The National Guard is patrolling highways in Kansas, one of five states in the nation's midsection under winter storm warnings tonight.

Two stuck buses during Kansas City snowstorm (KHSB TV)

The state's emergency management director says three teams are out in Humvees ready to rescue stranded motorists, and more are ready to mobilize if needed.

Snow totals are already topping a foot in many places, including Wichita, Kan., and northern Oklahoma. In addition to snow, the widespread storm system is bringing sleet and freezing rain.

Several accidents and two deaths are being blamed on icy and slushy roadways. Most schools in Kansas and Missouri, and many in neighboring states, were closed today and legislatures shut down in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa.

While the snowfall rates are expected to taper off through the evening, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett says it was "pouring snow" at a rate of 2 inches per hour or more earlier today. Topeka got 3 inches in a half hour.

At times, the blinding snow has been accompanied by thunder and lightning.

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