Monthly Archives: April 2013

Wichita weather: Warm and windy, then more showers move in

Wichita can expect another warm, sunny day and plenty of wind today, forecasters say. Then the latest round of showers arrives, with unusually cold air pushing in behind it.

Highs today are projected to reach the low to mid-80s, with south winds blowing steadily in the upper teens to mid-20s. Gusts may approach 35 miles an hour.

A chance of rain arrives after midnight, when lows only drop to the low 60s. Showers and thunderstorms are likely on Wednesday, forecasters say, with highs in the upper 60s and winds shifting from the south early in the day to the north-northwest by late afternoon.

The cold front will help drop overnight lows into the 30s, with north-northwest winds in the mid-20. Chances for rain will persist.

By Thursday morning, snow could mix with the rain, forecasters say.

For more information on current conditions, go to our weather page.

Weather Channel ranks Wichita #9 on ‘tornado cities’

This is “Tornado Week” on The Weather Channel. Check the network’s listings for programming about tornadoes. The website features a story today about the “Top 10 Tornado Cities.”

Wichita is the only Kansas city on the list. The irony of that is how often I’ve been told over the years that Wichita is “immune” from tornadoes.

As if April 14, 2012, or April 26, 1991, weren’t enough to shatter that myth.

Wichita weather: Sunny, breezy and warm

Now this is more like it.

The warm, sunny weather that embraced Wichita’s weekend will continue for a few more days, forecasters say, with sunny skies and highs in the 80s Monday and Tuesday.

South winds will strengthen as Monday stretches out, from the single digits early to the upper teens by mid-afternoon. Gusts could approach 30 miles an hour.

Overnight lows tonight will only drop to the low 60s, with the south winds easing only a little. Gusts on Tuesday could approach 35 miles an hour, forecasters say.

Showers re-enter the forecast Tuesday night and Wednesday in the Wichita area.

For more information on current conditions, go to our weather page.

Remembering the last Friday in April 22 years ago

I noticed it the moment I stepped outside.

The air felt funny. Unsettled. A quixotic combination of hot and cool, with humidity clinging to me as I walked to my car.

It told me trouble was looming. I drove to the office and urged co-workers to finish their stories as soon as possible, because severe weather was likely later in the day. Some may have heeded my advice. Others probably rolled their eyes and went on with their day.

But forecasters had been warning of the potential for severe weather on that Friday – and the conditions that morning told me they were right.

The tornado that touched down just before 6 p.m. two miles south-southeast of Clearwater wasn’t the first of the day, but it was the worst. It was on the ground for more than an hour, grew to EF5 in intensity – the highest rating on the Fujita Scale – was up to a half-mile wide and traveled 46 miles. Haysville, south Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base and Andover were hit, along with houses in unincorporated areas.

The tornado killed 17 people – 13 of them in the Golden Spur Mobile Home Park in Andover – and injured 225.

This footage is some of the most iconic of the tornado, shot from Terradyne Country Club.

I joined a few co-workers on the south side of the Eagle building, watching the tornado move through south Wichita. It was almost entirely obscured by rain, so it was difficult for us to tell how much damage it was doing. Within minutes, however, I was heading to Broadway and 55th Street South, where a mobile home park had been leveled. I called my initial story in from a pay phone at a heavily damaged convenience store.

Hospitals bracing for injured victims from Haysville and south Wichita wondered why so many wounded were coming from Butler County. It took a while for word to filter in that Andover had been hammered as well.

Here is another video of the Andover tornado, shot from a house on 2nd Street in Andover and first shown only three years ago. The tornado appeared destined to wipe out the heart of Andover before veering to the right. It stayed south of Central for most of its trek, sparing most of the city.

The tornado nonetheless caused an estimated $300 million in damage, including $62 million at McConnell. It was one of 55 tornadoes to touch down that day. A second F5 tornado that raked north-central Oklahoma that day was even more violent than the Haysville-Wichita-Andover tornado. Known as the Red Rock Tornado, it traveled 66 miles and was nearly 1 mile wide. The tornado was so strong it scoured pavement off a highway.

A portable Doppler radar measured 257 to 268 MPH winds inside the vortex. At the time, they were the strongest winds ever measured on Earth.

One snowy winter for Wichita

That .2 of an inch of snow earlier this week pushed this winter into a tie for the 5th snowiest in Wichita’s history, according to the National Weather Service.

A total of 30 inches of snow fell this winter, tying 1972-73 for #5 on the list of snowiest winters since records began being kept in 1889.

Wichita weather: Showers and thunderstorms

Showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for the Wichita area today, forecasters say.

Highs are expected to reach the upper 50s to low 60s, with south winds occasionally reaching double digits. Clouds will linger overnight, with lows in the mid-40s.

The weekend will offer sunny skies and highs in the upper 60s and low 70s. Winds will be light and variable, forecasters say.

