The Kansas National Guard has sent 16 soldiers in eight Humvees to patrol I-70 in western Kansas to search for stranded travelers, according to a news release from the Kansas Adjutant General's office.
Eight Kansas Guard members in four Humvees also will patrol Highway 54 between Minneola, Kan., and Pratt, Kan., and Highway 400 from Dodge City, Kan., to Bucklin, Kan.
State, city and county emergency crews across Kansas are working around the clock to clear heavy snowfalls and wind-blown drifting snow. Some areas of the state have received as much as 14 inches of snow with expectations of more before the storms finally move out of the state tonight.
Part of I-70 has been closed between Goodland, Kan., and Salina, Kan.
The message from the state's leaders has been to stay home until the storms subside and crews can clear the roads.
"Travel across the state continues to be our biggest concern," Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday in Topeka. "Highways remain snow-packed and slick."
"It's just not the right conditions to get out and travel," he said. "If you don't have to travel, don't do it."
Those who travel should be prepared with water, food, blankets, a charged cell phone and other emergency supplies, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, adjutant general and director of the Kansas Divisiono f Emergency Management, also cautioned the public that travel is not the only potential hazard the snow presents.
"As we move to the next phase, after the snow moves through, many people are going to be out trying to dig out from the storm," he said. "A reminder to everyone about shoveling heavy snow: this can lead to overexertion. The wind chills that we're going to be experiencing tonight through the early morning hours can lead to frostbite. These kind of conditions can lead to slips and falls with the potential for injuries. We just remind everyone to please be careful."
Mike King, KDOT secretary, said more than 1,000 snowplow drivers are working two shifts to keep the mainline roads open and passable.
"With the wind dying down later this evening, that's going to give us the opportunity to finally get ahead of the game on this," he said. "Right now, we're just maintaining and making sure we can get emergency vehicles to where they need to go."
Despite the heavy snows, however, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported there have been relatively few accidents and no reported fatalities, although there have been numerous slide-offs and stranded vehicles.
"We are still seeing too many people driving too fast for the conditions," said Maj. John Eichkorn, Kansas Highway Patrol.
"Troopers and local law enforcement have been working together all day to get around to those that have become stranded," he said.
KHP troopers are tagging abandoned vehicles with a red sticker to signify they have been checked. Eichkorn said motorists may call for assistance by dialing *47 on their cell phone or *KTA if they are on the Kansas Turnpike.