Winter storm expected to hit Wichita; accumulation forecast to start overnight

Forecast map released by National Weather Service on Sunday morning.
Forecast map released by National Weather Service on Sunday morning. Courtesy of National Weather Service

Forecasters are still calling for 3-6 inches of snow in Wichita area Sunday night and Monday, with sleet and freezing rain mixed in to the south and east of Wichita.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Cook said he expected sleet to start after midnight then turn to snow, falling through the afternoon Monday.

“Things are still on track,” he said. “We’re still expecting the heaviest band on a line from Kingman up through Topeka.”

The original forecast for ice and freezing rain earlier Sunday didn’t materialize, which gave city crews the chance to improve driving conditions considerably for Monday morning commuters in Wichita.

Alan King, director of public works for the city of Wichita, said that his crews were able to lay down sand-salt mixture on all 1,500 lane-miles of the city’s primary streets and spend time on secondary routes because there was no rain to wash the mixture off.

His crews planned to continue traveling streets Sunday night and Monday morning, spreading the mixture. When the snow hits, driving conditions initially will suffer, he said, but will improve as cars churn up the gritty, slushy snow and then as plows push it off the road.

Conditions surrounding the multistate storm are complicated, and the heavy precipitation farther south didn’t arrive in the area earlier Sunday as anticipated.

The powerful storm dumped heavy snow and ice on its western edges as it moved northeast, along with heavy rains on its southern and eastern edges. Northern New Mexico, northern and western Texas and western Oklahoma on Sunday received heavy snow, while southern and eastern New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma got heavy rain, high winds and occasional tornadoes.

Garland, Texas, was was hit by a tornado that killed eight people and injured 15. And as many as 600 homes in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett were damaged by tornadoes. The new figure brings the total estimate of damaged homes in Texas to as many as 1,450.

The damage in the Wichita area was relatively minor Sunday.

About 1,500 homes in the Rose Hill area lost electrical power Sunday, likely for weather-related reasons, Westar said on Twitter.

Meterologist Mike Smith of Accuweather said he thought it likely that areas to the south and east of Wichita, which will see high winds and ice collect on power lines and trees, could see more power outages.

But in Wichita, Smith said, there won’t be much ice or freezing rain.

“I think its mostly going to be snow in Wichita,” he said. “We’re very close to the freezing-rain line, but I think that most of it will be in east of line running from Wellington to Rose Hill to Eureka.”

A brief spell of freezing rain in Wichita about noon Sunday caused a number of rollover and slide-off accidents along stretches of south I-235 between West Street and I-135.

In Hutchinson, the driver of a car on 11th Street lost control and hit a fire hydrant, possibly causing a sinkhole. A photograph posted on the department’s Facebook page showed the front end of the car sinking into a pool of water.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis