Christmas Eve Blizzard/Snow Storm
December 24-27th 2009

The Event:

An unusually strong storm system wreaked havoc on a large portion of the central United States during one of the heaviest travel periods of the year. Well before the arrival of the storm, warm air surging north from the Gulf of Mexico brought torrential rains and even thunderstorms to central and southern Missouri on Wednesday (Dec 23rd). Rainfall across central Missouri averaged between 1.5 and 2 inches, with Whiteman Air Force base reporting just over 2 inches. This rain generated an unusually late bout of river flooding across that region as most of the ground was still frozen, resulting in excessive runoff.

Click on the Image for a Larger Animation

Shortly after midnight Thursday, an arctic cold front swept through the area, sending temperatures on a downward spiral through the 40s, 30s, 20s and eventually landing in the teens by nightfall on Christmas Eve. With warm air still present aloft, the first round of precipitation fell mainly in the form of sleet, with some freezing rain across central Missouri. Sleet (also known as ice pellets) forms when snow melts while falling through a layer of warm air several thousand feet above the ground. The cold rain then refreezes into ice pellets as it encounters a second layer of very cold air near the ground. The sleet came down particularly heavy at times from eastern portions of the Kansas City metro, south and toward Sedalia and Clinton, with ice pellet accumulations upwards of 2 inches in some areas.

By mid evening, enough cold air had wrapped in aloft to change all the precipitation over to snow. Heavy snow blanketed much of western Missouri and eastern Kansas, with winds of 30 to 45 mph resulting in blizzard conditions from Kansas City to the Iowa and Nebraska borders -- west into the Great Plains. Snowfall amounts averaged between 6 and 8 inches along and west of Interstate 35, with drifts 3 to 8 feet reported in many areas. Travel was crippled across many areas with portions of Interstate 29 closed north of St. Joseph. A white Christmas for many came at the expense of the first blizzard to impact the Kansas City area since 1989, and the first blizzard warning issued for Kansas City since 1982!

 

What a Storm!

The loop below (click image to show), shows a 24 hour time lapse loop of the GOES satellite water vapor imagery. This type of satellite imagery shows the amount of water vapor in the middle and upper layers of the atmosphere, and is a great way for meteorologists to diagnose where circulations (upper level disturbances) are forming, and where their moisture is coming from. A storm of this magnitude is quite a visual spectacle on this type of imagery. Emerging from the southern Rockies, the storm tracked far to the south near Dallas, then took a hard left, lifting over Little Rock, St. Louis and then turning to the northwest into Iowa! The blue colors show that this storm had extensive moisture sources from the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and even the Atlantic Ocean resulting in heavy precipitation. The orange colors show the classic dry air spiraling in toward the center. At the surface, the storm center was observed at a whopping 986 millibars of pressure as it tracked across central Missouri, helping to spawn the very strong winds felt over the eastern Plains.

water vapor image taken at 1:30 AM Christmas morning
Click on the Image for a Larger Animation
 

One very unique facit of this storm was how much warm air was able to wrap into the storm, and that the secondary arctic cold front actually arrived from the *southwest*! As the graphic below shows, the temperature difference across this front was amazing. At 3 AM Christmas morning, Kirksville jumped up to 48 degrees, while nearby Moberly was a whopping 30 degrees colder at 18!! The arrows indicate the 4 different airmasses spiraling in toward the storm.

Surface map as of 3 AM 12-25-2009

Snowfall Totals

Areas along and west of the Interstate 35 corridor, received 6 to 8 inches with drifts of 2 to 3 feet common as of 7 AM Christmas morning. Snow amounts were well in excess of a foot across adjacent southeast Nebraska. East of I-35, amounts tapered off rapidly as warmer air wrapped into the storm system, and kept precipitation predominantly as sleet. See the bottom of this page for specific snow reports.

As the storm system wrapped back to the west for a second visit, periods of snow continued through much of Christmas Day into the overnight hours. Additional accumulations of 3 to 4 inches were common across northwest Missouri, bringing totals up to a foot in some locations. Kansas City International Airport received 3.3 inches on Christmas, breaking the all time record of 2.5 inches set in 1895!

