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Headlines for Monday, February 15, 2021

Kansas Governor Declares State of Emergency as Frigid Cold Grips Kansas, Midwest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is under a state of emergency declaration as frigid temperatures and life-threatening wind chills grip the state. Governor Laura Kelly issued the order Sunday. The extreme cold endangers people and puts stress on utility and natural gas providers, who have asked residents to conserve energy. The disaster declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to help respond in affected counties. Authorities are pleading with residents to stay home. Forecasters said temperatures on Monday will struggle to reach zero in many areas, and overnight wind chills could drop as low as minus 30. The record-setting cold is forecast to last through Tuesday.

The University of Kansas campuses in Lawrence and Johnson County are closed and a number of public schools have also canceled classes.  (Read more here).

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UPDATE: Frigid Weather Sees Utilities Urging Customers to Conserve Energy

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Frigid weather that has sent temperatures plunging across Middle America also has power and gas utilities urging customers to dial down the thermostat. Utility companies serving Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri issued the plea Sunday and Monday for customers to conserve power as temperatures dropped to nearly 30 below in parts of western and northern Nebraska early Monday, sending the wind chill to as low as nearly 50 below in some places. Omaha Public Power District, Nebraska Public Power District, Evergy in Kansas City, Missouri, and Summit Natural Gas serving parts of Missouri were among some of the utilities that issued releases Sunday begging customers conserve energy through Wednesday as the bitter cold was expected to linger for days.

Bitter, Dangerous Cold Temperatures Grip the Midwest

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Bitter cold temperatures and dangerous wind chill levels have taken hold across much of the central United States. The National Weather Service issued wind chill warnings and winter weather advisories for Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri because a blast of artic air will dominate the weather in the region. Several inches of snow is also expected to fall across much of Kansas and Missouri today (MON). Forecasters warn that wind chill levels could fall below -40 degrees in parts of Nebraska and Iowa today (MON), creating concerns about frostbite and hypothermia for anyone out in the cold for long periods. (Read more.)  

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Ford Stops F-150, Transit Van Production at Kansas City Assembly Plant Due to Natural Gas Shortage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - Ford Motor Company confirmed today (MON) that it is shutting down production of its highly profitable 2021 F-150 pickup trucks and Transit Vans for a full week in Missouri. "Due to unseasonably cold temperatures in the midsection of the United States, Ford was warned that the availability of natural gas could be restricted in the Kansas City area in the coming days," said Kelli Felker, global manufacturing and labor communications manager. "To ensure we minimize our use of natural gas that is critical to heat people’s homes, we have decided to cancel operations," she said. The Detroit Free Press reports the closure at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri, began Saturday. Ford expects to return to normal operations next Monday. The plant employs approximately 7,300 UAW hourly workers. During the down time, employees will receive approximately 75% of their gross pay. Ford is the largest employer of hourly automotive workers in the U.S. This winter weather storm is the latest disruption for Ford, which has had to cut shifts building the F-150 to accommodate a global semiconductor chip shortage.

Water Line Break Affecting Southeast Kansas Community

PARSONS, Kan. (KPR) — A water line break is causing problems in Parsons. KNSF TV in Joplin reports the break is near the old water treatment plant and the problem is affecting the entire city. Officials say crews will have a difficult time digging into the frozen ground and getting equipment to work properly in the current freezing temperatures. Residents have been asked to drip their water from faucets and conserve water as much as possible. It remains unclear when the problem might be fixed. 

Millions Without Power in Texas as Snow Storm Slams U.S.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas council that manages the majority of the state's electricity has initiated rotating power outages amid a winter storm that's dropped snow, ice, and temperatures. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is urging residents to reduce electricity. More than 2 million customers went without power for short periods Monday morning as officials worked to conserve energy. Snow is also falling across Arkansas and Oklahoma, with the governors of those states and Texas activating the National Guard to assist state agencies. Dozens of crashes were reported Sunday and hundreds of flights were canceled across the southern Plains as the states dealt with the impacts of the winter storm.

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Kansas Struggles to Fix Vaccine Reporting Issues

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is working to fix its troubled system for sending vaccine data to the federal government. It says glitches caused about 100,000 doses that were given to not be shown as administered. The state’s vaccination rate has consistently ranked among the lowest in the country. State data shows that as of Friday, 9.4% of the state’s population had been vaccinated, with 273,428 people receiving at least the first of two required doses. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show the state administering only 60.2% of the 581,975 doses it says the state has received. The state, however, puts the figure at 63.8% and says it has received 572,275 doses.

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Kansas Has Recorded More than 287,000 COVID-19 Cases and 4,400 Deaths Since Beginning of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports today (MON) that there have been 287,450 cases of COVID-19, including 4,406 deaths, since the pandemic began. Johnson and Sedgwick counties continue to report the most coronavirus cases, with more than 52,000 each. KDHE will provide another update on Wednesday.

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Two Dead, One Critically Hurt in Rural Kansas Shooting

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Kan. (AP) — Two people have died and a third person was critically hurt in a rural shooting a few miles northwest of Lawrence over the weekend. Douglas County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Jenn Hethcoat said Sunday that a man who was taken to the hospital after the Saturday evening shooting had died. Another man died at the scene, and a third victim remained hospitalized Sunday with critical injuries. The names of the victims had not been released as of Sunday morning. The shooting happened at a rural property north of Lake View Lake, which is about 7 miles northwest of Lawrence.

