October 19, 2013

Winter forecast calls for more snow than normal in Wichita

New snow shovel?

New snow shovel?

Plenty of deicer for the steps and driveway?

An industrial-sized ice scraper and snow brush?

Wichita residents may want to stock up on all of those, if AccuWeather’s snow season forecast proves accurate. It calls for above-normal snow this winter for the eastern half of Kansas, including Wichita.

Flurries fell in Wichita and snow piled up in western and central Kansas on Friday, reminding many that Old Man Winter is near.

Last winter dumped 30 inches of snow on Wichita, with snow flurries falling in the city as late as early May. The 30 inches tied for fifth on the city’s list of snowiest winters.

Much of that snow came in two storms less than a week apart late in the season.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a little more spread out this year,” said Guy Pearson, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather’s Wichita branch.

Wichita has averaged 14.7 inches of snow over the past 30 years, according to the local branch of the National Weather Service. If AccuWeather is right, December will be normal for temperatures and precipitation, but January will be above normal for precipitation and February will be below normal for temperatures and normal for precipitation.

That translates into a cold and snowy start to 2014.

Atmospheric conditions suggest this will not be a benign winter across Kansas, said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist-in-charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service.

“The arctic has been cooler most of this summer than last year, so there may be a more robust source of cold air this winter,” Ruthi said in an e-mail response to questions.

Ridges in the upper atmosphere are pushing the jet stream south before they reach the nation’s mid-section, he said, meaning that conveyer belt for storms will push into Kansas from the desert Southwest.

“When these events occur, there likely will be significant winter storms in the Central Plains,” Ruthi said.

He also expects some colder-than-average surges, “especially from late December through February.” But there will be warm spells, too, offering Kansans the occasional reprieve from winter’s grip.

“There is not much support (in computer models) for an extended period of brutally cold weather like we had in 1983,” he said.

Friday’s snow amounted to a trace in Wichita, said Vanessa Pearce, a meteorologist with the weather service. The earliest day of measurable snow in Wichita is Oct. 22, 1996, when a couple tenths of an inch fell.

But that early event did not portend a snowy winter: Only 16.5 inches of snow fell, slightly above the typical winter.

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