Major Winter Storm Slams Central and Southeast Kansas (1/31/2002)

By: Rob Cox (Lead Meteorologist)

First winter storm of the season brings a variety of winter weather conditions from Jan 29-Jan 31, 2002.

A powerful storm system over the Rockies finally pumped a lot of gulf moisture into the region during the last week of January 2002. Up to this point, the moisture had been very sparse this winter with burn bans in several counties. As this system approached the area...a very shallow but cold air mass was in place. In fact, temperatures about 1,000-5,000 ft above the ground were well above freezing in south central and southeast Kansas. Unfortunately, temperatures near the ground were at or below freezing. Thus, most of the precipitation came in the form of freezing rain or sleet. This caused roadways to become very slick along with numerous power outages due to ice accumulation on trees and power lines. Across north central Kansas, it was a different story with most of precipitation in the form of snow due to a deeper cold air mass in place.

The precipitation began late Tuesday afternoon (Jan 29th) in South Central Kansas in the form of freezing rain and drizzle. This type of precipitation persisted through Wednesday morning and mixed in with some sleet Wednesday Afternoon and Wednesday night, before changing over to snow Thursday morning. Precipitation amounts ranged from one half inch at Lincolnville and Norwich to one and one half inches at Caldwell and Arkansas City. The areas that experienced the most precipitation also had numerous power outages due to ice accumulation on the trees which fell on power lines. Sleet and ice accumulation depths were on the order of 1 to 2 inches. Kingman, Harvey and Reno counties had a mixture of more snow and sleet which caused them to have higher accumulation amounts between 3 and 4 inches.

Southeast Kansas started receiving the wintery mess Wednesday morning (Jan. 30th) in the form of all freezing rain. Temperatures were closer to the freezing mark, but the precipitation amounts were a little higher. Precipitation amounts in this area ranged from one inch at Coffeyville to two inches at Erie. During the wee hours Wednesday morning, roadways became very slick and the ice began to accumulate on the trees. As the day wore on, temperatures were close enough to the freezing mark that most of the primary roads became free of ice. However, the ice continued to accumulate on the trees and power lines which caused numerous power outages including Allen county, where they declared a State of Local Disaster Emergency.

North central Kansas saw the event unfold Tuesday evening. They started out with a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow, but it changed over to snow Wednesday morning. This made for a trecherous start Wednesday morning, with the snow piling up quickly through the day Wednesday and Wednesday night. On Thursday morning total snow amounts ranged from 6 to 12 inches. The most significant snow fell in Russell where they saw around 12 inches with the lighter amounts in Mcpherson at 3 inches.

The graphical breakdown of the ice, sleet and snow accumulations for central and southeast Kansas can be found on the image below.

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