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Headlines for Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Evergy: Additional Rolling Blackouts Becoming a Strong Possibility Wednesday Morning

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - NEW UPDATE: Evergy reports that current conditions make additional rolling blackouts a strong possibility through 11 am Wednesday. The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has increased its alert level as extended cold temperatures continue to strain the regional power grid. As a result, Evergy officials say they remain on standby in the event that the SPP calls for additional emergency power outages. 

(Earlier reporting...)

More Rolling Blackouts Possible Across Kansas Tuesday Night, Wednesday Morning

UPDATE: LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - More rolling blackouts are possible across Kansas and Missouri. Officials with Evergy say more controlled power outages may take place Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. During a news conference Tuesday, company officials confirmed that as many as 270,000 customers were affected by rolling blackouts, though not all at the same time. The temporary blackouts were supposed to last only between 30 and 60 minutes, but for some customers, the outages lasted a lot longer. Residents in Lawrence, for example, were left without power for more than 3 hours Tuesday morning. Kansas Public Radio, located on the University of Kansas campus, lost power around 7:30 a.m. but quickly switched over to a generator. As of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, nearly 4,000 Evergy customers were without electricity.  

Anyone experiencing an outage lasting longer than 90 minutes should call (800) 544-4857.

(Earlier reporting...)

Southwest Power Pool Lifts Current Outage Order; Evergy Restoring Power to All Customers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has lifted its requirement for emergency electricity reductions. Evergy will be restoring power to all affected customers as soon as possible. The SPP continues to operate under emergency energy alerts as extended cold temperatures continue to strain the regional power grid, so may request additional outages as the severe weather conditions continue. Evergy will provide updates on local and SPP system conditions as they become available. Due to extended extreme temperatures affecting the regional power supply the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) asked member electric utilities, including Evergy, to implement temporary electricity reductions in order to help avoid larger uncontrolled and extended power outages throughout the region. Evergy is still asking customers to continue conserving energy to help reduce stress on the power grid.
Anyone who experiences an outage that lasts longer than an hour should call (800) 544-4857 (Kansas Central customers) or (888) 544-4852 (Kansas City Metro and Missouri customers).

(AP version)

Power Blackouts Suspended as Kansas Remains in Deep Freeze

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Utility companies in Kansas lifted rolling power blackouts today (TUE) but most of the state is expected to remain in a deep freeze until temperatures warm later in the week. Evergy, Midwest Energy and Sunflower Electric all notified their customers at mid-morning that an order to impose blackouts had been lifted. The Southwest Power Pool ordered the blackouts Monday and early Tuesday to save energy reserves in the 14 states it oversees. The utilities asked customers to continue to conserve energy to avoid future blackouts. Many parts of the state endured extreme temperatures overnight and highs were not expected to reach 20 degrees in most of the state Tuesday.


Utility Companies Suspend Rolling Blackouts in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Energy companies serving western and southwest Missouri have suspended the use of rolling blackouts in parts of western and southwest Missouri. Evergy, Liberty and the cities of Independence and Springfield imposed rolling blackouts early today (TUE). But the Southwest Power Pool, which controls utilities across 14 states, later suspended the blackouts. The blackouts were imposed Monday and Tuesday morning to decrease demand on systems in the states. The blackouts came while most of Missouri continues a streak of days with high temperatures barely above zero. Highs across most of the state were forecast to stay well below 20 degrees today (TUE).


Thousands of Kansans Lose Power as Rolling Blackouts Spread Across Central U.S. 

As of 11:30am today (TUE), about 35,000 Evergy customers remained without power. In all, about 170,000 customers have been affected by temporary power outages, about 10% of the company's service area. (Evergy's outage map.) Anyone needing emergency assistance can call 2-1-1 from anywhere in the Evergy service area. Customers can get help finding emergency resources like warming centers, food, shelter and clothing. Those in immediate danger should call 9-1-1.

Earlier reporting...

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.


