansas can contain 4 virulent strains of bacteria that can make people sick, including Lyme disease. The best way to avoid getting a tick bite is to dress appropriately: wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts tucked into your pants can help. Insect repellant containing Deet can also help. But even with precautions, those who spend time in the woods should check their bodies after going outdoors.


Wichita Announces New Homeless Shelter

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) – The City of Wichita announced it's planning to use the former Park Elementary school as a new shelter for people who are homeless. KMUW reports that the city has been looking for a location for what it calls a multi-agency center: a facility with emergency shelter beds, affordable housing units and social services. Now, the city has settled on the former school north of downtown Wichita. Wichita Public Schools shuttered it earlier this year as the district faced a budget deficit. "Given its close proximity to multiple homeless service providers, the location is ideal for referrals and coordinated services...the project is also more financially feasible as the property will be effectively donated to the city," assistant city manager Troy Anderson explained. Anderson says the building will provide between 150 to 200 shelter beds. The city hopes to have it ready to use as a winter shelter this year.


SNAP Benefits a Point of Contention in New Farm Bill

UNDATED (HPM) – The long overdue Farm Bill is finally making its way through Congress, after the House agriculture committee recently advanced a proposal. Harvest Public Media reports that food assistance has been one of the biggest sticking points. More than 41 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program monthly to put food on the table. The program takes a lot of funding: about 80% of the Farm Bill’s massive budget goes to SNAP. In the House Farm Bill proposal, Republicans suggest placing limits on how the benefits are calculated. Megan Hamann is a community organizer with Nebraska Appleseed. She says the limits would take about $30 billion out of the program over the next 10 years, adding that "...while families wouldn't see their SNAP benefits go down in an immediate sense, their SNAP benefits would be increasingly less efficient as time goes on." Hamann says she’s hoping the Senate’s Farm Bill proposal can find support, which would increase eligibility for SNAP among other things. (Read more.)


$150,000 Reward Offered in Connection with Robbery of KC Postal Carriers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Two Kansas City postal carriers were held up at gunpoint last month. Now, the U.S. Postal Service is offering a reward of $150,000 that leads to an arrest. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is looking for a suspect and two accomplices who robbed two letter carriers on May 29th. One robbery happened outside the Westport Post Office (200 Westport Road). The other robbery happened nearby the same day (at 39th and Warwick), around 5:30 pm. WDAF TV reports that the suspects were seen driving a red 2011 Dodge Charger with a broken rear passenger window. Last November, two men wearing masks pistol whipped another mail carrier in Kansas City and stole his keys.

The FBI and Kansas City Police are assisting in the investigation. The suspects face a minimum of five years in prison and a $250,000 dollar fine. Attempted robbery of a postal carrier is a federal offense.

Anyone with information is asked to call (877) 876-2455. The reference case is: No. 4318555-ROBB.


Kansas Wildlife Officials Hope to Reintroduce Alligator Snapping Turtle to the State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Officials with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks hope to reintroduce a species that hasn't been seen in the state for more than 30 years. Efforts are underway to bring the alligator snapping turtle back to Kansas. The last confirmed sighting of the reptile in Kansas was in 1991 in a tributary of the Verdigris River. The alligator snapping turtle is larger than the average snapping turtle, with a larger head, a hooked beak and star-shaped eyes. KSNT reports that the reptile can weigh more than 200 pounds and live for more than 100 years. The turtles used to be abundant in the Neosho and Verdigris Rivers near Emporia, but the population suffered greatly due to over-hunting. Wildlife officials hope to reintroduce the alligator snapping turtles by the fall of 2024.


500+ Injured in Work Zone Accidents on Kansas Roadways

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – More than 500 people were injured in work zone crashes last year. That's according to data from the Kansas Department of Transportation. New statistics from KDOT show an increase in the number of crashes taking place in designated work zones. Six deadly crashes last year led to nine people being killed. KSNT reports that the leading causes of work zone crashes in Kansas are: inattention, following too closely, improper lane changes and speeding. State officials are asking motorists to slow down and pay attention, especially in designated work zones.


KC Current Remain Unbeaten in Women's Soccer with 5-2 Win over Seattle Reign

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Temwa Chawinga scored a pair of goals and the Kansas City Current remained undefeated with a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Reign on Sunday. The Current (8-0-5) are one of two unbeaten teams in the National Women's Soccer League, along with the Orlando Pride. Kansas City leads the league with 31 goals. Jordyn Huitema scored both goals for the Reign.

The Reign jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Jordyn Huitema's goal in the 24th minute off a pass from Veronica Latsko. Chawinga answered for the Current four minutes later. Huitema scored a second goal on a header to put the Reign (2-9-1) back in front, but Brazilian Lauren — making her sea son debut for the Current — scored in first half stoppage time to knot the score at 2. Vanessa DiBernardo and Chawinga scored within the first two minutes of the second half to go up 4-2 and Lo'eau LaBonta added a penalty kick in the 67th minute after Reign goalkeeper Laurel Ivory took down Michelle Cooper in the box. The Reign have lost four straight.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid was among the fans at CPKC Stadium. He met with Current coach Vlatko Andonovski before the sold-out game.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally published by 10 am weekdays and are updated through 7 pm. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on X (formerly Twitter,).