“Snowpocalypse” blankets Topeka, Washburn campus

AJ Dome, junior, mass media

Washburn’s campus was closed Thursday and Friday as a large winter storm blanketed northeast Kansas under a foot of snow. The entire state saw widespread snowfall and blizzard conditions, and a Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for northeast Kansas until 12 a.m. Friday morning.

Local forecasts called for eight to 12 inches of snow in the Topeka area, with some places as far north as Clay Center forecasted for up to two feet.

The snow began falling at 5 a.m. Thursday morning, and continued steadily for the next few hours. As the strongest part of the storm passed over Topeka, a rare occurrence known as thundersnow was observed. Thundersnow is essentially a thunderstorm in a winter environment, where heavy snow falls as the primary precipitation. News cameras in Wichita also recorded thundersnow, and the footage was featured on CNN Thursday morning.

WIBW-TV in Topeka officially noted 9.5 inches of snow Thursday morning. WIBW meteorologist Jeremy Goodwin observed snowfall rates measuring at nearly four inches per hour between 7-9 a.m. An additional inch of snow fell through the evening hours, starting at 6 p.m.

A day before the storm arrived, Washburn decided to close campus for Thursday, but extended the closure to Friday because of freezing temperatures and messy conditions. Parking lots and side streets were mostly plowed by Thursday evening, but continued snowfall and plummeting temperatures were causing problems even for the plows. Cars were buried under several inches of snow in parking lots, and a couple of vehicles were stuck in the middle of the lots, having attempted to get out, but failed.

Kansas Department of Transportation officials closed about 90 miles of Interstate 70 from Salina west to Hays earlier on Thursday. I-70 is now reopened, but remains snowpacked. The Kansas Turnpike stayed open, but the Turnpike Authority urged drivers to stay off the Turnpike entirely.

A traffic emergency proclamation was issued by Topeka city officials at 11 a.m. Thursday. The traffic emergency means that, “no one shall operate a motor vehicle on an emergency snow route” for fear of stalling and clogging up the roadway, and that “no vehicle shall be parked on any street designated as an emergency snow route.” Snowplows dotted the roads throughout Topeka the entire day, working to clear the major city streets. Smaller residential roads and driveways were not cleared by city plows.

The Kansas National Guard was dispatched on Thursday to search for stranded motorists along I-70 from Salina to Colby, a distance of 200 miles. Another National Guard team was patrolling along U.S.54 in southwest Kansas. Stranded motorists across the state have taken shelter in local hotels, hospitals and shelters.

“I tried to get to work this morning and got stuck,” said Mira Lee, a classified-ad manager for Ogden Publications in Topeka. Lee lives just outside of Lawrence, and commutes daily. “A very nice guy towed my car out, and I got to work an hour late. I’m staying in a hotel in Topeka for the night, and a coworker is driving me around in his truck. Thank goodness for nice people!”

For Washburn students living on campus, the snow day meant catching up on homework, sleeping in, building snowmen and having snowball fights. 

“I think we can all pretty much agree that the word ‘snow day’ is obsolete,”  said Mia Capuano, freshman theater major. “From now on, they should be referred to as ‘Netflix days.'”

The rarity of these snow days shows the full extent of the storm, and how seriously Washburn is handling it.

“I’ve been a student here for four years, and this is only the second time we have had two consecutive snow days,” said Rizki Aljupri, senior finance major. “It’s definitely time for a Snuggie and hot cocoa.”

Stay tuned to www.washburnreview.com for the latest updates and information on this winter storm.