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Despite spring’s arrival, Kansas likely not done with snow, forecasters say

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 23, 2014, at 9:32 p.m.

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The calendar says it’s spring. More and more, the temperatures do, too.

But forecasters warn that more snow is possible around Kansas before Old Man Winter vanishes for good.

“I would bet in early April, we’re going to have another snow event – I would almost bet money,” said Larry Ruthi, the meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service.

Forecast models suggest temperatures in late March and early April will be well below normal for Kansas and most of the eastern half of the nation. A strong front rolling into Kansas in early April would then be in position to deliver snow rather than rain, Ruthi said.

Snow in April is far from unusual, forecasters say. Wichita recorded measurable snow in late April as recently as last year.

The heaviest 24-hour snowfall in Kansas history – 30 inches – occurred in Pratt on March 28, 2009.

“Some of our biggest snow totals are in our spring storms,” state climatologist Mary Knapp said.

That’s no surprise, forecasters say, because by the time March arrives, there’s more moisture moving up from the Gulf of Mexico than during the heart of winter. With more moisture to work with, the storms can produce more snow.

“You can’t rule out another snowfall episode or two,” said Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the weather service in Topeka, where snow fell last May.

"That,” Sanders said, “was a shocker.”

Wichita set a record last year for latest measurable snowfall when 0.2 of an inch fell on April 24 – and nearly had its first May snowfall on record. But only a trace fell on May 1.

With the jet stream still bringing remarkably cold air deep into the eastern half of the U.S. as March wanes, snow seems even more likely than normal. It’s been a snowy winter for most of Kansas already.

Wichita has logged 22.7 inches of snow so far – more than 50 percent above the city’s average over the past 30 years.

Dodge City, meanwhile, has logged 28.9 inches of snow so far. That’s nearly 11 inches above normal.

Topeka is at 25.6 inches, nearly 6 inches above normal.

Northwest Kansas – historically the snowiest part of the state – is slightly below normal for snowfall at 25.8 inches.

Those hefty numbers are a bit deceiving, however.

“It’s been very dry snow,” said Mike Kochasic, a meteorologist with the Goodland branch of the weather service. “Not a whole lot of moisture in it.”

Despite the higher-than-normal snowfall totals in drought-riddled western Kansas, Dodge City is nearly an inch below normal for precipitation since January.

“They’re all saying they’d like some more rain,” Ray Burgert, a meteorologist with the weather service branch in Dodge City, said of farmers in the area.

They’re likely to get it this spring, at least. The Climate Prediction Center forecast through the end of May predicts the drought easing considerably in most of the western third of the state – leaving only the far southwest corner still in drought.

Ruthi said forecast models are indicating another “northwest flow” pattern could set up this summer, bringing a steady succession of rains to Kansas. That pattern produced a cool, wet summer last year for the eastern half of the state.

The western half of Kansas appears poised to benefit more than it did last year, Ruth said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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