Possible storm may spell snow for Christmas

Go ahead, Wichita — dare to dream of a white Christmas.

The holiday is still more than a week away, but forecasters say computer simulations suggest a winter storm could bring snow to the metropolitan area in the middle of next week.

"There are certainly some initial signs that something may be brewing for just before the Christmas holiday," KWCH meteorologist Merril Teller said.

Very cold air should trail the system, meaning any snow that falls would likely still be on the ground Christmas Day, said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Meteorologists draped those projections in a heavy cloak of caution, warning that forecasts a week or more out still aren't very reliable.

"We, of course, have had some wonderful snowfalls in Kansas, and in Wichita, in December," KSN meteorologist Dave Freeman said.

But those storms are notoriously difficult to gauge, he said.

"I think last week's storm is a really good example to look at," he said. "We could tell five days in advance there was the potential for a significant winter storm, and we said so. But when it came right down to it, Wichita ended up getting virtually no snow out of that system."

Just a few miles north, however, several inches of snow fell.

White Christmases are the exception, not the rule, in Wichita.

National Weather Service records show that Wichita has had a white Christmas only about once every five to 10 years.

The city's last white Christmas came two years ago, when there was still snow on the ground on Christmas Day from a storm that dropped nearly 7 inches on Dec. 22.

The record for snow on the ground in Wichita on Christmas Day is 4 inches, way back in 1894.

For the record, flurries on Dec. 25 don't count — at least according to the weather service. There has to be at least an inch of measurable snow on the ground for the event to count in the agency's records.

Depending on the nature and the intensity of the winter storm, forecasters say, it could snarl roads just before large numbers of people head out for the holidays.

"I think it's a very good idea for people to be thinking cautiously about travel," Freeman said.

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