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Stormy Thanksgiving holidays

As often as my work schedule has allowed, I try to make it out to the family farm for Thanksgiving weekend. It was a rare opportunity to see several of my family members – I’m one of eight children – as well as Mom and Dad.

There was always a major chore or two to tackle while we were out there – Dad was wise enough to save them for when he knew he’d have plenty of helping hands available – and if we were lucky there was an afternoon or evening when the local high school gym was available for our all-hands-on-deck volleyball matches and basketball games. What we lacked in talent we made up for in merriment.

Those traditions always made packing for a Thanksgiving weekend out at the farm a challenge: I had to pack work clothes and boots, as well as sneakers and gym clothes…

….and I learned the importance of packing for two seasons – fall and winter. Virtually every time I went home to central Kansas for the holiday, there seemed to be a dramatic shift in the weather at some point during the four-day period.

The first time (alas, not the only time) I slid off an icy road was coming back to Wichita on the Sunday after Thanksgiving a few years after I graduated from high school. It was on K-96, just past the curve known as Krupper’s Korner. The icy mix coming down had glazed the highway so fiercely that my tires simply lost traction as I attempted to navigate the turn. My Pontiac LeMans spun around in a slow 360 and came to a stop in the gently sloping ditch.

I was fortunate no one else was on the highway at the time and, after taking a few moments to collect myself, put the car back in gear, pressed speculatively on the accelerator – and pulled right back onto the highway. The grass offered enough traction for the tires to do their job. Thankfully, the rest of the journey was uneventful.

Thanksgiving weekends in Kansas seem to offer a vast smorgasbord of wintry weather, often shoulder-to-shoulder with unseasonably warm spells that invite games of touch football in the back yard or long walks through a neighborhood or down a rural pathway.

National Weather Service meteorologist-in-charge Dick Elder told me it’s not just my imagination that Thanksgiving weekend routinely throws Kansans a curve ball with its weather.

“This time of year…it’s just a conveyer belt of storm systems,” he said.“Typically, you have a storm system move through once every four days.”

That timing almost guarantees a notable change in the weather at some point during the holiday period. If moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean meets up with arctic air plunging down from Canada, Kansas gets whacked with a wintry mess. If the cold air stays north, the moisture falls as simply cold rain.

Here’s hoping holiday travelers handle this weekend’s weather surprise with aplomb – or get home in time for it not to matter.