Heavy snow expected in parts of Kansas this weekend

Steve Berg shovels more than 4 inches of fresh snow from his driveway in 2014.
Steve Berg shovels more than 4 inches of fresh snow from his driveway in 2014. The Wichita Eagle

Parts of Kansas could see more than a foot of snow this weekend from a storm that forecasters say is poised to break records and potentially damage what has been shaping up to be a bountiful wheat crop.

“There’s going to be a bunch of it,” said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist-in-charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service. “We’re doomed.”

Scott City and the surrounding area could see 14 inches of snow or more, Ruthi said, and areas west of Liberal could see at least a foot of heavy, wet snow. Areas near the Colorado state line could see snow start to fall Saturday morning and continue much of the weekend.

“If this were a month ago, we’d be looking at 2 feet of snow” in the region, Ruthi said.

Snowfall amounts will diminish as the front moves east and interacts with warmer air, he said. But Dodge City could see 2 to 4 inches of snow, and flurries are possible as far east as central Kansas. If those forecasts prove accurate, several snowfall records could be set.

Motorists on I-70 could see slushy conditions, forecasters say, with 8 inches of snow possible in parts of northwest Kansas. The most significant impacts from the storm, Ruthi said, could be power outages caused by limbs brought down by snow accumulating on leaves.

Hutchinson, Wichita and points east and northeast should only see rain this weekend — but they’ll see plenty of it. Some parts of Kansas could see up to 3 inches of rain as the storm system rolls through the Sunflower State.

Forecasters are projecting about 1.5 inches of rain for Wichita this weekend, said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the Wichita branch of the weather service.

“I think we’re going to be fine” in terms of avoiding snow, Hayes said.

But lows in the upper 30s and low 40s could pose a threat to summer annuals that have already been put outside, said Matt McKernan, horticulture agent for the Sedgwick County office of Kansas State Research and Extension.

“Those new plants, if we can pull them inside for the weekend, that would be best,” McKernan said.

Wheat farmers in western Kansas will be watching overnight temperatures closely, said Andrea Burns, agriculture and natural resources agent for Ford County.

Temperatures that fall into the mid-20s for several hours could be devastating for wheat that has already started to develop heads, Burns said. But a thick layer of snow could offer insulation against the cold — and then valuable moisture as it melts.

Southwest Kansas is one section of the state still grappling with drought.

“We’ll take any form of moisture we can get,” Burns said. “Even if it comes in the form of snow in the first part of May.”

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger