Friday/Saturday System Forecast to Speed Up a Little

A powerful system will bring a mix of conditions to Kansas, from light freezing drizzle changing to blowing snow in the west to a chance for severe storms (even a small chance of a tornado) followed by a lull and then 4-6 inches of snow by the time the system exits late Saturday.
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Impacts at a Glance

Through Thursday, May 14, 2020 2:00 am
Severe Thunderstorms Enhanced
Heavy Rainfall Enhanced
Flooding Slight
Tornadoes Slight
Damaging Hail Enhanced
Damaging Wind Slight
Low Visibility None

Detailed Analysis

Overall, forecast confidence in details like snow amounts and locations remains on the weak side, although models have come into fairly good agreement on timing. Winter weather is impacted drastically by changes of a degree or less in the air temperature at different layers of the atmosphere, and it just isn’t possible to say yet where the snow bands will setup.

(For those who would like to take a deep dive into what all goes into just what type of precipitation and how much falls, this is a great article.)

Friday morning

The trough starts out of the four corners area, and a lead wave will bring clouds before sunrise and some light freezing drizzle, mostly east of Dodge city according to the latest forecasts. Snow starts in the northwest around sunrise.

Friday midday

A cold front will come charging through western Kansas about midday as a low starts to form and deepen through the afternoon in Oklahoma.

Northwest wind near 50mph will follow right in the wake of the front. Besides making travel difficult for high-profile vehicles, when the snow starts wind of that speed will cause a lot of blowing and drifting. Right now it looks like snowfall rates will be light enough that we’ll avoid blizzard to white-out conditions, but in some areas it’s possible.

Friday afternoon and early evening

From my perspective this will be the most interesting time frame of this system, because we have just about every type of risky weather possible in Kansas at the same time. Blowing and drifting snow southwest to north central, possible periods of sleet, maybe freezing rain, and some blown snowfall south central to northeast, and severe weather possible in the southeast, say south of a line from Linn county to Elk and Chautauqua counties.

Friday night through Saturday noon

The heaviest period of snowfall for this storm sets up from near the turnpike through the Flint Hills. Snow should start in the Wichita metro about midnight the way it looks at the moment, with snowfall rates east and south of the turnpike rally ramping up by sunrise or a little after. Weather service forecasters are looking for widespread 3-5 inch snowfalls in this area, with a band setting up somewhere that may produce upwards of six inches. Latest guidance from the National, NWS folks puts that band through the Flint Hills. Latest NWS Wichita discussion has a 4-6 hour period starting about sunrise as the heaviest snow time of the event in southeast Kansas.

Saturday night

The system exits quickly, with precipitation pretty much clear of Kansas by mid-evening under most models.

Watches and Warnings

Already issued: Winter Storm Watch effective Fri evening through Sat afternoon for a bit of south central and all of southeast Kansas.

Anticipated: Winter Weather Advisory Friday afternoon into Saturday, approximately northwest of a Garden City to Hays line. NWS Goodland and NWS Hastings have not mentioned they anticipate Winter advisories, watches or warnings for their Kansas counties. Severe Thunderstorm Watch may cover a few counties of southeast Kansas for a few hours around sunset.

And Finally…

Temperatures on the back side of this are forecast to be colder than any time since November. Remember your pets in the cold days ahead!