For more information on current conditions, go to our weather page.

National Weather Service completes radar upgrades

Brownsville has become the answer to a trivia question: What is the last The National Weather Service branch to have its radar updated to dual-polarization technology?

The south Texas branch was among 122 NWS radar sites to receive the upgrades, which began nearly two years ago. The updated technology is helping federal weather forecasters more accurately track, assess and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather.

The Wichita branch was among the first in the nation to receive the upgrade, with the installation occurring in July 2011.

Dual-polarization is the most significant enhancement made to the nation’s federal weather radar system since Doppler technology was first installed in the early 1990s, officials for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Dual-pol radar sends and receives both horizontal and vertical pulses, which produces a much more detailed picture of the size and shape of the objects in the sky. This provides meteorologists the ability to distinguish between rain, snow, hail and non-weather items such as wildfire smoke plumes, birds and insects. Conventional Doppler radar only has a one-dimensional view, making it difficult to tell the type of precipitation or object in the sky.

The new radars have been able to detect debris balls created by tornadoes, offering further confirmation of a damaging twister.

“This achievement is the result of years of research, development and continued investment that’s helping us become a more weather-ready nation,” said Dr. Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, in a prepared statement. “It is amazing what we can see with dual-pol technology. This game-changing technology has already helped forecasters issue more accurate and timely warnings to the public and has saved lives.”

Dual-pol is credited with providing improved detection of heavy rainfall, which can increase warning time for flash floods. During winter storms, forecasters use dual-pol information to monitor a transition from snow to sleet and freezing rain, which allows for a more accurate forecast. Dual-pol can also spot airborne debris giving forecasters the ability to confirm a tornado on the ground, even in the dark or when hidden by heavy rain. The new technology has also been used to help detect hazards to aircraft, such as volcanic ash plumes, icing conditions and birds.

The National Weather Service has used dual-pol to develop 14 new radar products that have improved the speed, understanding, and accuracy of the information it provides about extreme weather. Forecasters now have more confidence to accurately assess weather events and be more descriptive in weather warnings, which helps improve public response to the warnings.

NOAA officials touted a few “success stories” attributed to the new radar technology:

On Feb. 10, 2013, NWS weather forecasters in Jackson, Miss., used the new radar technology to confirm a powerful tornado (EF-4) was moving across Southern Mississippi’s Lamar County toward the populated city of Hattiesburg. Forecasters warned the public using detailed, descriptive language about the tornado’s size and path, resulting in no fatalities. On the same day, dual-pol information helped the Jackson forecasters recognize thunderstorms with particularly heavy rainfall rates, enabling them to issue flash flood warnings more than an hour before flash flooding started.

On Nov. 7-8, 2012, NWS meteorologists at the Boston forecast office relied on dual-pol radar information to help locate the rain/snow line as a nor’easter traversed the area. During the afternoon and evening, a storm formed across Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts. Snow fell to the west of the boundary where temperatures dipped into the 30s, while rain fell to the east where temperatures held in the 40s. Using dual-pol information, forecasters were able to accurately track the slow progress of the rain-snow line and provide short term forecasts which helped department of transportation officials focus their snow removal assets and for the media to highlight the hazardous routes to the traveling public.

In addition to the 122 NWS-owned radars, the full nationwide radar network includes another 37 radar sites owned by the FAA and Defense Department, which will be completely upgraded to dual-pol technology this summer. NOAA’s NEXRAD radar program is a tri-agency effort with NOAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the United States Air Force.

Wichita weather: Morning frost, then warmer temperatures

Patchy frost is possible in the Wichita area Thursday morning before temperatures surge nicely into the 60s, forecasters say.

Skies should be mostly sunny, with light and variable winds shifting to the south and blowing steadily in the teens. Overnight lows will bottom out in the upper 40s, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms arriving after midnight.

Rain is likely during the day Friday, forecasters say, with highs in the low 60s. Winds will be out of the south but stay pretty light.

The weekend looks sunny, warm and dry in the Wichita area, with highs in the upper 60s and low 70s.

For more information on current conditions, go to our weather page.

Snowfall totals over the past two days in Wichita area

Now that’s a headline you don’t expect to see in late April in southern Kansas. But here’s a map produced by the National Weather Service showing snowfall earlier this week. It’s the latest measurable snow has ever fallen in Wichita.

Temperature records keep falling in Wichita

Old Man Winter’s firm grip on the Great Plains late into April is leaving its mark on the record books in Wichita and around Kansas.

Add record low temperatures for April 23 and 24 in Wichita to the lengthening list.

Tuesday’s record low in Wichita reached 32 prior to midnight, and today has already set a new low reading of 25 – shattering the old mark of 31 set in 1967.

Much warmer temperatures are expected the rest of the week, so the end of the cold snap appears to be in sight.