Monthly Archives: December 2008

It hasn’t been this cold in Wichita since…

….earlier this year, as a matter of fact.

When the temperature dipped to 5 degrees this morning, it reached a level not seen since Feb. 1, when the low was 2.

The National Weather Service doesn’t keep records on wind chill, so there’s no way to tell whether the -10 to -15 wind chills reported before dawn this morning are a record for this date.

The low of 5 isn’t close to the record low for Dec. 15. That would be -10 in 1989.

Goodland did set a record low temperature this morning. The -10 broke the record set in 1951 by one degree.

There’s no question this is a remarkably cold air mass – even by arctic standards, National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Ketcham said.

“Usually, we don’t get into the single digits or below zero unless we have a fresh snow cover,” he said. “This is certainly unusual for this time of year without any kind of heavy snow cover at all.”

Wichita may get some snow cover tonight and tomorrow. Flurries could dust the metropolitan area, and offer an inch or more for central Kansas.

These winds are foreshadowing…

…a dramatic drop in temperatures on Sunday.

Why are the winds so strong? They’re rushing to equalize pressure farther north, where a powerful zone of low pressure is drawing a blizzard through the northern Plains. Forecasters say temperatures will plunge 60 degrees in less than 48 hours in Montana, from highs of 40 on Friday to -20 on Sunday.

Yep: -20.

Wichita will also see a dramatic plunge, though not that far. After a high of about 60 today, we’ll be pushing to reach the low 20s on Monday.

Wind chills will drop below zero throughout most of Kansas Sunday night. Those numbers could drop between -10 and -15 in central Kansas.

The cold air and harsh winds will stick around a while, too: Wind chills between 0 and -10 are expected Tuesday night over central and parts of south-central Kansas.

Light snow is expected sporadically during the period as well, though no significant accumulation appears to be likely.

Snow in Kansas, tornadoes in…..

….three other states Tuesday: A total of 22 tornadoes were reported in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Of course, that number will drop if research discovers that the same tornado was reported by more than one person.

Most of the tornadoes were weak and short-lived, but a tornado north-northeast of Cordova, Ala., was classified as an EF2 with maximum winds of about 130 miles an hour. It was about a quarter-mile wide and was on the ground for 4.6 miles.

A tornado near Star, Miss., was also classified as an EF2, with winds as high as 112 mph and two distinct damage paths: one 1.1 miles long, the second 3.2 miles long. That tells me the tornado lifted briefly before coming down again.

Thankfully, no deaths or serious injuries were reported with the outbreak.

A weak tornado caused significant damage early Wednesday to a high school in northwestern Georgia, officials said. Haralson County High School suffered roof damage, trees fell on portions of the football stadium, the scoreboard was toppled and a gas line ruptured.

National Weather Service officials estimated the tornado had winds of less than 100 mph.

Winter’s here – ‘sno kiddin’

Cars going so fast they slide right off of freeway ramps.

Or hit retaining walls so hard they end up teetering atop them.

Or slam into other vehicles already wrecked.

A Kansas Department of Transportation official told me yesterday that the winter storm that hammered Wichita and other parts of Kansas Tuesday was “a learning curve.”

If so, too many people failed the test. Hundreds of accidents, two fatalities, other serious injuries. Veteran law enforcement officials were stunned by the lack of awareness – or was it indifference? – to the conditions even late in the day Tuesday, after snow had been falling and glazing roadways for hours.

Maybe it’s a form of denial…or a dangerous belief that modern vehicle technology can handle anything Old Man Winter tosses at us.

The numerous pile-ups, rollovers and slide-offs reported on Tuesday offered neon evidence to the contrary.

Let’s hope Tuesday was an aberration, not an opening chapter to a winter of destructive driving habits.

A snowy irony

The Kansas Department of Transportation reported this morning that seven of its eight static cameras designed to display road conditions around the state were showing light snow.

The only camera not showing snow? Goodland – the snowiest National Weather Service outpost in Kansas.

Wichita, meet winter

As the first measurable snowfall of the winter descends on Wichita – primarily sideways, because of the strong northerly winds – motorists are once again acting as if they’ve never seen this stuff before.

Authorities are telling me that drivers are acting as if the roads are perfectly normal…and that’s creating numerous slide-offs and collisions as they discover too late that they’re wrong.

This happens every winter, unfortunately. Tom Hein, a Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman, even called today a “learning-curve storm,” meaning it’s the wake-up call that winter has arrived.

The National Weather Service is now saying as much as 4 inches of snow could fall in the metro area by the time the fast-moving storm passes into southeastern Kansas.

But keep an eye on forecasts and conditions. That number could easily change.

And slow down out there. Please.

Blowing and drifting snow Tuesday

Updated forecasts call for perhaps an inch or two of snow in the Wichita area, with strong northerly winds causing blowing and drifting snow and poor driving conditions – particularly Tuesday morning.

Snowfall should end in the Wichita area by late Tuesday afternoon.

Monitor forecasts and conditions closely.

Wichita’s first snow of the season looms

Forecasters say an inch or more of snow is expected to fall in the Wichita area early Tuesday – but it’s the wind that promises to be the bigger issue.

Steady north winds of 30 miles an hour, with gusts even higher than that, will make travel in the region challenging, forecasters warn – especially on east-west roads such as Kellogg/U.S. 400.

The morning commute in the Wichita area figures to be a challenge Tuesday, so plan ahead….and keep an eye on forecasts.

Snow fell Wednesday in places around Kansas you may never have heard of

Snow is falling again in western Kansas today, and Wichita may see snowflakes late tonight and early Friday.

It’s not the first snow of the week for much of the western sector of the state. As much as 4″ fell at McCracken in Rush County and 11 miles south of Ruleton in Sherman County, and 3″ fell in Leoti, Sharon Springs and in rural areas north of Marienthal and southwest of Goodland.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of Ruleton, McCracken and Marienthal. Ruleton is a ghost town west of Goodland just north of I-70 on old U.S. 24, so small the census records no population for it. McCracken is a small place northwest of LaCrosse, and Marienthal is an even tinier town between Leoti and Scott City on K-96.

Marienthal is one of those rural Kansas hamlets whose most dominant structure is its Catholic Church towering over the prairie – think St. Joe-Ost for an example near Wichita – and I always remembered McCracken for its bandbox of a high school gym with balconies hovering over the court.

My prep alma mater, Pawnee Heights, regularly played McCracken when the school was still open, and we joked about relying on jump shots because anybody flying in for a layup was at risk for barreling into the brick wall about a foot from the out-of-bounds line. It was the kind of gym you expected to see in the movie “Hoosiers” – but that also made it fun to see.

A snowy Black Friday for central Kansas

The first measurable snow of winter for central Kansas had fallen by the time I awoke on the morning after Thanksgiving in Larned. It wasn’t much – just a dusting – but it delighted my young nieces and nephews.

It also made me wonder if heavier amounts had fallen nearby. Sure enough, this snowfall map provided by the National Weather Service shows that two and three inches of snow fell north and west of our family farm.

More snow was forecast in or near Great Bend today.