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How cold was it in Wichita? Cold enough to break a 59-year-old record low temperature

Watch time-lapse accumulation of Wichita snowfall

About two inches of snow fell in the Wichita area on Tuesday. Snowfall amounts in surrounding counties were as high as eight inches.
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About two inches of snow fell in the Wichita area on Tuesday. Snowfall amounts in surrounding counties were as high as eight inches.

A weekend winter storm saw temperatures so cold they broke a 59-year-old record low in Wichita, meteorologists say.

The local branch of the National Weather Service said a low temperature of 2 degrees Tuesday morning at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport broke the 1960 record of 3 degrees for March 5.

Record lows were also set at Salina Municipal Airport, with negative 1 degree breaking the record of 1 degree set in 1960, and Russell Municipal Airport, where negative 5 degrees broke the old record of negative 2 degrees also set in 1960.

“This has not been friendly for us at all,” said weather service meteorologist Chris Jakub. “It has been a tough pattern.”

The 1960 storm still holds the Wichita record low temperature for March 3-4, as well as the coolest high records for March 3-5. The recent storm came close to breaking several of those records with daily highs only reaching the teens and 20s, Jakub said.

“Any time you’re setting records, you’re in pretty rare territory,” he said. “That just shows you how rare this weather pattern is, to be this cold, especially in March.”

The winter storm had dropped 2.7 inches of snow at Eisenhower by 9 a.m. Sunday, but other areas of Wichita had reports of up to 3 inches. Weather service officials said that blowing and drifting snow made measuring more difficult. Prior to the storm, the weather service predicted a 100 percent chance for snow, with potential accumulation reaching 3-5 inches.

Even if a full 5 inches had fallen, it wouldn’t have broken a snowfall record. The record for Saturday — March 2 — is 5 inches set in 1912. Sunday’s record is 5.9 inches set in 1952. But the snow was the most in a single event for the Wichita office since the Easter snow of March 27, 2016, the NWS said.

Jakub said the average high for this time of March is about 54 degrees.

“Sometimes you get locked into the patterns of these extremes,” Jakub said, adding that weather extremes can also be on the warmer side.

The Wichita branch of the weather service tracks records in Russell, a town about 150 miles northwest of Wichita, which has experienced record-setting temperature extremes on both ends in the past two years.

This year’s storm set a record low of negative 9 degrees on Monday, a year after a record high of 80 degrees was set on the same day — March 4 — according to the NWS. That 2018 heat wave also set a record high of 79 degrees for March 3.

And Wichita saw one day of record-breaking heat last month when 46 degrees on Feb. 2 set a new record for warmest low temperature.

The weather service forecast for the rest of the week calls for warmer temperatures, but they’ll still be mostly below the average for this time of year. Wednesday’s predicted high is near 44 degrees, with 47 on Thursday, 48 on Friday, 57 on Saturday and 49 on Sunday.

But colder weather is expected to return next week. Jakub said the long-range models show a 60-80 percent chance of below normal temperatures continuing through mid-March.

School is canceled Wednesday in Kingman, KS, after a winter snow storm hit Kansas. The elementary-middle school made the announcement with a "Let it Go" parody song from Disney's "Frozen." (Feb. 19, 2019)

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Jason Tidd is a reporter at The Wichita Eagle covering breaking news, crime and courts.


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