April 9, 2013

Wichita under winter storm warning until 7 p.m. Wednesday

A winter storm warning is in effect for Wichita and Sedgwick County until 7 p.m. Wednesday.

A winter storm warning is in effect for Wichita and Sedgwick County until 7 p.m. Wednesday.

There is a chance for freezing rain and sleet, said Chance Hayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

There is even a chance of thunder with the freezing rain, which would cause the precipitation to be more intense, Hayes said. He said that drivers should be very cautious if the precipitation does fall. Temperatures were expected to drop to 28 overnight.

The ground is warm enough to hinder freezing on pavement, at least initially, Hayes said, but freezing rain or sleet could cause problems on trees, power lines and overpasses.

The possibility of a winter storm marked a dramatic turn in the weather from earlier Tuesday, when the high reached 75 before a cold front moved in and dropped the temperature more than 20 degrees. There was a chance for severe weather that did not materialize in Wichita.

The high Wednesday is supposed to make it only into the mid- to upper 30s.

While Wichita is close to the average last-frost date, Wednesday and Thursday nights will be around 30 degrees as well, which is pretty unusual this time of year, meteorologist Kevin Darmofal said. “The way this spring has gone has surprised us,” Darmofal said, not ruling out another freeze next week.

Below-freezing temperatures are always dicey this time of year for plants. The main threat this go-round is to fruit trees that are in bloom, extension agent Rebecca McMahon said. She recommends that people who have blooming fruit trees that are small enough to be covered go ahead and cover them, as well as potatoes that have put on growth above ground.

Otherwise, cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce and radishes that have been outside a while will be fine without a cover, she said. But if you just transplanted them from the greenhouse, they should be covered, she said.

Similarly, cool-season annuals such as pansies, snapdragons and alyssum will be fine, extension agent Bob Neier said. If you’ve already put out vegetables such as tomatoes or annuals that like hot weather, though, they need to be covered. Use light covers that won’t bend stems.

Spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips will be fine, Neier said.

“Everything else that’s coming up ... that was ahead is now behind,” he said. “The plants are naturally kind of held back, and I think we’re going to be fine. The things that are outside at the garden centers are the real cold-hardy things.”

The landscape supervisor at Botanica, Pat McKernan, said that he now he expects the peak of tulip bloom to be Friday or Saturday. Temperatures are expected to rise slowly over the next several days, making it into the 70s Sunday.

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