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Headlines for Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press, as compiled by the KPR news staff.
Kansas Public Radio
Kansas Public Radio

Winter Storm Takes Aim at Kansas on First Day of Winter

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - A Winter Storm Warning takes effect at 6 PM and will last through tomorrow night. Jenifer Prieto, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says the snowfall amount originally expected has been scaled back but much of eastern Kansas could still get around 1 to 3 inches. Prieto says a Wind Chill Warning will take effect at midnight and will last through noon on Friday. Wind chills could dip to 17 below zero tonight (WED) and drop to 28 below zero Thursday night. The extreme cold expected across the Midwest in the next 48 hours will be dangerous for humans, animals, and power grids that help keep us warm. But Evergy, the state's largest utility company, says it will be ready to go in the event of any power outages. None are expected, but Evergy says its infrastructure was built to withstand extreme temperatures.


Midwest Winter Storm Will Complicate Driving

UNDATED (HPM) - A massive snowstorm is going to hit many Midwestern and Great Plains states during some of the busiest days for holiday travel. The American Automobile Association estimates that over 100 million people will travel more than 50 miles away from home this year for the holidays - significantly more than last year. Nick Chabarria, a spokesperson for Triple A Missouri, encourages drivers to take a look at their tires and batteries before driving. "Dead or disabled batteries are the number one reason that, uh, people call AAA during the winter months," he said. People traveling in rural areas should keep in mind that it may take longer to clear the roads of snow and that if something does go wrong, help may be further away. So it’s important to pack an emergency kit- blankets, jumper cables and a cell phone charger.

Emily Klaus, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Kansas City, says this event "is gonna be impacting a large portion of the United States and more than just snow, it's gonna be impacting it in wind concerns and in windchill and extreme cold concerns." Drivers, especially in rural areas where help may be further away, should keep an emergency kit in their cars. Experts suggest checking tire tread and battery power before getting on the road.

(Additional coverage)

U.S. Braces for Dangerous Blast of Cold, Wind and Snow

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KPR) — A large swath of the U.S. braced for a dangerous mix of sub-zero temperatures, howling winds and blizzard conditions already hammering the Northwest and expected to disrupt plans for millions of holiday travelers. Bitter cold and heavy snow are forecast to hit the Plains and upper Midwest. Some places in the northern U.S. could see wind chills approaching 70 degrees below zero. Even warm-weather states are preparing for the worst. Texas officials hope to avoid what happened in early 2021 when millions lost power in a winter storm. Temperatures could dip to freezing in parts of Florida by the weekend.

Authorities across the country are worried about the potential for power outages and warned people to take precautions to protect the elderly, the homeless and livestock — and, if possible, to postpone travel. The northern-most regions of the U.S. could see wind chills approaching 70 degrees below zero — cold enough to leave exposed skin frostbitten in a matter of minutes.

In Kansas City, Missouri, emergency shelters are opening for anyone needing warmth, food or safety. Organizers warn, though, that capacity is limited overnight. "We're going to get in as many as we can," said Karl Ploeger, chief development officer for City Union Mission, a Christian nonprofit. If the shelters are over-capacity at night, the mission works with other organizations to try and find alternatives for people.

In Kansas, where up to 4 inches of snow is expected to accompany wind chills dipping to 40 degrees below zero, Shawn Tiffany runs three feedlots with about 35,000 cattle combined. He's worried about keeping 40 employees safe and warm. "Every conversation I've had for the last four days has consisted of 'Are you prepared and are you ready?' Everybody is taking it very seriously," Tiffany said.

Karina Jones' family raises about 400 head of cattle in north-central Nebraska near Broken Bow, where wind chills as low as 50 below zero are expected Thursday and Friday mornings. She said Nebraska cattle ranchers are "a hearty bunch," but the bitter cold is rough. Ranchers "lie awake at night praying that you did everything you could for your livestock," Jones said.

Even warm-weather states are preparing for the worst. Texas officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the February 2021 storm that left millions without power, some for several days. In Texas, where the temperature is expected to drop to around 11 degrees, the state's power grid will be put to the test once again. A historic freeze in February 2021 led to one of the biggest power outages in U.S. history, knocking out electricity to 4 million customers in Texas and leading to hundreds of deaths.

