Kansas Governor Sam Brownback praised the work of the thousands of state employees during the two significant snow storms during a news conference Wednesday held in the Kansas Capitol.
"On behalf of Kansans across the state, I want to thank the thousands of state employees who spent the last week digging the state out of two significant snow storms, responding to emergencies, tracking the storms and keeping Kansans informed," Governor Brownback said. "Your response to the hazardous conditions that covered the state was tremendous. Thanks to your efforts, Kansans have been able to get back to school and work quickly and safely."
Transportation Secretary Mike King, Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli, Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Ernie Garcia and KDHE Secretary Dr. Bob Moser joined the Governor to discuss the recent winter storms and the state's response to the hazardous conditions.
"The involvement of our state partners in our State Emergency Operations Center is the key to our success in responding to all of the needs that come to us, and I appreciate the teamwork and synchronization of efforts by KDOT, KHP, KDHE, our National Guardsmen, and all of the hard work and coordination of our county emergency managers across Kansas," Maj. Gen. Tafanelli, adjutant general and Kansas Division of Emergency Management Director, said. "Each activation and state response provides us with an opportunity to improve our coordination efforts. And each storm is a reminder to every Kansan of the need to be better prepared for the next one."
The State Emergency Operations Center was activated throughout both storms. Twenty-eight Kansas National Guard troops in 14 Humvees traveled nearly 800 miles checking on stranded motorists on I-70 last week, passing out water and food and offering assistance to more than 70 vehicles waiting for tow trucks. The EOC also coordinated information on shelters and warming centers during the recent power outages, and kept in close contact with county emergency managers.
Secretary King praised the work of the KDOT staff from the truck drivers to the people maintaining the web site to the people sending tweets. Approximately 1,000 KDOT staff used about 575 trucks to clear the roads. They drove a total miles of 504,000 miles to pre-treat and plow the state highways during last week's storm alone -- enough to circle the earth 20 times.
"People may not fully appreciate just how dangerous it is for our snow crews to be out on the highways when the roads are slick and visibility is near zero. These crews save lives and help keep our economy afloat. And they have been doing it nearly non-stop for more than a week," KDOT Secretary King said.
Colonel Garcia remarked about witnessing firsthand the work of those dedicated to keeping Kansas roads safe is really an eye-opening experience.
"While sadly they can be deadly, these snow events are a great illustration of how local and state agencies work together every day. When a critical event happens, it is paramount that we all join together. Thank you to our partners, including members of the public, for the teamwork and cooperation with these snowstorms over the past week," Colonel Garcia said.
Dr. Moser said health officials stood ready across the state to respond to any emergency but Kansans took the storm warnings serious and were prepared.
"I am grateful to all the hospital staff and emergency services personnel in Kansas. Their unyielding service to patients during the harsh weather conditions is a testament to their great commitment to the health and safety of our citizens," Dr. Moser said. "Additionally, the work of our state partners-KDOT, KDEM and KHP-was exceptional, making way for everyone else to carry out their jobs during this time of emergency."
Gov. Brownback applauded the electric companies for their quick work to restore power to thousands of customers. Kansas Electric Cooperatives CEO Bruce Graham; Westar Energy President and CEO Mark Ruelle; Kansas City Power & Light Government Affairs Manager Scott Jones and Kansas City Board of Public Utilities representative Kimberly Svaty also joined the Governor at the news conference.
"Their crews worked non-stop through deep snow and on muddy roads to restore power and overcame other obstacles like substation outages, broken utility poles, and damage to conductors and cross arms," Brownback noted.
At the peak of the storm, the electric companies had about 84,000 customers without power. As of Wednesday morning there remained approximately 10,000 customers without electricity.
Social media also played a significant role in alerting Kansans about the storm and the state's response. State agencies sent nearly 800 tweets and posted more than 360 messages to Facebook during the seven day period.
Sadly, six Kansans lost their lives during the storms. Two siblings died of carbon monoxide poisoning Tuesday from a generator running in the basement of their Kansas City, Kansas home. Two individuals died in separate one vehicle accidents on Monday. A woman in Kansas City, Kansas was struck by a vehicle that slid into her while she was walking and an elderly woman in southwest Kansas died of a heart attack and hypothermia while sweeping snow off her steps.