A third visit from this storm system arrived into the area Saturday afternoon, with several bands of light snow moving through the area.  One rather intense band across portions of the Kansas City Metropolitian area produced additional snowfall of 1 to 3 inches.

A fourth and final visit from this snowstorm grazed portions of northeastern and eastern Missouri, areas which were mainly left out of the heavy snow the past 2 days.  One final burst of snow moved through the area after midnight Saturday and exited early Sunday the 27th.  This area of snow provided 1 to 3 inches of very light fluffy snow.

Overall, a broad area of the lower Missouri River Valley region experienced snowfall totals in excess of 8 inches.  Hardest hit areas of northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas received as much as 11 to 14 inches of snow during this storm.  Generally, central and north central Missouri experienced lower snowfall totals, with most areas receiving anywhere from 3 to 5 inches of snow.  The only portion of the state of Missouri to receive little or  no snow from this system was the extreme eastern side of the state along with the bootheal portion of the state in the southeast. 

The NWS would like to thank our partners in the media, emergency management, storm spotters and cooperative observers for all your assitance and reporting in extremely difficult conditions.

Snowfall map ending 10 AM Dec 25 2009

Daily snowfall map ending 10 AM Dec 26 2009

Daily snowfall ending 7 AM Dec 27 2009

Snowfall Ending 10am 12/25 Snowfall Ending 10am 12/26 Snowfall Ending 10am 12/27

Storm Total Event Snowfall

Storm Total Event Snowfall

 

Wind Gusts

The graphic below depicts the peak wind gusts observed across the region with this event. Frequent gusts exceeding 35 mph, combined with the snowfall resulted in a widespread blizzard during the evening and overnight hours with visibilities reduced to near zero at times.

 Peak wind gusts

 

Winter Storm Photos and Video:

Click Here To Watch Video Taken From the Pleasant Hill NWS Office around 1:25 AM Christmas Morning with Blizzard Conditions

The following are a variety of pictures provides by spotter, observers, and members of the public of the Christmas snowstorm.  Thanks to all those who have submitted images to us!

Picture Taken by Sharon Seidel Photo Taken by Dan Bush Photo Taken by Michael O'Keefe
Picture Taken By Sharon Seidel near Kearney, MO Albany, MO - Photo taken by Dan Bush Overland Park - Photo Taken by Michael O'Keeffe
 Photo Taken by Jennifer Combs  Photo Taken by Jim Gorski  Photo Taken by Jim Gorski
 Overland Park, KS - Photo taken by Jennifer Combs
 North Kansas City - Photo Taken by Jim Gorski
 North Kansas City - Photo Taken by Jim Gorski
 Photo Taken by Darin Banks  Photo Taken by Dan Bush  Photo Taken by Dan Mirsepasi
 Prairie Village - Photo taken by Darin Banks
 Albany, MO - Photo Taken by Dan Bush
 Olathe, KS - Photo Taken by Sam Mirsepasi

 

 

Summary of Snow Reports From Christmas Eve

PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT...SUMMARY
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE KANSAS CITY/PLEASANT HILL MO
1240 PM CST FRI DEC 25 2009

..TIME...   ...EVENT...      ...CITY LOCATION...     ...LAT.LON...
..DATE...   ....MAG....      ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....
            ..REMARKS..

0600 AM     SNOW             PLEASANT HILL           38.80N 94.27W
12/25/2009  M4.8 INCH        CASS               MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

            OFFICIAL NWS MEASUREMENT OF 4.0 INCHES SNOW/0.8 INCHES
            SLEET SO FAR STORM TOTAL

0608 AM     HEAVY SNOW       2 S BASEHOR             39.10N 94.93W
12/25/2009  M6.0 INCH        LEAVENWORTH        KS   EMERGENCY MNGR

            4 FOOT DRIFTS COMMON

0608 AM     SNOW             CAMERON                 39.74N 94.24W
12/25/2009  E5.0 INCH        DEKALB             MO   TRAINED SPOTTER

