Finger on the Weather

Looks like Santa may leave us a stormy Christmas morning

People attending Christmas morning church services may find themselves dealing with an uncommon obstacle for this time of year: strong thunderstorms and damaging winds.“It is pretty wild,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Kleinsasser said.In what sounds more like a possible Easter forecast rather than a Christmas Day outlook, Kleinsasser said a fast-moving line of thunderstorms is expected to roll through the Wichita metropolitan area midmorning on Sunday.“It’ll be a really narrow, brief band of strong to severe storms,” Kleinsasser said. “For the most part, they’re going to last five to 10 minutes at the most.”There won’t be a lot of instability in the atmosphere on Sunday morning in the Wichita area, he said, so the primary threats will be straight-line winds of 60 to 70 mph.“You can never completely rule out a tornado when you have an energetic system like this,” Kleinsasser said, but those chances are pretty low in the Wichita area.The tornado threat is higher in northern Kansas, according to AccuWeather. The service’s Sunday forecasts for Salina, Concordia and Hays state that “Storms may bring downpours, damaging winds and even an isolated tornado.”Severe weather – hail, high winds or tornadoes – hasn’t occurred on Christmas Day in Kansas since those records began being kept in 1955, according to the National Weather Service.There have been 64 tornadoes on Christmas Day across the U.S., most of them in the southeastern part of the country.The storms will be primarily along and west of I-135 in the morning to the early afternoon, Kleinsasser said, then along the Kansas Turnpike corridor in the early afternoon before shifting to southeast Kansas.The strong line of storms will be preceded by drizzly conditions, and once it moves through, skies will clear quickly.Highs could climb into the upper 60s in Wichita on Sunday. If that happens, Kleinsasser said, it would be a record high for Dec. 25.The current record is 65 in 1960.“We could get there,” Kleinsasser said of the record.The average high on Christmas Day is 42 degrees, according to the weather service.Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger