The system moving into the area today and out by late tomorrow will be passing through at a quick pace. The good side of that is, there is less time for various forms of precipitation to fall in any one area. The bad news: quick temperature falls can lead to a wide variety of changing hazards in a very short time.
Basically, this is what I’d consider an average to just above average winter storm in terms of expected impacts.
Forecast discussions from area NWS offices
Snowfall for this event continues to slightly decrease. This does not seem unreasonable given the upper level short wave trough is slightly further south over the last three model runs of the NAM and ECMWF (GFS largely unchanged).
NWS Dodge City
A strong surge of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will result in a batch of precipitation this morning across south central and central Kansas. Precipitation types will be determined by the exact temperatures. Rain over the southern plains will move north into cooler air, resulting in rain and freezing rain across south central and central Kansas this morning into early afternoon, changing to snow. How much ice accumulation occurs will of course depend on exact precipitation amounts and temperatures.
Challenging forecast with multiple hazards. Very early this morning, will have transient dense fog along leading edge of rich moist working north in the greater Wichita metro areas. Elevated storms during the morning may be strong-severe with good 700MB-500MB and 0-6km bulk shear offsetting very modest instability. Main threat is hail, with isolated 60 mph wind gusts also possible. As precipitation becomes more widespread, severe threat
Focus shifts to winter weather in central KS, where combo of freezing rain and snow is expected. Snowfall rates could be impressive for a few hours this afternoon around Russell and Lincoln counties given deep supercooled layer and good lapse rates in snow growth zone. As the cold air spills south, anticipate an expanding area of freezing rain, which could would reach a Hutchinson to Newton line roughly around 3 pm, and into the Wichita metro between 5-6 pm. Sounding are especially problematic with very deep supercooled moisture with a tiny layer just off the surface cold enough to generate ice. Travel could be especially problematic this evening across much of central and south central KS as roads begin to freeze.
The second round of snow is expected later tonight and Saturday, with most of that in southeast KS. Variations continue in location of heavier snow, with latest ECMWF a bit slower and south of GFS.
The entire area could at least see a dusting of snow, but southeastern portions of the area have the best potential to see 2-4″ or more. There is still some uncertainty on amounts, though. Part of this uncertainty lies with resolving the any mesoscale banding due to the relatively strong frontogenesis. Therefore, even a relatively small shift could lead to a significant increase or decrease in amounts.
By the time all is said and done Saturday evening, have forecast snow totals of 3-6 inches from Topeka eastward with 1-3 inches to the west. Ice accumulations could be 0.1-0.2″ with the highest amounts along an axis from Abilene to Hiawatha, most of that coming Friday afternoon when several hours of wintry mix are possible.
NWS Kansas City
Due to the combination of freezing rain/sleet, snow totals in the 3-6″ range, possible flash freezing, and winds up to 35kts with low visibility we decided to go with a winter storm warning even through individual criteria may not be reached everywhere. Travel conditions in this type of event will be very hazardous and is not recommended during this timeframe.
Let’s Look at the Map
Besides the winter driving conditions, which most of us should have plenty of experience handling, the cold over the weekend is a strong concern. I want to re-post an image I used in last night’s detailed discussion that highlights the shock this system may be to our pets:
Bottom line: this system is nothing to be alarmed about, but it will have some impacts on the area. Use your winter driving (and walking) smarts and you’ll be just fine. There is a bit of risk of icing developing in a few areas, so some scattered power outages might happen.