Kansas City has an unwanted guest staying for Christmas: dangerously cold temperatures
The National Weather Service is urging people to stay home, with temperatures around negative 5 degrees and a wind chill up to 30 degrees below zero. Still, some Kansas City-area residents went to work, walked their pets, and rode the streetcar to stay warm.
About two inches of snow blanketed the Kansas City area early Thursday morning in the first major storm of the winter season.
But while road conditions caused several accidents during the morning commute, the real danger was the bitter cold — temperatures hit negative 5 degrees, with a wind chill up to 30 degrees below zero. The dangerously cold temperatures are expected to stick around through the weekend.
The cold and snow triggered dozens of closings and cancellations — municipal courts are closed and holding hearings online and many other small businesses chose to close for the day.
Kansas City trash service is suspended Thursday and Friday, trash amnesty and bulky item pick up will instead take place on December 30 and 31.
The National Weather Service has a wind chill warning in effect until noon Saturday.
Still, some businesses opened their doors and residents bundled up and braved the elements.
Cafe Cà Phê opened its Columbus Park shop late Thursday morning and stayed open to welcome people in from the cold, although it closed earlydue to "winds and roads not clearing."
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order activating the National Guard during the arctic blast to assist with local emergency response efforts. In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly eased restrictions on trucks and vehicles carrying emergency supplies and fuel through Kansas.
Chris Dean had to get out to walk his 9-year-old boxer mix, Zoe, by his apartment near 10th and Wyandotte Streets. Both he and Zoe were bundled up to stay warm during their short period outside.
Pete, an unhoused man who only wanted KCUR to use his first name, said he had no choice but to be outside.
He rode the streetcar — which users can ride continuously during the cold weather — to keep warm.
“The library is closed. So it’s only this or the bus or you go into a parking garage, but you’ll probably get kicked out,” Pete said. “There's not so much you can do. I mean, you could have a tent and candles and stuff like that. But I really don't have a permanent place to be right now.”
Several area shelters added beds this week but many have reported being at or near capacity, even before Thursday’s storm.
Jacob Hopkins, a security officer for DowntownKC, was out supervising the streetcar and making sure everything stays clean despite the slush from the snow. He said ridership was down significantly Thursday, but it’s still an important tool for those who need a warm space.
“It's just people trying to stay warm if they're out here on the streets or whether they're riding to get to work,” Hopkins said.
The streetcar paused service for about an hour Thursday afternoon due to an unrelated crash that blocked the tracks.
Allison Deshotels braved the cold to go home from her job at a hotel near Crown Center. She uses the streetcar to get to and from work from her apartment in the River Market — especially when the roads are dangerous.
“I don't want to risk driving in this weather, I'm a cautious driver,” she said.
Over at 31st and Charlotte Street, Jeremy Durant cleared the sidewalk outside of his work, True Light Family Resource Center. The nonprofit, which provides a women’s shelter, food pantry, clothes closet and nutrition program, remained open Thursday.
The cold temperatures prompted airlines to cancel more than 20 flights at the Kansas City International Airport on Thursday, and officials are expecting additional delays and cancellations throughout the weekend.
Joe McBride, a spokesperson for the Kansas City Aviation Department, says workers are clearing runways from snow and ice.
He says they’re trying to ensure staff remain safe while dealing with the severe winter weather.
“Definitely are concerned about the Aviation Department and airline staff that have to be out in these frigid conditions. They’re there putting bags in, refueling and whatnot,” McBride said.
Additional reporting by Carlos Moreno and Zach Perez.