Weather

Monday's heat fells May 1895 record in Wichita

Wichita hit 100 on the earliest date in its history Monday, toppling a record dating back more than 115 years.

The heat was suspected as a factor in the death of a 30-year-old man who passed out while working on a roofing job in Butler County. He was taken to Via Christi Hospital on Harry just after 6:30 p.m., where he was pronounced dead.

Strong winds out of the Southwest, passing over deserts and drought-stricken farmland, sent temperatures soaring 30 degrees above normal for this time of spring.

"When that happens, it warms up pretty darn quick," said Brad Ketcham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Wichita reached 100 early in the afternoon before temperatures fell off a bit. The previous record for May 9 was 95, set in 1895.

Warnings were issued for the western half of Kansas and a handful of other states on Monday as dry vegetation and strong winds combined to create ideal conditions for grass fires.

Sedgwick County Emergency Medical Service officials issued an alert Monday cautioning residents to take precautions against heatstroke, dehydration and other heat-related illnesses.

Meteorologists on Monday sounded a different type of alert as well. Kansans — including those in the Wichita area — will need to pay attention to the weather on Wednesday.

Strong storms, including tornadoes, are possible in a large chunk of Kansas that day.

Wednesday looks like "a pretty potent day" for severe weather, Weather Data president Mike Smith said.

While strong winds and large hail are the most likely severe weather threats in the Wichita area Wednesday, Ketcham said, "You can't completely rule out a tornado threat — especially this time of year."

The Storm Prediction Center has placed the central third of Kansas in a slight risk for severe weather on Wednesday. Wichita is on the eastern edge of the targeted area.

What Wichita and the state could really use is rain, forecasters say. Wichita is more than 2 inches below normal for rainfall this year.

"A lot of people are really counting on that precipitation chance" later this week, Ketcham said. "There are a lot of nervous farmers that have been wanting precipitation, that's for sure."

The rain would be valuable in easing the drought, too. Most of Kansas — including Wichita — is already abnormally dry or in moderate to severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

A handful of cities around Kansas hit 100 on Sunday —Kingman and Anthony among them — and several more 100s were expected Monday. But weather officials say those temperatures do not mean the Wichita area is doomed to a particularly scorching summer.

More telling, they say, would be a nagging lack of rain.

"If the drought continues, it is very likely that we will have a hotter than average summer," Smith said.

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