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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 22, 2013

UPDATE: Kansas Highways Open but Snow-Packed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say highways are open but remain packed with snow in much of the state following the winter storm that's blown across the Plains and the Midwest. The Kansas Department of Transportation said Interstate 70, the main east-west artery through the state, was fully reopened to traffic late Thursday night. As the storm rolled through Wednesday, KDOT had closed all lanes of I-70 from Salina to Colby, a stretch of nearly 200 miles. Later, an even longer stretch of the interstate's east bound lanes were closed, from Goodland to Salina. The state also closed portions of U.S. 54 and U.S. 400 in southwest Kansas. And the Kansas National Guard sent a dozen roving, two-member rescue teams in Humvees out Thursday to help stranded motorists.


UPDATE: KCI Airport Reopens

Kansas City International Airport has reopened. There are still many cancellations and delays, however. Check the KCI website for information on incoming, outgoing, delayed and cancelled flights. Updates on airport conditions are also available from the KCI Twitter feed, @KCIAirport


More Snow Forecast as Kansas Residents Dig Out

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says another major snow storm could be slamming into Kansas late this weekend. Meteorologist Chance Hayes of the NWS office in Wichita said Friday the potential is there for significant snowfall beginning Sunday night and into Monday. But the new system is not anticipated to bring quite as much snow as this week's winter blast. The forecast comes as Kansas residents dig out from storm that dumped more than a foot of snow across much of Kansas. The heaviest snowfalls were in south-central Kansas where the small community of Zenda recorded 18 inches. Wichita had the second-highest snowfall on record with 14.2 inches. Temperatures should warm up enough Friday and Sunday to melt some snow before the next winter storm hits.


Four Deaths Reportedly Connected to Winter Storm

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Four deaths are now blamed on the winter storm that's moved from the Plains states over the Great Lakes. The fatalities include a Kansas woman who died after her car collided with a train. Authorities told The Wichita Eagle that witnesses said her car began to slide before the accident. The storm has lost some strength as it moves to the northeast -- leaving a half foot or so of snow in some areas, freezing rain in others -- and not the foot and a-half that's on the ground in parts of Kansas. Students across a large area of Kansas spent a second day at home Friday. Schools were also closed in parts of Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.


Kansas House Panel Considering Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee is considering a resolution declaring the Legislature's opposition to expanding Medicaid following the federal government's overhaul of health care. The Appropriations Committee was having a hearing Friday. The measure says the Legislature doesn't want to expand Medicaid to make tens of thousands of additional people eligible for the program covering health care for the needy. Republican Governor Sam Brownback is a vocal critic of the federal health care law enacted in 2010. But he's said he'll leave a decision on expanding Medicaid to the GOP-dominated Legislature. The federal government has committed to paying almost all costs associated with the expansion, but many Republicans doubt the promise. The administration and Kansas Hospital Association have released conflicting studies on the expansion's potential cost to the state.


Kansas Hospitals Urge Legislature to Hold Off on Medicaid Expansion Statement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Administrators at some Kansas hospitals are asking state legislators to avoid making a formal statement about expanding Medicaid following the federal government's overhaul of health care. Kansas Hospital Association President Tom Bell testified Friday against a resolution declaring the Legislature's opposition to expanding Medicaid. The House Appropriations Committee had a hearing, and Chairman Marc Rhoades hopes to have a vote next week. Republican Governor Sam Brownback is a vocal critic of the federal health care law enacted in 2010. The federal government has committed to paying almost all costs associated with the expansion, but many Republicans doubt the promise. The resolution reflects those doubts. Bell said hospital administrators view a statement against the expansion as premature.


DHS Awards Contract for Utility Plant at NBAF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government has awarded a contract for building a utilities plant at the site of a $1.15 billion animal research lab in northeast Kansas. Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Nicole Stickel says DHS on Thursday awarded the contract to build the central utility plant at the National Bio and Agro-Defense facility in Manhattan, Kansas. The NBAF facility, designed to replace an animal research lab at Plum Island, New York will focus on researching deadly animal diseases that affect livestock. The new contract will use $40 million from fiscal year 2011 appropriations as well as matching funds from Kansas. It is a change to a base contract with a company that provided site preparation services for the project. DHS says the utility plant will take more than two years to complete.

