Rolling Blackouts Spread Across Central U.S.
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) – Rolling blackouts have been spreading across much of the central U.S., as record-breaking cold temperatures cranked up energy demand beyond what utilities can deliver. The blackouts aim to lower the need for electricity to a level power plants across the Midwest can handle. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says the risk of demand outpacing supply will continue through Thursday. “We all must cut back on natural gas and electricity usage now to ensure we have enough available to make it through these sub-zero temperatures,” she said. If power is turned off in a neighborhood, the outage should only last between 30 minutes to an hour. Officials are asking people to not call 911 if the power goes out to keep the lines open for actual emergencies.
Kansas Remains Under Emergency Declaration; Residents Asked to Conserve Energy, Universities Cancel Classes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KNS) – Kansas remains under a state of emergency as frigid temperatures and life-threatening wind chills grip the state. Governor Laura Kelly issued the emergency declaration order on Sunday. The extreme cold is not only endangering people and pets, it’s threatening the power supply. Freezing temps and high demand are putting a strain on utility and natural gas providers, which are asking residents and businesses to conserve energy. Electricity providers across Kansas and Missouri have begun rolling blackouts because there isn’t enough power to meet demand. Record cold temperatures across the region have led to high demand and a limited supply of electricity across the central U.S. In order to prevent a major uncontrolled power outage, the regional grid operator has asked utilities to begin rolling blackouts. The temporary blackouts are designed to decrease the demand on the system to a level power plants can meet. This is the first time the regional grid operator has ever had to take such drastic measures. The emergency could last through Wednesday morning. Officials are asking everyone to limit electricity use as much as possible and to set thermostats to 68 degrees or lower. The University of Kansas closed its campuses in Lawrence and Johnson County Monday and today (TUE) due to the rolling blackouts. Kansas State University, Wichita State University and a number of public schools are also closed.
Ford Shuts Down Production in Kansas City Due to Natural Gas Shortage
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) – Ford Motor Company has shut down production of its F-150 pickup trucks and Transit Vans for a full week in Claycomo, Missouri. The shutdown comes amid freezing temperatures and a shortage of natural gas. Ford officials say they shut down because they wanted to minimize the plant’s use of natural gas, which is critical to heating people’s homes. The Detroit Free Press reports the closure at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri, began Saturday. Ford expects to return to normal operations next Monday. The plant’s 7,300 hourly workers will receive about 75% of their regular pay. Ford is the largest employer of hourly automotive workers in the U.S. This winter weather storm is the latest disruption for Ford, which has had to cut shifts building the F-150 to accommodate a global shortage of semiconductor chips.
UK Variant of COVID-19 Discovered in Sedgwick County
WICHITA, Kan (KMUW/KNS) – A second case of the UK variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Kansas, this time in Sedgwick County. Kansas health officials say the person likely became infected with the strain while out of state, but aren’t disclosing any other details about the individual. Close contacts have been notified. The variant was determined through genome sequencing conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The only other known case of the UK variant in Kansas was reported earlier this month in a student at Fort Hays State University. Testing showed the strain hadn’t spread among the student’s friends. The particular strain of the coronavirus was identified in the United Kingdom last fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the variant is more transmissible than the more common strain of the coronavirus.
Kansas Has Recorded More than 287,000 COVID-19 Cases and 4,400 Deaths Since Beginning of Pandemic
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports today (MON) that there have been 287,450 cases of COVID-19, including 4,406 deaths, since the pandemic began. Johnson and Sedgwick counties continue to report the most coronavirus cases, with more than 52,000 each. KDHE will provide another update on Wednesday.
Kansas Struggles to Fix Vaccine Reporting Issues
MISSION, Kan. (AP) – Kansas is working to fix its troubled system for sending vaccine data to the federal government. It says glitches caused about 100,000 doses that were given to not be shown as administered. The state’s vaccination rate has consistently ranked among the lowest in the country. State data shows that as of Friday, 9.4% of the state’s population had been vaccinated, with 273,428 people receiving at least the first of two required doses. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show the state administering only 60.2% of the 581,975 doses it says the state has received. The state, however, puts the figure at 63.8% and says it has received 572,275 doses.
4 Kansas-Owned Casinos Say Revenue Dropped 28% in 2020
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas’ four state-owned casinos reported a 28% drop in revenue last year when they were closed for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. The four casinos in Kansas City, Mulvane, Dodge City and Pittsburg generated about $300 million revenue in 2020, down from $416 million the year before. That means state and local governments are receiving less money from gambling. The Kansas Lottery’s executive director Stephen Durrell said the casinos had a difficult year just like many other businesses. The casinos were closed from March 17 to May 22. And ever since reopening, the casinos have been operating at reduced capacity.
Kansas Bill Would Limit Who Could Return Absentee Ballots
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Some Kansas Republican legislators are backing a bill that would make it a felony for anyone besides a family member or caregiver to return another person’s absentee ballot. The bill is facing pushback from Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates who say the legislation would make it harder for many racial minorities, older voters and people with disabilities to cast ballots. Proponents say banning so-called “ballot harvesting” would prevent political groups and candidates from unfairly influencing elections. The House Election Committee has held a hearing on the bill but has not yet voted.
Missouri’s Plan to Use Feral Hogs as Food Halted Amid Safety Concerns
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri will not move ahead with a plan to process feral hog meat to help feed poor people after conservation officials said the invasive animals don’t meet food safety standards. The Missouri Department of Conservation sends the nonprofit Conservation Federation of Missouri a state grant annually for its Share the Harvest program, which allows deer hunters to donate venison to poor people. But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that this year, the conservation department left $300,000 budgeted for the program on the table after lawmakers required the money to be spent on processing feral hog meat in addition to deer meat.
Kansas Newspaper Wins Lawsuit over Release of Police Videos
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) – A judge has ruled that a Kansas newspaper can have access to two Wichita Police body camera videos. The ruling Wednesday came more than three years after The Wichita Eagle requested copies. Sedgwick County District Judge Jeffrey E. Goering ruled that the city of Wichita “acted in bad faith and without a reasonable basis in law” by withholding the footage. The city disagrees but says it will abide by the ruling. One video relates to an alleged police cover-up of a hit-and-run collision involving an off-duty police officer. The other features an Iraqi-American man who was wrongly detained after he tried to deposit a $151,000 check at a local bank.
Enjoying this handy summary of area news? Consider becoming a KPR member. Membership makes everything we do possible. KPR’s daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. KPR’s weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.