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Rare Double Snowstorm In Kansas

A winter storm that weather officials are calling "very rare" in its makeup blew across Kansas on Wednesday, bringing with it the first significant ice and snow of the season and contributing to a fatal car accident on the Kansas Turnpike.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of the state through Friday morning as the system moved across the Midwest. Up to 12 inches of snow was possible in some portions of eastern Kansas, while others could see ice accumulations of more than an inch.

Meanwhile, heavy snow began moving into Oklahoma Thursday morning after sleet and freezing rain left roads across Oklahoma slick and hazardous and shut down schools and many government offices.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said there were numerous accidents and troopers were responding only to major collisions and those with injury or death, although no fatality accidents were directly attributed to weather conditions.

And western Washington's second storm this month had broken the one-month precipitation record for Seattle, 15.33 inches, set in December 1933, with 15.45 inches by 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the weather service reported a low of 18 degrees at Sea-Tac Airport, breaking a previous record for Nov. 29 of 22 degrees set in 1985.

Mike July of the National Weather Service said the severe winter weather in Kansas is actually two storms that are back-to-back — an occurrence he has never seen in more than two decades forecasting weather in the Kansas City area.

"We're going to get hit with a double-whammy," he said. "I've been here since 1983 and I've never seen that happen before. We had an arctic front come through (Tuesday) and a temperature drop of 20 to 25 degrees in a matter of minutes."

The first storm rolled through Kansas on Wednesday afternoon, on the heels of near-record setting temperatures earlier in the week. It dumped half an inch of ice on tree limbs and power lines in eastern Kansas, raising concerns that heavy winds could cause power outages.

July said the second storm system will move from Oklahoma northeast through Wichita on Thursday afternoon, possibly dumping up to a foot-and-a-half of snow along a line stretching from Kansas City to Moberly, Mo.

"It won't be raining fire and brimstone from aloft, but we'll be getting quite a bit of snow," July said.

July said a level of cool air was created beneath a layer of warm, moist air, which led to freezing rain on Wednesday. The layer of warm air will eventually be replaced by cooler air, leading to heavy snow accumulations.

"When the next system comes in tomorrow, it will be all snow falling out," July said. "We're looking at heavy snows Thursday afternoon and evening."

Highs Thursday are expected to be in the mid-20s, but the forecast calls for sunshine returning Friday.

Icy conditions were a factor in the death of a motorist Wednesday morning on the turnpike just east of Topeka, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Patrol spokesman Lt. John Eichkorn said a westbound 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse lost control in a construction zone near the Topeka service center, crossing the open construction area and colliding with a 2005 Chrysler minivan.

Six people in the two vehicles were injured and taken to Topeka area hospitals. The name of the 24-year-old Lawrence woman who was killed wasn't released pending notification of family.

Eichkorn said elsewhere in the state, there were numerous reports of vehicles sliding off roads as conditions deteriorated.

"People are just plain rusty. As drivers, we don't drive in this type of weather the majority of the year, thank goodness," Eichkorn said. "When we've had weather so good, we become rusty. We forget what it takes to drive safe."

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for all of Oklahoma until 9 p.m. Thursday and said a large area of precipitation was moving across the state.

"We're seeing quite a bit of thunder and lightning in southwest Oklahoma and that will enhance the snowfall," said meteorologist Rick Smith with the weather service in Norman.

"There will be a pretty rapid accumulation of snow. We're looking for a fairly wide area along and south of Interstate 44 of 4 to 8 inches," Smith said.

"In northwest, north central, the Enid, Medford, Ponca City, Perry areas are looking at 8 to 12 inches, and places within those areas could get even more than that."

The snowfall was expected to continue into Thursday evening, Smith said, before moving out of Oklahoma and into Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, but temperatures were expected to remain below freezing until Saturday, Smith said.

A portion of Interstate 40 in eastern Oklahoma City was shut down for several hours after a tractor-trailer overturned early Thursday. In the Oklahoma Panhandle, officials closed U.S. Highway 287 north of Boise City to the Colorado state line until shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday because of accidents, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported.

The storm prompted officials to announce the closing of all state offices on Thursday. State Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Ward said all non-essential personnel at the state Capitol won't have to report for work.

While most people were rushing to get out of the frigid, icy weather, at least 45 people pitched tents to camp out in the hopes of winning free food for a year, a spokeswoman for a fast-food restaurant chain said.

Those hoping to win the food, valued at $26,000, had to wait outside the new Chick-Fil-A restaurant on Oklahoma Highway 3 in northwest Oklahoma City in order to be the first 100 people at the door.

"They're not allowed to stay in their cars, they have to stay out in the parking lot," spokeswoman Cindi Pickett said. "We will be monitoring conditions and if we feel like there are health concerns, we'll intervene."

The inclement weather didn't seem to be bothering the group, who were "playing football in the sleet" at one point, Pickett, who traveled from Atlanta for the Oklahoma City event.