            ALONG WITH 3.5 FT DRIFTS

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       CONCEPTION              40.25N 94.68W
12/25/2009  E6.0 INCH        NODAWAY            MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       AMITY                   39.87N 94.43W
12/25/2009  E7.0 INCH        DEKALB             MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             POLO                    39.55N 94.04W
12/25/2009  E3.4 INCH        CALDWELL           MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       RIDGEWAY                40.38N 93.94W
12/25/2009  E7.0 INCH        HARRISON           MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       TARKIO                  40.44N 95.38W
12/25/2009  E6.7 INCH        ATCHISON           MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             CHILLICOTHE             39.79N 93.55W
12/25/2009  E2.5 INCH        LIVINGSTON         MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             PRINCETON               40.40N 93.59W
12/25/2009  E2.0 INCH        MERCER             MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             TRENTON                 40.08N 93.60W
12/25/2009  E3.0 INCH        GRUNDY             MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       ALBANY                  40.25N 94.33W
12/25/2009  E6.0 INCH        GENTRY             MO   LAW ENFORCEMENT

0700 AM     SNOW             CARROLLTON              39.36N 93.50W
12/25/2009  E4.5 INCH        CARROLL            MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             CLINTON                 38.37N 93.77W
12/25/2009  E3.0 INCH        HENRY              MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       INDEPENDENCE            39.09N 94.35W
12/25/2009  E6.8 INCH        JACKSON            MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             KEARNEY                 39.36N 94.36W
12/25/2009  E5.0 INCH        CLAY               MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             WAVERLY                 39.21N 93.52W
12/25/2009  E4.0 INCH        LAFAYETTE          MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       LEES SUMMIT             38.92N 94.38W
12/25/2009  E6.3 INCH        JACKSON            MO   NWS EMPLOYEE

0700 AM     SNOW             BUTLER                  38.26N 94.34W
12/25/2009  E5.0 INCH        BATES              MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             RAYMORE                 38.81N 94.46W
12/25/2009  E4.8 INCH        CASS               MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             RICHMOND                39.28N 93.97W
12/25/2009  E3.0 INCH        RAY                MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             SEDALIA                 38.70N 93.23W
12/25/2009  E5.0 INCH        PETTIS             MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             KANSAS CITY             39.12N 94.55W
12/25/2009  M5.5 INCH        JACKSON            MO   TRAINED SPOTTER

0700 AM     SNOW             ST JOSEPH               39.76N 94.85W
12/25/2009  E4.5 INCH        BUCHANAN           MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       ATCHISON                39.56N 95.13W
12/25/2009  E7.5 INCH        ATCHISON           KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       BONNER SPRINGS          39.05N 94.88W
12/25/2009  E6.0 INCH        WYANDOTTE          KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       CENTERVILLE KS          38.22N 95.02W
12/25/2009  E8.1 INCH        LINN               KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       EASTON KS               39.35N 95.12W
12/25/2009  E6.5 INCH        LEAVENWORTH        KS   AMATEUR RADIO

0700 AM     SNOW             OSAWATOMIE              38.50N 94.95W
12/25/2009  E4.0 INCH        MIAMI              KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       OVERLAND PARK           38.91N 94.68W
12/25/2009  E7.0 INCH        JOHNSON            KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       PAOLA                   38.58N 94.87W
12/25/2009  E6.0 INCH        MIAMI              KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       TROY                    39.79N 95.09W
12/25/2009  E7.0 INCH        DONIPHAN           KS   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             HAMILTON                39.74N 94.00W
12/25/2009  E4.0 INCH        CALDWELL           MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     HEAVY SNOW       MARYVILLE               40.34N 94.87W
12/25/2009  E6.0 INCH        NODAWAY            MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0700 AM     SNOW             PATTONSBURG             40.05N 94.14W
12/25/2009  E5.5 INCH        DAVIESS            MO   CO-OP OBSERVER

0750 AM     HEAVY SNOW       LEAVENWORTH             39.32N 94.92W
12/25/2009  M8.4 INCH        LEAVENWORTH        KS   TRAINED SPOTTER

            MOST ROADS ARE IMPASSIBLE

0757 AM     SNOW             WARRENSBURG             38.76N 93.73W
12/25/2009  M2.5 INCH        JOHNSON            MO   EMERGENCY MNGR

            NUMEROUS SLIDE-OFFS AND ACCIDENTS

 


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