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St. Louis-Area Father and Son Died in Small Plane Crash in Northern Missouri

TRENTON, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a St. Louis-area psychiatrist and his son were killed when their plane crashed earlier this week in northern Missouri. The crash killed 82-year-old Philip Joseph LeFevre III, of Glendale, and 47-year-old Philip Joseph LeFevre IV, of Sunset Hills. The younger LeFevre was the president and CEO of Lending Partners. Their single-engine Cessna went down Monday in Grundy County but the wreckage was not found until Tuesday.. Authorities have not determined what caused the crash. Sheriff Rodney Herring said the aircraft was traveling from Moberly to Kirksville, but it went far off-track before the crash. The two men's bodies were found in the plane.

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4 Kansas-Owned Casinos Say Revenue Dropped 28% in 2020

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' four state-owned casinos reported a 28% drop in revenue last year when they were closed for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The four casinos in Kansas City, Mulvane, Dodge City and Pittsburg generated about $300 million revenue in 2020, down from $416 million the year before. That means state and local governments are receiving less money from gambling. The Kansas Lottery's executive director Stephen Durrell said the casinos had a difficult year just like many other businesses. The casinos were closed from March 17 to May 22. And ever since reopening, the casinos have been operating at reduced capacity.

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Kansas Bill Would Limit Who Could Return Absentee Ballots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas Republican legislators are backing a bill that would make it a felony for anyone besides a family member or caregiver to return another person's absentee ballot. The bill is facing pushback from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates who say the legislation would make it harder for many racial minorities, older voters and people with disabilities to cast ballots. Proponents say banning so-called "ballot harvesting" would prevent political groups and candidates from unfairly influencing elections. The House Election Committee has held a hearing on the bill but has not yet voted.

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Kansas Newspaper Wins Lawsuit over Release of Police Videos

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a Kansas newspaper can have access to two Wichita Police body camera videos. The ruling Wednesday came more than three years after The Wichita Eagle requested copies. Sedgwick County District Judge Jeffrey E. Goering ruled that the city of Wichita "acted in bad faith and without a reasonable basis in law" by withholding the footage. The city disagrees but says it will abide by the ruling. One video relates to an alleged police cover-up of a hit-and-run collision involving an off-duty police officer. The other features an Iraqi-American man who was wrongly detained after he tried to deposit a $151,000 check at a local bank.

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5 Frats Banned from University of Kansas Campus for 10 Days

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Members of five fraternities have been banned from the University of Kansas campus for 10 days after they violated public health guidelines aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. In a campus message Friday announcing the ban, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham wrote that the university was "disappointed in the poor judgement demonstrated by these individuals." The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the ban affects members of Delta Tau Delta, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Chi and Sigma Phi Epsilon. University spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said the members of those fraternities would be prohibited from entering any "property, buildings, or other facilities of the University of Kansas, excluding Watkins Health Center."

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Kansas GOP: Ailing State Senator Bud Estes Has Died at Age 74

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ailing Republican state Senator Bud Estes has died, Senate leadership announced in a news release Saturday morning. He was 74. Senate president Ty Masterson said Estes had "a kind and gentle spirit and was well respected by all who served with him in the legislature." Masterson's spokesman, Mike Pirner, said Estes' widow notified lawmakers of his death and approved the news release. Estes won re-election in November to a second term representing a southwest Kansas district that includes the Dodge City and Liberal area. He had been hospitalized in recent months and had not been in Topeka this session.

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2 Brothers from Kansas, Idaho Arrested in Capitol Riots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two brothers from Kansas and Idaho are facing federal charges stemming from the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The FBI said William Pope, of Topeka, Kansas, and Michael Pope, of Sandpoint, Idaho, were arrested Friday. They both face numerous charges including disorderly conduct in a Capitol building. William Pope was arrested without incident and is being held in the Shawnee County jail. He ran unsuccessfully for the Topeka City Council in 2019 and was an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State from January 2016 until May 2020. Michael Pope surrendered to FBI agents in Idaho and was taken into custody without incident.

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FBI Arrest 2 Missourians for Alleged Role in Capitol Riot

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The FBI has arrested two more Missourians in relation to the January riots at the U.S. Capitol. Springfield residents Michael Aaron Quick and Stephen Brian Quick turned themselves in to the FBI on Friday. They are both charged with committing unlawful activity on Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct, among other charges. Federal charging documents were not immediately available. The names of their attorneys also were not immediately listed in federal court documents online. FBI agents also arrested a Blue Springs, Missouri, man on Thursday for allegedly conspiring to impede certification of the Electoral College vote.

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Missouri's Plan to Use Feral Hogs as Food Halted Amid Safety Concerns

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri will not move ahead with a plan to process feral hog meat to help feed poor people after conservation officials said the invasive animals don’t meet food safety standards. The Missouri Department of Conservation sends the nonprofit Conservation Federation of Missouri a state grant annually for its Share the Harvest program, which allows deer hunters to donate venison to poor people. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that this year, the conservation department left $300,000 budgeted for the program on the table after lawmakers required the money to be spent on processing feral hog meat in addition to deer meat.

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Gonzaga, Baylor Sit Atop AP Top 25 in College Basketball; Kansas Returns to Poll at No. 23

UNDATED (AP) Gonzaga and Baylor lead an unchanged quartet atop The Associated Press men's college basketball poll, while Kansas has returned to the rankings at No. 23. Coach Mark Few's Bulldogs received 59 of 64 first-place votes in the latest Top 25. Scott Drew's Bears claimed the other five. Those two teams have been 1-2 in all 13 polls this season. Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois rounded out the top 5. Kansas fell out of last week's poll for the first time in 12 years but joined No. 24 Arkansas and No. 25 San Diego State as the week's new additions. Oklahoma State, Purdue and Rutgers fell out of the rankings.

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