Kansas Governor Announces $200 Million in Rental Assistance

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas has received $200 million from the federal government which will be used to provide rental assistance. Governor Laura Kelly and the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation announced the statewide rental assistance Tuesday. The initiative, funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, provides the state with money to support housing stability and prevent evictions and homelessness. Kelly said the money "will go a long way to prevent evictions and homelessness, and ensure Kansans can stay sheltered and secure while we continue to fight" the coronavirus. Those residents struggling to cover rent and utility payments due to COVID may qualify for up to 12 months of emergency assistance thanks to the new federal relief. Tenants may qualify for assistance if they earn no more than 80 percent of their area’s median income, are experiencing documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID pandemic and may be at risk of housing instability or homelessness without assistance.  


Topeka Police: Monday Night Shooting Leaves 1 Person Dead

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say a man has been shot to death in a commercial district parking lot on the south side of the city. Officers were called to the area around 11:30 pm Monday for reports of gunshots and found a man in the lot suffering from gunshot wounds. Police say the man died at the scene. His name was not immediately released. Officials say they used a police dog to track possible suspects and took three people into custody for questioning. Their names were not immediately released, and police have not said whether any of them face charges in the shooting.


Cold Prompts Cancellation of Kansas COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas county health department has canceled a clinic for giving COVID-19 vaccines because of below-zero winter temperatures. The Shawnee County Health Department in Topeka also cited the possibility of rolling electricity blackouts in canceling Tuesday's clinic at Agriculture Hall, an older exhibition building near the city's largest arena and convention center. Spokesman Craig Barnes said the county health department will open its planned vaccination clinic Thursday three hours early to allow people who'd planned to get shots Tuesday to still get them. Vaccination clinics in Johnson County, Jefferson County and other places were also canceled and postponed. 

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, Including 4,406 Deaths, Since Beginning of Pandemic

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Monday 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 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.


Missouri Mass Vaccination Events Called Off Due to Weather

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The snow, ice and bitter cold gripping Missouri has delayed people from coronavirus vaccinations, including those who signed up for mass inoculation events that had been scheduled for this week. The governor’s office says it is trying to reschedule the National Guard-run events, but that registrants should seek vaccinations elsewhere in the meantime. The cancellations followed a storm that dumped several inches of snow in much of the state and sent temperatures plunging below zero, including in Kansas City, where it was 9 degrees below on Tuesday, a new record for the date. The state also reported 481 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three new deaths from the disease, pushing its pandemic totals to 472,143 cases and 7,458 deaths.


Girl Hurt in Crash Involving Former Chiefs Assistant Coach Britt Reid Now Awake

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The family of a 5-year-old girl left in a coma following a crash involving Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid says the girl is now awake. The news was delivered Monday in a post on the GoFundMe page for Ariel Young. The girl has been hospitalized since the February 4 crash. Reid is head coach Andy Reid’s son. Britt Reid was initially placed on administrative leave following the multi-vehicle crash. He's no longer employed by the team. Police said the crash happened near the team’s training complex next to Arrowhead Stadium when Reid's truck slammed into two cars on the side of the road. Police say Reid admitted to having “two or three drinks” before the crash.


Kansas City Police: Brother Charged in Sister's Stabbing Death over $100

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the stabbing death of his sister that police say was over a $100 debt. WDAF TV reports that 68-year-old Michael Childs faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of killing his sister, Stephanie Hunt. Police say the stabbing happened Friday, when Childs said he and Hunt had been drinking and argued over $100 he said she owed him. Childs told police that he grabbed a butcher knife away from Hunt and began waving it in front of him “to fend her off.” Childs says he was not aware he had mortally wounded Hunt until later.


Missouri Woman Charged in Death of Man Left at Fire Station

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman has been charged in the shooting death of a man who was left at a fire station. Prosecutors in Jackson County, Missouri, say 27-year-old Sarah Devera, of Blue Summit, was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Zachary Jewell. Sheriffs officials said an officer went to the Inter City fire district building on Friday to respond to a call about a shooting. When he arrived, he found firefighters trying to resuscitate Jewell, who died later at a hospital. Prosecutors said Jewell was shot at a different location and left at the station.


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.


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