The Garden City Telegram, Feb. 24
The Weather Channel named it Q.
Others referred to it as the Blizzard of Oz.
Regardless of what it was called, last week's winter storm blasted Kansas with heavy snowfall that closed schools and businesses, hampered driving and left people digging out.
Less than a week later, we were left to brace for more.
The forecast called for another major winter storm — this one dubbed Rocky — to strike Sunday night and today in the Sunflower State. Storm Rocky was expected to pack a particularly wicked punch, with more ice and wind than Q delivered, along with plenty of snow.
Any new snow would blanket what Q left in significant totals throughout the state, including a decent amount in southwest Kansas.
Of course, more of the same would be welcome as a way to combat the drought.
Even though such snowstorms create hazardous conditions for motorists in particular, there's no arguing the benefit of the moisture in a painfully dry part of the country.
Whenever snow falls, much attention is placed on the state's winter wheat. The snow from Q — a wet, heavy kind that has a way of absorbing into the ground more effectively — helped the region make strides toward erasing a lingering deficit in precipitation for the year. Snow from Storm Rocky will help, too.
But there's still a long way to go before the wheat harvest. Another dry spell could negate much of the positive precipitation of late.
Combine this year's lack of moisture before last week's Storm Q with a two- or three-year deficit in precipitation, and it remains a grim picture.
Subsoil moisture levels need a boost to ensure a successful wheat crop. Farmers — and communities powered by agriculture, this one included — need to see more snow or rain raise moisture levels in the subsoil.
As inconvenient as a major snowstorm can be — and people still must use caution when heading out — it's impossible to overlook the importance of the precipitation.
And regardless of what unique name a winter storm may receive, one thing's for sure: The more wet, heavy snow it has to offer, the better.
The Topeka Capital-Journal, Feb. 24
Reports that the federal Department of Homeland Security had awarded a $40 million contract to build a utilities plant for a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility at Manhattan was good news for Kansas.
It would have been a great news day had Congress and President Barack Obama also announced full funding for construction of the facility — now estimated to cost at least $1 billion — had been appropriated.
That step should be taken as soon as possible but, for now, funding for the utilities plant represents a significant step forward in the process. It is another indication that the facility indeed will be built and will be built at Manhattan.
Despite all the assurances from Washington, D.C., that Kansas would be NBAF's home, the speed, or lack thereof, of progress on the project could have left some Kansans thinking federal officials were having second thoughts.
As soon as the selection process was completed and it was announced NBAF would go to Kansas, objections and questions were raised by officials from states that had been rejected. After further rounds of review and additional study of the Manhattan site and plans for the lab, Kansas still had the nod.
That funding was released at a trickle, however, was enough to make some Kansans wonder if the Department of Homeland Security really was going to dance with the girl it said it was taking to the ball.
Reports indicated Homeland Security had invested $125 million in the project before this year, but that is pocket change to the federal government, especially when it's talking about a $1 billion project.
Earlier this year, however, Homeland Security acquired through a land transfer agreement with the state 46 acres of land north of Kansas State University where NBAF is to be located. Awarding the contract now for the utilities plant — for which the previously submitted construction bids were to expire at the end of February — is a vital bit of progress and further evidence this deal is going to be done.
Granted, it will take some time — the utilities plant won't be finished for 21/2 years — but the federal government isn't noted for its speed.
NBAF will replace a laboratory at Plum Island, N.Y., which was built in the 1950s and is no longer adequate for modern research on animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Diseases to be researched at NBAF include foot-and-mouth disease, strains of swine fever and encephalitis, and bovine pleuropneuomonia. Scientists will work to develop vaccines and treatments for those and other diseases.
That is important research that warrants the best laboratory that can be provided. Now that bids have been awarded on the NBAF utilities plant, Congress should move forward with appropriating full funding for the facility.
The Hays Daily News, Feb. 23
Wow. The storm nicknamed Q lived up to its potential last week, dumping approximately 17 inches of snow on Hays. And it will take some time for day-to-day life to fully return to normal.
The soft quiet of Thursday -- sound muffled the powdery snow -- was replaced Friday with the crunch of ice, as a bitter cold came to join the party and more people ventured back to work.
Street-clearing crews worked overtime to keep up with the snow, but as the city's public works chief I.D. Creech said Thursday, "We are losing."
Side streets that had been used sparingly were marked by deep ruts through the snow. Even main drags such as Vine and 27th still were invisible under a layer of slick white stuff.
