That’s more like it: A welcome warm spell arrives in Kansas

Austin Brookes washes his SUV. (Dec. 19, 2014)
Austin Brookes washes his SUV. (Dec. 19, 2014) File photo

Who are you, and what have you done with January?

It’s actually warm outside – so warm, winter coats are being tossed aside.

It’s sunny outside – so bright that sunglasses are virtually mandatory.

The thermometer’s spitting out numbers not seen lately. 60? What is that?

“It is wonderful outside,” Larry Ruthi, meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service, said Friday.

Pretty much all of Kansas reached 60 degrees on Friday, a temperature elevation seen only once in Wichita since the end of November. That’s about 20 degrees above normal for the middle of January in the Sunflower State.

It’s not just a one-hit wonder, either: 60s and upper 50s are expected to linger through the middle of next week.

Thank the arrival of downslope winds off the front range of the Rockies, which can send temperatures in Kansas soaring as the descending winds compress – and thus heat up – air close to the surface.

The current fronts dropping down from Canada aren’t packed with the same biting cold as earlier batches, said Vanessa Pearce, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the weather service.

That combination is giving folks a respite from a frigid first half of the month, when the terms “wind chill” and “below zero” seemed to be a daily part of the vocabulary.

Those downslope winds will have some bite in western Kansas on Saturday, with gusts approaching 50 miles an hour in places such as Garden City and Goodland.

“It’ll be interesting to see if we get any blowing dust from that,” Ruthi said.

The freezing and thawing and refreezing has made the top layer of soil “really pretty powdery,” he said, and ripe for blowing. It shouldn’t be anything to evoke images of the Dust Bowl, he said, but travelers will want to stay alert.

Go ahead and wash the car when you can this weekend, Ruthi said. Old Man Winter hasn’t packed his suitcase just yet.

“We’re not done with cold weather,” Ruthi said. “The winter’s definitely not over yet.”

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

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