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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, February 26, 2013



UPDATE: Heavy Snow Results in KS, MO Power Outages

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than 41,000 customers in northwest Missouri and parts of Kansas remained without power as utility crews scrambled to return service before nightfall after the second winter storm in less than a week hit the two states. Kansas City Power & Light reported at 3:05 pm Tuesday that about 31,500 customers were still without power, down from a high of nearly 80,000. The outages stretched throughout the utility's service area from Emporia to Sedalia, Missouri, but the highest number was in the Kansas City metro area. BPU, which provides service to Kansas City, Kansas, reported about 6,600 customers were without power as of 3:45 pm. Westar Energy reported 3,153 outages throughout its Kansas region, which includes pockets near Kansas City.


UPDATE: All Kansas Highways Open; Some Delays at Oklahoma State Line

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation says all highways that were closed by snow and ice have reopened. But a couple of crossings at the Oklahoma border in southwest Kansas remained blocked late Tuesday afternoon while crews in the neighboring state made the roads passable. Those closing affected U.S. 83 and Kansas 23, while U.S. 183 and 283 were open into Oklahoma. Southbound lanes on several highways connecting southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle were shut down Tuesday as heavy snow blanketed the region. KDOT says conditions improved enough Wednesday to allow the roads to reopen. Sections of other U.S. and state routes in southern and central Kansas that were closed by the snowstorm have also reopened.

Snow Helps, but Falls Short of Ending Kansas Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Drought Mitigation Center says the snowstorms hitting Kansas this month have eased dry conditions but have not ended the drought. Climatologist Mark Svoboda says it takes roughly a foot of snow to make an inch of water. That means Kansas would need two to four feet of snow just to erase precipitation deficits since October. Svoboda says that doesn't count the deficits from a drought that has lasted almost two years in Kansas and one year in the northern Great Plains states. Kansas needs 12 to 16 inches of water to fully recover.

Rural Kansas Bears Brunt of Winter Storm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Rural areas in Kansas may have taken the worst of the latest winter blast. In southern and southeastern Kansas, snow collected in high drifts and on power lines, some of which came down. Westar spokesman Shane Batchelder said Tuesday that power outages are predominantly in outlying areas where rural road conditions are worst and hindering the ability to get to downed lines and frozen equipment. About 8,400 households are without power in a 20-county area in the eastern third of the state. This storm brought less snow than last week's blast, but caused more damage because of the wind. National Weather Service meteorologist Vanessa Pearce says Kingman County received 10.5 inches of new snow with snow-drifted roads. Wichita received nearly 7 inches.

Kansas Senate Delaying Tax Bill Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A key Senate leader says debate on a bill that would implement Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's income tax cuts will be delayed for a few weeks as winter weather bottles up a crowded legislative schedule. Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said Tuesday that the bill would probably be debated during the week of March 11 because of a backlog of other issues that must be cleared so legislators can meet a key deadline in the 2013 session. Two snowstorms have caused legislators to adjust schedules and postpone debates. Brownback seeks to follow up on massive income tax cuts enacted last year by phasing in a second round of reductions in individual income tax rates over the next four years, then position the state to gradually eliminate personal income taxes.


Kansas House Panel Seeks to Block Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have endorsed a resolution urging Governor Sam Brownback to reject expansion of Medicaid services in Kansas. The GOP-dominated committee endorsed the non-binding measure on voice vote Tuesday despite pleas from Democrats to keep the state's options open and help the poor. The resolution now goes to the full House for debate. It would urge the Republican governor not to take the federal government's offer to pay for expanding Medicaid health care services for the next three years. The expansion would add more than 135,000 Kansas adults who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty rate to Medicaid programs. Republicans say the state can't afford to add the additional services which could cost the state, by one estimate, as much as $6 billion over seven years.


Opposition to Concealed Carry in Public Buildings Surfaces

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to require public buildings to either allow concealed weapons or provide adequate security measures is drawing the ire of leaders of local governments, health centers and local community corrections officers. Currently, state, county and city governments can post signs banning concealed carry of guns in their buildings. A bill before the Kansas House would allow weapons in buildings that don't have security measures such as metal detectors or security personnel. The bill also would override local ordinances that outlaw open carry of firearms. A state official said Monday that only a few of the state's courthouses and no court-related buildings currently had the required security measures. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that associations for community mental health centers and community corrections offices sought exemptions from the proposal.

Senate Committee Agrees with KNI Cottage Closure Recommendation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee agrees with a recommendation to close one of the 21 residential cottages at the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka. State officials say closing the cottage and redistributing its residents to other cottages would save $753,000. The Senate Ways and Means Committee agreed on Monday with a recommendation from the House budget committee to close the one building. KNI serves those with severe developmental and physical disabilities. It currently has 163 beds and 153 residents. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the House budget committee recommended using the savings from the closure to provide home- and community-based services to 15 disabled Kansans on a Medicaid waiver list. Twelve jobs would be eliminated but no layoffs are expected because of redistribution and attrition.

