Finger on the Weather

Spring? What spring? Wichita skips a season this year

Wichita's spring lasted for perhaps a day and a half this year.

OK, we're exaggerating.

It may not have been that long.

"It was definitely unique," said Ken Cook, meteorologist-in-charge at the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.

"We went from the fourth-coldest April on record to one of the warmest Mays ever," he said.

The month just ended was the second-warmest May in Wichita's history, topped only by 1962.

Salina had its warmest May in history and Chanute its second-warmest.

The combination of a dry winter, cold April and then hot May has stunted the Kansas wheat crop. The Wheat Quality Council is projecting the smallest winter wheat harvest for Sunflower State farmers in nearly 30 years.

"We had temperatures in the teens in mid-April," Cook said. "It just really plays havoc on the wheat crop."

Temperatures then pretty much ignored the 70s and jumped into the 80s and 90s. There were 12 days in May when the high hit the 90s, compared to only four when it peaked in the 70s.

May's average temperature was nine degrees higher than normal. By the end of the month, Wichita had settled into weather more commonly seen in July.

"We have a mid-summer pattern in how the storms are occurring," Cook said.

That means hot days and thunderstorms firing up mainly in the late evenings and overnight.

"That seems to be the persistent pattern right now," Cook said.

There could be multiple rainy days during Riverfest, he said, but the storms should hit late in the evening and overnight.

"They can dodge the storms," Cook said of those who go to the festival. "It doesn't look like a big washout right now."

And even if the rain proves to be a bit of a headache for festival fans, he said, it will nevertheless be welcome.

"We do still need the rain," Cook said. "If you drive around and see a lot of the standing ponds in the area, they're still pretty dry."