The heaviest snow is expected in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, according to the National Weather Service, and frigid wind will be fierce across the country's mid-section. "I would not be surprised if there are lots of delays due to wind and also a lot of delays due to the snow," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

Nearly 113 million Americans were expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday season, up 4% from last year but still short of the record 119 million in 2019, according to AAA. Most were planning to travel by car; around 6% were planning to fly.


Extreme Cold Prompts Lawrence to Extend Winter Emergency Shelter Hours

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - City officials have announced that the emergency shelter at the Community Building in downtown Lawrence will be open continuously from now through Tuesday, December 27. Officials told the Lawrence Journal World however, that the emergency shelter will only be able to operate for the extended hours if the city gets enough volunteers to supplement city staff at the site. Interested volunteers may sign up using a link on the city’s program website. The shelter also urgently needs donations including gloves, hats, socks and other winter clothing. Donations of individually packaged snack food are also needed. Donations can be dropped off at the Community Building.


Canadian Company: Kansas Oil Spill Cleanup Continues

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - Canadian company TC Energy estimates that crews have recovered about half of the oil that spilled in north-central Kansas earlier this month. State lawmaker Rui Xu, a Johnson County Democrat, says he’s pleased that the Keystone pipeline operator is coordinating with federal agencies on the cleanup. But he’s frustrated that information about the situation has been limited and controlled. “I think TC energy has done a good job of communicating exactly what TC Energy wants to communicate," he said. TC Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency won’t say HOW they are containing and tracking the oil. Top scientists say spills of this type of crude oil - dilbit - are notoriously tricky to clean up. The Kansas Reflector reports that TC Energy won't allow any drones to fly over the site of the oil spill in Washington County. The company says it's a safety concern. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the "No-Fly Zone" was issued December 16. It's set to expire this (WED) evening.


Kansas Man Gets Extra Year in Jail over Illegal Autopsies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man already serving a federal prison sentence for running an illegal autopsy scheme also has been sentenced to serve an additional year in jail on state criminal charges. The Kansas attorney general's office announced Wednesday that 43-year-old Shawn Parcells was ordered by a state-court judge to serve his 12-month sentence in Wabaunsee County, west of Topeka, after he finishes a sentence of nearly six years in federal prison on a wire fraud charge. Parcells is housed in the federal prison in Leavenworth after pleading guilty in May to the wire fraud charge. Parcells also has been banned from doing business in Kansas.

Parcells has no formal education in pathology but made more than $1.1 million in Kansas between 2016 and 2019 from autopsies for more than 350 clients, most of which he did not perform, according to federal court records. He gained national attention in 2014 by assisting a privately hired pathologist in an autopsy of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, who was fatally shot by a white police officer.

In Wabaunsee County, he was convicted of three felony theft charges and three misdemeanor charges of illegally obtaining control over bodies, stemming from three autopsies he performed for the county in 2014 and 2015, the attorney general's office said.


Judge Won't Overturn Convictions in Kansas Murder Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge declined to order a new trial for two men who said a controversial police detective helped send them to prison for a 1997 murder they didn't commit. Judge Gunnar Sundby said Wednesday that 46-year-old Brian Betts and 52-year-old Celester McKinney did not prove they should receive a new trial despite a “cloud of doubt” over former Kansas City, Kansas, police detective Roger Golubski. The cousins’ uncle testified that Golubski pressured him into identifying the two men as the shooters in the death of Gregory Miller in 1997. Golubski is facing federal charges of sexually assaulting two females and a separate indictment alleging he was part of a sex trafficking ring involving girls.


Kansas Public Defenders Hired, Salaries Increased

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - More Kansas public defenders are now being hired following a dire staffing crisis in recent years. The Kansas News Service reports additional funding from state government helped. As many as one in five public defenders were quitting last fiscal year. One major reason was pay, says Heather Cessna. The state then gave almost $4 million for pay increases. Cessna is the executive director of the Board of Indigent Defense services. She told lawmakers her office is now filling almost every vacant position. “I don’t actually get a chance very often to come and have good things to say that are positive. So this is exciting," she said. She requested additional money again next year to prevent wages from stagnating. There are 244 total positions she hires for, her office is currently looking to fill just 28 more vacancies.


Former Kansas Corrections Officer Charged in Child Sex Crimes Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A former corrections officer in Kansas has been officially charged with unlawful sexual relations in a child sex crimes case. WIBW TV reports that criminal charges have officially been filed against 24-year-old Catherine Dutcher. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said his office charged Dutcher with one count of unlawful sexual relations - a level 4 person felony. Dutcher was arrested December 15, and was booked into the Shawnee County Jail for allegedly having sex with a juvenile corrections inmate. The Kansas Department of Corrections told WIBW that Dutcher was hired August 22 and was fired on the same day as her arrest. She remains behind bars on a $10,000 bond. Her first appearance has been set for Thursday.


KPR Still Seeking Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to Join Station's Award-Winning News Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio, located at the University of Kansas, is looking for a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to cover all aspects of state government in Topeka for KPR and its statewide reporting partners. This exciting position requires skill, professional experience and curiosity. To apply, log on to: https://employment.ku.edu/staff/23463BR. A review of applications began in October and will continue until a robust pool of qualified applicants is identified.

KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected Veteran status.


Wichita to Aid Those with Suspended Licenses

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A year after the Kansas Legislature made acquiring a restricted driver's license more accessible for people with suspended licenses, the city of Wichita is helping people navigate the legal system. About 25% of suspended drivers in the state are from the Wichita area. In response, the city has hired Kansas Legal Services to expand efforts to help residents restore their licenses. Nathan Emmorey is with the city's municipal court system. “Driver's license suspensions are a problem across Kansas with the number of suspended drivers having doubled since 2007," he said. Efforts to help drivers restore their license will include legal assistance at city hall and expanding existing driver's license restoration clinics. The services will cost the city more than $150,000.


Wichita Clinic Now Offering Telehealth Abortion Medication Access

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Planned Parenthood Great Plains is now offering telehealth abortion services out of its Wichita clinic. It comes after a judge last month blocked a Kansas law that banned doctors from prescribing abortion pills over telemedicine. Patients still need to visit the clinic in-person for an evaluation, but they can now get abortion pill prescriptions from out-of-state doctors remotely. The group’s president, Emily Wales, says it will help expand abortion access in Kansas at a time when clinics are overwhelmed by an influx of out-of-state patients. “It certainly increases availability when the physician doesn't have to be sitting in the room doing functionally the same thing they would be doing if they were there," she said. She says the group is working to expand the telemedicine service to its two Kansas City-area clinics.

(AP version)

Planned Parenthood Starts Telemedicine Abortions in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Planned Parenthood affiliate says it has started teleconferences with off-site doctors for patients seeking medication abortions at one of its Kansas clinics. Tuesday's announcement by Planned Parenthood Great Plains is a small step toward potentially much broader access after Kansas voters affirmed abortion rights in August by rejecting an anti-abortion ballot measure. Planned Parenthood Great Plains said it began offering telemedicine consultations Monday to patients visiting its Wichita clinic. CEO Emily Wales said the hope is to expand that service to patients at its two Kansas City-area clinics soon. The announcement came less than a month after a state-court judge blocked Kansas from enforcing a telemedicine abortion ban.


Tomlin Scores 26, K-State Holds off Radford 73-65

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Nae’Qwan Tomlin scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Keyontae Johnson added 16 points and seven rebounds and Kansas State held off Radford 73-65 for its fifth straight win. Tomlin scored six points during an 11-0 run as Kansas State took the first double-digit lead of the game at 45-35 with 14:22 remaining. Johnson’s highlight was an alley-oop dunk, off Markquis Nowell’s lob from midcourt, to made it 69-52. Kansas State was ahead by 17 points with 4:04 left before Radford scored 13 of the next 15 to get within 71-65. Johnson sealed it with two free throws at 20.4. Nowell finished with 10 points and 11 assists and Desi Sills also scored 10 for Kansas State.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.