While Mother Nature outpaced the blades during the height of the storm, crews are continuing this weekend to chip away at the ice and snow to make more streets passable.
But on these drifted and rutted pathways could be found the spirit of this region.
While students on an unexpected vacation shot down hills on plastic saucers, affirming acts were taking place throughout the area.
Neighbors helped neighbors. Friends lent a hand. Strangers stopped to help fellow motorists who had underestimated the depth of the snow.
Stories such as this can make national headlines when they happen after natural disasters in metropolitan areas.
In northwest Kansas, such acts are so common as to be overlooked.
Thanks are not requested, but should be offered: to the person who scooped the neighbor's porch without them noticing; to the one who ran a snowblower several driveways past their own to clear the sidewalk; to the person who simply made a quick call to ensure someone was safe and OK.
Thank you. These small acts add up and make our community stronger as a whole.
That said, there remain threats -- especially considering another round of snow could be on the way this week.
Be aware of your neighbors in the coming days, especially seniors or those with young children. If you think they might need a hand, it certainly won't hurt to ask.
Be careful in your own home. Too many house fires occur in the dead of winter, caused by candles or dangerous methods of heating a home.
Carbon monoxide, the silent killer, is always a threat when the furnace is running and the house is buttoned up tight. CO detectors are as important as smoke alarms.
While scooping snow, protect against overexertion. In the chill, it's sometimes difficult to tell just how hard you are working. Take frequent breaks and consider the fact that if you spend the next couple of days in the hospital, that walk isn't going to get cleared any faster.
And, please, by all means, drive defensively while the streets are ice-coated.
Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your windshield clean. Have an emergency kit stowed in the vehicle. And always -- always -- assume the other person's vehicle that should stop at that stop sign won't.
Snowstorm Q was massive -- truly a storm for the record books. But, take heart, even the biggest blizzard is temporary.
Take your time, mind yourself and your neighbors, and it will be summer before we know it.
The Wichita Eagle, Feb. 24
Lawmakers gone wild
State lawmakers are setting a new standard for unneeded, unfounded and legally questionable legislation.
Though every session has its dumb bills, the current Kansas Legislature has set an exhausting new standard for the introduction of legislation that would flout the feds, trample on local control and judicial review, and serve as lawsuit bait.
It's a further embarrassment that the push for some of these measures is coming from members of the Wichita-area delegation, and a mystery as to how some of the people introducing and voting for these bills can call themselves small-government conservatives.
Proposed legislation would tell courts to butt out of school funding, tell science teachers they have to spend class time on climate-change denial, and tell doctors they can't ask patients whether they own guns and that they must tell women seeking abortions the fiction that abortion is linked to breast cancer. One measure would tell Transportation Security Administration screeners which passengers' parts not to pat down in Kansas. Another bill would regulate dancing at strip clubs. There's a measure requiring communities with fluoridated water to provide residents with the bogus warning "that the latest science confirms that ingested fluoride lowers the IQ in children." Other bills would bar local governments from using public dollars to promote sustainable planning or to lobby the Legislature about anything.
The urge to meddle in public schools is especially egregious - bills would block use of the Common Core standards and require that slow readers repeat third grade, for example - given that Kansas already has a State Board of Education to make curriculum and policy decisions statewide and local school boards and superintendents to manage districts.
Of course, the poster child for bad bills may be the mandate that the University of Kansas and Kansas State University play Wichita State University annually in men's basketball.
At least Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, who introduced the anti-fluoridation bill, told the Kansas Health Institute News Service that he didn't expect it to advance and had no interest in it himself.
But other bills have strong support, unfortunately.
Lawmakers eager to pass the Second Amendment Protection Act, which supposedly could shield Kansas-made and -owned guns from federal restrictions, should heed Assistant Attorney General Charles Klebe. In written testimony, Klebe noted that "the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution cannot be waived by state law" and that barring physicians from asking patients whether they own guns raises First Amendment issues. His office also thinks the bill could cost the state $825,000 for lawsuits over the next three years - reason enough not to pass it.
Local officials and other constituencies must be alert and ready to respond to all these proposals with facts, as they did last week at the packed hearing that apparently beat back the fearmongering bill from state Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, that would have told local health departments they couldn't pursue national accreditation.
But 28 days in, it's hard not to be impatient for the final gavel on what the Legislature's GOP leaders hope will be an 80-day session. While a bill's introduction hardly assures passage, Kansans will only be safe from all the unneeded, unfounded and legally questionable legislation once lawmakers have called it a year.