By: Jim Caruso, Mary-Beth Schreck, Kevin Darmofal
Strong north winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts to 45 mph, combined with moderate to heavy snowfall to produce near blizzard conditions across portions of South Central Kansas on Saturday, including the Greater Wichita area.
A winter storm lifted out of the Southern Rockies across Kansas on Saturday drawing moisture up into the region. Meanwhile, a strong cold front pushed southward through Kansas Friday night into Saturday, with strong northerly winds occurring behind the front. This set the stage for a hazardous winter weather event.Snow arrived in Central Kansas late Friday night and produced 1 to 3 inches of accumulation before ending early Saturday afternoon. Snow then developed over South Central Kansas Saturday morning, which continued into the afternoon hours. The snow was moderate to heavy at times in South Central Kansas. The storm left a fairly narrow swath (up to 30 miles wide) of heavy accumulations of 6 to 9 inches roughly along a line from Anthony through Wichita to Cottonwood Falls (Image 1). As a result of strong instability in the atmosphere, thundersnow was observed at several locations in South Central Kansas where some of the highest snowfall occurred. Generally 2 to 5 inches of snow fell throughout much of Southeast Kansas on Saturday, which was preceded by a period of freezing rain and sleet. Strong northerly winds gusting to around 45 mph at times made the snow come down horizontally, and produced significant blowing and drifting of the snow, with visibilities dropping to one-quarter mile or less at times. The near blizzard conditions made for treacherous, and in some cases impassable road conditions, for last minute holiday shoppers and anyone else out driving. Snow drifts up to 4 feet were common within the narrow swath of heaviest snow, including the Wichita Metro area. The storm caused many accidents along with stranded vehicles, and resulted in many delayed and cancelled flights at Wichita Mid Continent Airport. Image 2, Image 3, Image 4, Image 5 and Image 6 are pictures of heavy snowfall from Saturday's storm.