Showers, thunderstorms could be regular visitors to Riverfest this week

06/01/2014 6:38 PM

08/06/2014 11:42 AM

Riverfest revelers may want to keep a rain slicker or umbrella close at hand, forecasters say, because chances for showers and thunderstorms will be popping up throughout the week.

“Periodic bouts of strong to severe thunderstorms, along with locally heavy rain” are possible in the Wichita area Wednesday through Saturday, according to a hazardous-weather outlook released by the National Weather Service on Sunday.

The storms are most likely to occur during the afternoon, evening and overnight, the outlook said.

Portions of northern Kansas face the threat of severe weather – including tornadoes – on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be pretty active through the entire week,” said Scott Smith, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the weather service.

The Weather Prediction Center is forecasting 4.6 inches of rain for the Wichita area – and more than 2 inches for much of the eastern half of Kansas – over the next week. That would be welcome news for a region gripped by drought.

“If it comes close to verifying, it would put a huge dent in the drought,” said Becky Elliott, a meteorologist with AccuWeather’s Wichita branch.

As of Sunday afternoon, 6.07 inches of rain had been recorded so far this year at Wichita’s official recording site next to Mid-Continent Airport in southwest Wichita. That’s 5.79 inches below normal through May 31.

The 4.06 inches of rain that fell in May was about a half-inch below normal for the month.

“Every little bit will help,” Smith said.

Nearly 99 percent of the state is in moderate to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. All of the Wichita metropolitan area is in moderate to extreme drought conditions.

Any storms this week aren’t likely to wash away festival events, forecasters say, but areas that happen to be hit by thunderstorms could get a good soaking.

“Lightning is always a hazard as well,” Elliott said.

Tornadoes aren’t considered a likely threat, but “you can never rule it out,” Smith said. “Nothing’s really pointing to an outbreak, though.”

The first week of June will have to be pretty dramatic to match May’s quirkiness in the Wichita area. The 102-degree high temperature on May 4 broke two records: the high for that date and the earliest 100-degree day in Wichita history.

Two more record high temperatures were set later that same week: 99 degrees on May 6 and 96 on May 7. The latter half of the month returned to more seasonal temperatures.

June is shaping up to be wetter than normal across Kansas, according to the Climate Prediction Center, but also warmer than normal.

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