Kansas House Panel Examines Downsizing of State Hospital

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Appropriations Committee in the Kansas House appears ready to close one of 21 residential cottages at the state's hospital for the developmentally disabled in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the move is designed to free up money to provide services for developmentally disabled Kansas in their homes. Appropriations Committee Chairman and Newton Republican Marc Rhoades said consolidating operations at the Kansas Neurological Institute is a bipartisan idea. The committee is looking at closing the least utilized cottage. The hospital has space for 160 residents and last year had a population of 153. In 2011, Governor Sam Brownback proposed shutting down KNI over three years and moving residents to community programs or a state hospital in Parsons. Local officials and residents' families objected, blocking the idea.

Panel Rejects Bid to Rezone Tiller Clinic Property

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita planning commission has rejected a bid from an anti-abortion group to rezone the property where slain abortion doctor George Tiller's clinic is located. The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted 6-4 Thursday against a request by Kansans for Life to rezone the property. The group submitted nearly 14,000 signatures to the Wichita City Council earlier this month seeking the change. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansans for Life development director David Gittrich criticized the panel for conducting the hearing Thursday while much of the town was paralyzed by a strong winter storm. The nonprofit Trust Women Foundation Inc. bought the building in August and wants to provide abortions and other women's health services. The group's founder, Julie Burkhart, says she was relieved by the commission's decision.


Kansas Silent Film Fest to Proceed Despite Weather

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The winter storm isn't robbing silent film fans of the chance to attend an annual festival in Topeka. Kansas Public Radio reports that the Kansas Silent Film Festival will begin as planned Friday night at Washburn University, despite the snow storm that forced the campus to close. The free festival continues through Saturday in White Concert Hall. The film lineup includes several short Keystone comedies produced by Max Sennett. Kansas City film historian Denise Morrison will provide introductions for the films and give an overview of the artists and the era of the silent films. Some films will be shown on 16mm film, while others may be projected digitally, due to the rarity of actual film material. Musical accompaniments will be provided mostly by organists or a five-piece chamber ensemble.


Wichita Woman Killed After Colliding with Train 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 70-year-old Wichita woman is dead after her car collided with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train near McConnell Air Force Base. The Wichita Eagle reports witnesses say the victim's Ford Focus began to slide before it collided with the side of the engine pulling the 69-car train at 10:45 am Friday. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office says it appears the crossing arms were down and lights were flashing but the car didn't stop in time to avoid the collision. The woman was taken by ambulance to a hospital after being revived at the scene, but a dispatch supervisor says she died at the hospital. Sheriff's spokesman Lieutenant Brad Hoch says it's not clear if a possible medical condition contributed to the collision.

1 Remains in Critical Condition from Kansas City Gas Explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — One person remains in critical condition after a deadly natural gas explosion at a Kansas City restaurant that killed one person and injured 15 others. A spokesman for the University of Kansas Hospital says two other victims were in serious condition and one was in fair condition Thursday, two days after the massive blast near the city's Country Club Plaza. Most of the other victims have been treated and released from various hospitals. Formal identification of a body pulled from the rubble early Wednesday was delayed by a winter storm that brought most activity in the area to a halt Thursday. However, Genny Cramer told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she is sure her daughter, Megan Cramer, a 46-year-old server at JJ's, was the victim.


Paul Ryan to Speak at Kansas College Commencement

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas college has announced that former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will deliver its commencement address in May. Benedictine College says the congressman will be the featured speaker at the May 11 ceremony in the Ralph Nolan Gymnasium. More than 360 students are expected to participate in what is the largest graduating class in recent school history. Benedictine President Stephen D. Minnis says Ryan is a great family man who is willing to stand up for what he thinks is best for the country. Ryan is senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and chairman of the House Budget Committee. Benedictine College is a Catholic liberal arts college in Atchison.


Owners Begin Search for Towed Vehicles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Dozens of abandoned vehicles have been towed around the Kansas City area so crews could clear streets. State transportation departments largely towed vehicles stranded on highways. Authorities say to call 816-607-2000 in Missouri or 913-782-8100 in Kansas for assistance. In Kansas, *47 on your cell phone in will also connect you with someone who might be able to tell you where the car was taken. For vehicles left elsewhere, cities oversaw the towing. The City Tow Lot for Kansas City can be reached at 816-513-0680. The Missouri Department of Transportation said in a news release Friday morning that it took some of the vehicles it towed to Arrowhead Stadium.

Snow Leads to Roof Collapse at Missouri Dance Studio

GLADSTONE, Mo. (AP) — Police say the roof of a suburban Kansas City dance studio has collapsed because of the weight of snow on it. KCTV  reports that no one was in Priscilla and Dana's School of Dance when the roof gave way. The studio's owner said a dance instructor noticed the gaping hole when she arrived Friday morning to give a private lesson. The instructor called authorities. Because gas was smelled, Missouri Gas Energy came out to turn off the gas. The building has been condemned. The dance studio is looking for rental space so it can resume classes.


Wichita Man's Car Stolen While Helping Women

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for two women who drove off with a man's car after he stopped to help them when they claimed they were stranded. Police say the 23-year-old man stopped in north Wichita late Tuesday after the two women told him they were having car trouble. As he was looking at their car, one of the women jumped into the man's SUV and drove off. She even hit the man, who suffered minor injuries. The other woman got back into their car and drove away. There was nothing wrong with the car. Police say the women were driving a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo, unknown year, with a Dallas Cowboys sticker in the back window. The victim's vehicle is a white 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee with an Oklahoma tag.

Parents of Injured Wichita Baby Arrested

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested the parents of a Wichita baby who suffered a skull fracture. The Wichita Eagle reports that the parents brought the 3-month-old boy to a Wichita emergency room Wednesday afternoon. Police said an X-ray showed he had a skull fracture that isn't life threatening. The child was admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit. A police report says a 21-year-old woman was booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated child endangerment and abuse. Police Lieutenant Jeff Weible says the boy's father also was arrested.

US Beef Production Up 7 Percent in January

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows that U.S. beef production and slaughter numbers were up in January in the wake of a widespread drought that drove ranchers to sell off livestock. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Thursday that commercial red meat production totaled 4.35 billion pounds in January. That is up 5 percent from the same month in 2012. Beef production totaled 2.26 billion pounds for a 7 percent jump from the same month a year ago. Some 2.83 million head of cattle were slaughtered in January. That is 4 percent more cattle than were slaughtered the previous January. Production of veal, pork, lamb and mutton also was up in January.


Former Dolphins Coach Shula Wins Lamar Hunt Award

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Don Shula, the NFL's career leader in coaching victories, will be honored with the Lamar Hunt Award given annually to an individual who helped to shape professional football. Shula will be honored on March 2 in Kansas City. The longtime Dolphins coach had a regular-season record of 328-156-6 during a 33-year career, and coached in six Super Bowls, winning two of them. His 1972 team, which remains the only team to finish off a perfect season, will also be honored during the black-tie event. The Lamar Hunt Award is named after the late Chiefs owner who helped to found the AFL.


KDOT Closes Large Section of I-70 in Western Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sections of Interstate 70 across central and western Kansas remained closed overnight because of a winter storm. The Kansas Department of Transportation said Thursday evening that it had closed eastbound lanes of I-70 from Goodland to Salina, covering more than 230 miles. KDOT also kept westbound lanes closed from Salina to Hays, a stretch of about 90 miles. KDOT earlier had closed a 50-mile section of U.S. 54 in southwest Kansas, from the Pratt-Kiowa county border west to Minneola in Clark County, as well as stretch of U.S. 400 was closed between Greensburg and Dodge City. Both later reopened. The Kansas Turnpike Authority also encouraged people to stay off the turnpike on the entire route from Oklahoma to Kansas City.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

Kansas National Guard Dispatches Rescue Crews to Highways

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials say the Kansas National Guard has 12 teams patrolling three state highways in Humvees to rescue motorists stranded by a massive winter storm. Kansas Adjutant and Major General Lee Tafanelli said Thursday that travel remains dangerous. State officials say eight teams are working on Interstate 70 from Salina to Colby, a stretch of nearly 200 miles. Each team has two guard members and a Humvee. Four other teams are patrolling U.S. 54 and U.S. 400 in southwest Kansas. U.S. 54 had been closed was closed temporarily from the Pratt-Kiowa county line to Minneola in Clark County, and U.S. 400 was temporary closed east of Dodge City. Officials also say about 30 people took shelter at Kiowa County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, and several other communities had shelters available.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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