Wichita residents planning to travel in the days leading up to Christmas face a mixed bag of challenges.
The weather will be so pleasant this weekend Wichita police on Friday urged shoppers and travelers to be careful as they’re hitting the streets and highways to take advantage of the conditions.
“We don’t want a repeat of last year,” when three fatal crashes occurred on the same mid-December weekend, Lt. Joe Schroeder said.
Patrol South will be conducting a DUI patrol this weekend as part of the efforts to protect holiday travelers, he said.
A storm system is expected to bring several inches of snow Monday into Tuesday to portions of central and northern Kansas, forecasters say. Wichita could also see measurable snow from the storm.
“The best chance for accumulating snow looks like it’ll be...say, Hutchinson to Hays,” said Brad Ketcham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. “Along I-70, especially Salina to Hays, that section is definitely going to be under the gun Monday night.”
Up to 6 inches could fall in central Kansas, Ketcham said, but he cautioned that the storm is still a few days away. Earlier in the week, he said, forecast models were suggesting the heaviest snow would fall between Wichita and Hutchinson, but updates have shifted that zone farther north.
Wichita may escape with only a dusting of snow from this storm, he said. Precipitation will start as rain in the Wichita area, then transition to snow.
How soon that transition takes place will determine how much snow Wichita receives, said Mike Umscheid, a meteorologist with the Dodge City branch of the weather service.
Whatever falls will melt or transform into slush by mid-week, Ketcham said, but longer-term models are indicating a strong shot of arctic air will reach Kansas by Christmas weekend. There’s even a slight chance of wintry precipitation arriving with it, he said.
Travelers are getting a bit of a break at the pump as the holiday travel period shifts into gear.
The price of a gallon of unleaded gas dipped below $3 Thursday, down 8 cents from last week and 15 cents from a month ago.
Motorists will have new or improved services available to help them monitor conditions in the Wichita area and around the state. The Kansas Department of Transportation on Thursday unveiled a new website offering up-to-the-minute information on conditions and issues affecting highways in the Wichita area.
WICHway.org will share travel speeds and camera views on select routes, messages posted on roadside signs and other information for drivers. The site is one component of KDOT’s Intelligent Transportation System that monitors 22 miles of the city’s highway system.
The first phase of the project covers Kellogg from Ridge Road to Woodlawn, I-135 from Harry to the junction with I-235, K96 and K254, and the interchange linking I-235, K96 and Meridian.
Motorists traveling longer distances through Kansas can go to the KanRoad page on KDOT’s website.
Based on information provided by airlines, passenger volume at Mid-Continent Airport will begin to climb on Wednesday and peak on the two days after Christmas, said Valerie Wise, air service and business development manager for the Wichita Airport Authority.
Wise encouraged passengers whose flights are scheduled to depart between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to arrive two hours prior to their flight.