DOJ Monitoring Elections in SW Kansas County

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Observers from the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division were heading to southwest Kansas to monitor Tuesday's elections in Seward County. The agency says the monitors will check for compliance with the Voting Rights Act and other federal laws that bar discrimination in the voting process and require officials in some places to provide language assistance. Seward County is required to provide language assistance to Hispanic voters. The Justice Department was also sending monitors Tuesday to polling places in Cook County, Illinois. Cook County is home to the city of Chicago and is required to provide language assistance to Hispanic, Chinese and Asian Indian voters. The department says it deploys hundreds of observers each year to monitor elections throughout the country.


Kansas Man Charged with Attempting to Kill Rescuers

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man is charged with setting fire to a Kansas home and then attempting to kill the emergency workers who rescued him. The Kansas City Star reports that 58-year-old William J. Outhet Jr. faces charges of arson and attempted first-degree murder in Johnson County District Court. His bond was set at $1 million during a Monday hearing that he wasn't able to attend because he remained hospitalized. No one else was injured in the February 1 incident. Court documents say Outhet "staged" firearms around the home and fired a shotgun. The documents listed emergency responders as the intended victims. Firefighters ultimately pulled Outhet from the home and rushed him to a hospital. Outhet is being represented by the Johnson County Public Defender's Office. The office phone rang unanswered Tuesday.


Teenager Found Dead in Tent Behind Missouri Walmart

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A teenager has been found dead inside a tent behind a Walmart store north of Kansas City, but police say they do not suspect foul play. The Kansas City Star reports that officers were called around 2 am Tuesday to investigate the tent behind the store just off Interstate 35 near Liberty. Police say there were no footprints in the snow outside the tent, which appeared to have been at the scene for a while. Officers unzipped the tent and found the body of a man believed to be about 19 years old. They also found a yellow bottle of Heet, often used by homeless people and backpackers as fuel for alcohol stoves. Police say the tent was visible from the interstate. The man has not been identified.


Sheriff Warns Would-Be Inmates of Jailhouse Crowding

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A south-central Kansas sheriff is warning potential lawbreakers that his jail is so full they will find themselves with a blanket on a cold hard floor if they get arrested. Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson posted on his department's Facebook page the weather was preventing inmates from being transferred to jails in other counties. The Hutchinson News reports about one-fourth of the county's inmates are housed elsewhere at a cost of $35 per day because of limited capacity at the Reno County facility. Henderson's post warns that "if you get arrested, you will be on the concrete floor with a blanket. The choice is yours." The county's voters will be asked in April to approve a half-percent sales tax increase to pay for construction of a new jail.

3-Year-Old Found Wandering in Independence

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ A 3-year-old girl is safe in western Missouri after wandering away from home while her older sister shoveled snow. The Kansas City Star reports the toddler was spotted around 10:30 am Tuesday at a grocery store not far from her Independence home. Independence police spokesman Tom Gentry says the little girl went outside against her mother's wishes and wandered off without her older sister noticing.


KU Works with City, County Health Officials

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials in the Lawrence area are getting some academic help evaluating the effectiveness of health policies and systems. The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department has a new partnership with the University of Kansas Work Group on Community Health and Development. The effort is called the Academic Health Department. The university says it's the first in Kansas and one of only a few in the country. Assistant research professor Vickie Collie-Akers will have an office at the health department. She says the goal is to create a shared research agenda. The university says the Academic Health Department will also function like a teaching hospital for students in applied behavioral psychology.

Vietnam Veteran to Receive Purple Heart

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas veteran of the Vietnam War is scheduled to receive a Purple Heart for wounds he received during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Army officials will present the medal on Friday to 65-year-old Danny Taylor of Kansas City, Kansas. The ceremony will be held at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leavenworth. Taylor was a specialist in the 86th Maintenance Battalion when his unit came under fire on January 31, 1968. He was wounded in the arm, leg and back. Taylor was discharged from the Army in April 1968 and continued to serve in the Kansas National Guard until the 1970s.

Missouri Snowstorm is Dangerous, Even for the Plows

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The snowstorm blasting the Kansas City area is so dangerous to traffic that even the state of Missouri's heavy-duty snow plows are having trouble staying on the roads. The Kansas City Star reports that at least eight Missouri Department of Transportation snow plows fell into highway ditches early Tuesday. Two of them fell on their sides. The state had more than 200 plows working in the Kansas City area alone to deal with snowfall up to 8 inches in spots. MODOT spokesman Steve Porter says at least two of the plows went off the road in their attempts to clear highway ramps.

