Finger on the Weather

More rain on way for Wichita area

More rain is heading for flood-weary south-central Kansas, but forecasters say the totals won’t be anywhere near last week’s prodigious levels.

“We’re not expecting a Part Two” of last week’s storms, said Chris Jakub, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

Fueled by the remnants of Hurricane Newton, thunderstorms last week dumped more than a foot of rain south of Wichita and nearly 9 inches over a 48-hour period at the official reporting site next to Eisenhower National Airport. Cleanup continues after widespread flooding.

“Any time it rains, people will be real sensitive right now,” Jakub said.

Rain is possible in the Wichita metropolitan area from now into the weekend, forecasters say, but the expected totals are not likely to be high. The weather service projects 1 to 1.5 inches for Wichita, with most of that falling Thursday night into early Friday.

“It’s really hard to pinpoint where the heaviest rain will be,” said Jaclyn Ritzman, a meteorologist with the Wichita branch of the weather service.

These storms will be more “popcorn” in nature, she said – firing up and dropping rain where they are – rather than being a slow-moving line of strong thunderstorms.

Where storms develop, Ritzman said, they could form boundary lines in the atmosphere that in turn help other storms develop. There is still ample moisture in the atmosphere for storms to feed on, she said, though it’s nothing compared with last week, when hurricane remnants reached the Sunflower State.

Any substantial rain will raise the specter of additional flooding.

“At this time, the waters are receding, but certainly we’re keeping an eye on future precipitation,” said John Stradal, assistant coordinator for Cowley County Emergency Management in Winfield, where campers gathered for the Walnut Valley Festival had to be evacuated from the fairgrounds last week when the Walnut River overflowed its banks.

AccuWeather senior vice president Mike Smith said he expects 1 to 2 inches for Sedgwick County.

“I believe the heavier rains will be more scattered than they were last week,” Smith said in an e-mail response to questions.

Isolated showers could produce heavy rainfall, forecasters say, but nothing like the repeated lines of storms that dumped rain at the rate of 3 to 5 inches an hour last week.

“This isn’t that type of pattern where you’re just going to get an onslaught of heavy rain,” Jakub said. “It will be more like general showers and storms moving across the area.”

This month already ranks as Wichita’s seventh-wettest September, with 9.26 inches through Tuesday, according to the weather service. This is the wettest year to date on record for Wichita, with 45.60 inches through Wednesday morning.

It’s so far the fourth-wettest year in Wichita history, according to the weather service. The wettest year was 2008, with 53.82 inches.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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