Finger on the Weather

Arctic air from North Pole on its way to Kansas

Wichitans will need to bundle up if a wave of arctic air hits the Great Plains this week as forecasted. (Jan. 19, 2016)
Wichitans will need to bundle up if a wave of arctic air hits the Great Plains this week as forecasted. (Jan. 19, 2016) File photo

The door to Siberia is about to open wide again.

That translates into another spell of frigid weather for large portions of the U.S., including Kansas.

“Starting Tuesday ... we’re probably not going to see 40 again for the rest of the week,” said Eric Metzger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.

There may even be snow late in the week, though Metzger cautioned against reading too much into forecasts that far out.

Wichita endured its first blast of frigid weather this past week, and the Climate Prediction Center is projecting temperatures to remain below normal for at least the next two weeks.

“The (weather) pattern is just very conducive for cold air to come over the (North) pole” from Siberia, Metzger said.

Siberia is “the source region” for the frigid air that descends upon the Great Plains, he said, and “it’s why winter arrived with such a sudden announcement” last week in Kansas.

Temperatures were about 46 degrees below zero in early November in Siberia.

“That’s a little early for them to be that cold,” Metzger said.

Those temperatures have been persisting in Siberia, which is bad news for large portions of the continental U.S. when that cold air migrates. Although the pattern isn’t likely to break records in Wichita or around Kansas, Metzger said, it will make for persistently cold weather.

“It’s going to be below normal” for at least the next week, he said.

Anyone who hasn’t prepared a winter travel kit and reviewed winter driving safety tips should look into it now, Metzger said.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1 out of every 4 vehicle crashes in the country occur on snowy, icy or slushy roads.

From 2004 to 2014, 10 times more people were killed in winter-related driving accidents than in tornadoes across Kansas, according to the National Weather Service.

Every vehicle used during winter should have in it extra gloves, blankets and head gear such as stocking caps for warmth, along with water and nonperishable foods in case travelers become stranded, weather officials say.

Bags of kitty litter are often recommended to aid with traction, and Metzger said a folding shovel has proven to be a valuable investment over the years.

It’s too soon to know with any confidence whether Wichita or other parts of Kansas will have a white Christmas, Metzger said, but if the below-normal temperatures persist, “the chances are better.”

Historically, Wichita has had a white Christmas about 25 percent of the time.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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