Second Storm-Related Fatality Reported in Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is attributing a second fatal accident to the latest winter storm. The patrol says 28-year-old Kirstin R. Nelson of Ellis died Monday in an accident on Interstate 70 in Ellis County eight miles west of Hays. The patrol says she was a passenger in a car driven by her husband, 31-year-old Eric J. Nelson. The truck slid on the icy road and rolled. Eric Nelson, the couple's 5-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old passenger were injured. They were taken to area hospitals but the extent of their injuries was not available. The first fatality occurred Monday morning on Interstate 70 in Sherman County. A vehicle driven by 21-year-old Carlos Esqueda of Kansas City, Kansas hit an icy patch and rolled, ejecting Esqueda. A passenger was injured.

Weather Strands Travelers at Kansas Truck Stop

LEBO, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas truck stop that has often served as a safe place for stranded motorists is once again providing that service. A trucker from Illinois stranded at the Beto Junction Travel Plaza near Lebo Tuesday morning describes the conditions as "straight hell." Robert Branscecum of Campton, Illinois says he's been at the truck stop about 90 miles southwest of Kansas City since Monday night. He says snow is blowing and drifting, and cars and trucks are stuck in the parking lot. Some truckers tried to leave but their big rigs also got stuck. Branscecum doesn't plan to try and get out until he's assured it's safe. But he's hoping to be home by Thursday after getting his load to Dallas.

Lawrence Man Caught with Stolen Sword, Blind Cat

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say they arrested a 31-year-old man after two connected and strange crimes. Sergeant Trent McKinley says the caper began Sunday evening when someone entered a mobile home in Lawrence and made off with a Japanese-style sword, a blind black cat and some Chinese meditation balls, among other things. Police were called later when residents at a nearby home reported they fled when a man barged in with no shirt or shoes but wearing the sword on his waist and carrying the cat and meditation balls. He then began eating their food. The balls, sword and cat, named Freddie, were returned to their owners. Prosecutors told The Lawrence Journal-World that Blake Robert Hurd is charged with four counts. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Kansas Governor's Reading Plan Receives Hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's proposal requiring school districts to hold back Kansas third-graders who aren't proficient in reading is getting mixed reviews in the Legislature. The Senate Education Committee heard testimony Monday on the plan. The proposal includes $10 million in grant money for intervention programs to help third-graders meet state standards in reading. Brownback policy director Jon Hummell says the goal isn't to keep children from advancing to fourth grade but to improve overall education outcomes, including reducing dropout rates. Critics say any short-term gains in reading achieved by similar initiatives are offset in the long run by the stigma of being held back or by the lack of adequate funding to improve early childhood programs.

Subcontractor in Deadly KC Gas Explosion Lacked Permit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials say a cable company subcontractor suspected of rupturing a natural gas line before a deadly restaurant explosion didn't have an approved permit for the work. Subcontractor Heartland Midwest didn't immediately respond to Monday's report from city officials. A Missouri Gas Energy official has said that Heartland Midwest reported hitting a natural gas line with an underground borer more than an hour before Tuesday night's explosion. The blast and ensuing fire leveled JJ's restaurant near a busy outdoor shopping area called the Country Club Plaza. One person was killed and 15 others were injured. Four of the injured remained hospitalized Monday at the University of Kansas Hospital, including one person who was in critical condition. Heartland Midwest said last week that it's cooperating with authorities.

Committee OKs Kansas Drug Testing Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed a bill requiring drug tests for recipients of state certain benefits. The action Monday sends the measure to the full Senate for debate. The requirement would apply to applicants for and participants in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Prospective employers would be required to tell the state when a job seeker who's receiving unemployment benefits fails a company drug test or refuses to take one. If a recipient is using drugs, the proposal would allow the state to shift benefits to a spouse to continue the aid to children, if the spouse also passes a drug test. If the spouse fails, the state would try to continue benefits for the children through a third party, such as a grandparent.



Big 12 Admits Officiating Errors in Kansas Win


DALLAS (AP) — The Big 12 says officiating errors were made at the end of regulation before the number 6-ranked University of Kansas outlasted Iowa State in overtime on Monday night. The league said Tuesday that "appropriate measures will be taken" against the two officials involved, including an adjustment of "the number of future assignments." The Big 12 did not identify the officials or the plays in question. KU's Elijah Johnson drove into the lane and got tangled up with Iowa State's Georges Niang with less than 10 seconds left. No foul was called, and Niang was then whistled for fouling Johnson on the floor. Johnson sank two free throws to force OT with 4.9 seconds left. The Jayhawks won the game, 108-96.

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