Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2015: Heavy Snow/Strong Winds Impact the Area (First "Major" Winter Storm of Season For Many Places)

 

 

Event Summary:

Only a few days after record warm temperatures blanketed the local 30-county NWS Hastings coverage area of South Central Nebraska and North Central Kansas, the first truly widespread, "major" winter storm of the season took aim on the region during the weekend of Saturday Jan. 31-Sunday Feb. 1, 2015. As outlined in more detail in the graphics and tables below, the majority of the local area received at least 2-4" of snow, with most counties near and especially east of the Highway 281 corridor reporting noticeably higher totals in generally the 6-8" range. Per NWS cooperative observers, a few of the highest totals featured 9.0" four miles north of Aurora and 8.4" three miles northeast of Shelby. On a positive note, this storm brought widespread, much-needed liquid precipitation to the area, with many places receiving between 0.50-1.00", and locally higher, including 1.26" at Beloit KS. 

Breaking down event timing, things started out fairly quietly on the evening of Friday Jan. 30th, as a mix of light rain and light snow drifted northward out of central Kansas into primarily the southern half of the local area. As Saturday wore on, steady wet, slushy snow overtook more and more of the area and mainly accumulated on grassy surfaces due to roadways remaining too warm. On Saturday evening, snow accumulation increased as the system strengthened and temperatures cooled, however, wind remained fairly light, resulting in minimal travel impacts. However, that all changed after midnight and through much of the day on Sunday Feb. 1st, as a strong cold front crashed in from the north and greatly-increased north winds, with several hours of sustained speeds at least 20-30 MPH and gusts mainly 40-45 MPH. Although additional snow accumulation was fairly minimal after the winds ramped up, travel conditions became treacherous due to blowing/drifting snow and near-blizzard conditions. Fortunately, wind speeds steadily subsided by Sunday evening, ending blowing snow issues, although area roads remained extremely slick and ice-covered into the day on Monday Feb. 2, resulting in numerous school cancellations.

Forecast-wise, this storm provided quite a challenge, as some areas ended up receiving at least 2-3 times as much snow as originally forecasted 1-3 days before the event. Part of this had to do with the storm track shifting a bit farther north, but also, computer forecast models were unusually inconsistent until the "last minute", when it finally became apparent that it was going to be a fairly major storm especially for the eastern half of the local area. Winter storms such as this serve a great reminder to always keep up to date with the latest forecast information, as sometimes fairly major changes can take place even within 12-24 hours of the onset of snow...



 

 The first image below is a radar loop which shows the evolution of the storm system as it moved across the area. The 30-county NWS Hastings coverage area is within the orange-outlined domain labeled "GID". This loop starts at 530 pm CST on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, and runs through 11am Sunday Feb. 1, 2015, with images displayed every 30 minutes.

 


Below are a couple maps which show APPROXIMATE STORM TOTAL SNOWFALL and APPROXIMATE STORM TOTAL LIQUID EQUIVALENT PRECIPITATION across the region from Jan. 31-Feb. 1. NOTE: Rain was noted across the region before transitioning to all snow.

Although these maps are based on actual observed measurements at various points, it is subject to some error due to interpolation/smoothing between points. However, the snow map clearly shows the highest totals of generally 6-8" of snowfall focused near and especially east of the Highway 281 corridor.  

 

 

 

 
Below is a table which shows some STORM TOTAL snowfall reports received from across the local NWS Hastings 30-county coverage area Jan. 31-Feb. 1, from official NWS cooperative observers...

Location (miles from town) Snowfall (Storm Total)
4N Aurora 9.0"
3NE Shelby 8.4"
Geneva 8.0"
3W Gresham 7.8"
Osceola 7.8"
 3N York 7.9"
Central City 7.1"
Clay Center 7.0"
Hastings NWS Office 6.4"
Hubbell 6.0"
4S Shickley 6.0"
 Mankato KS 5.8"
St. Paul 5.8"
4SW Blue Hill 5.5"
Superior 5.4"
Bradshaw 5.2"
Grand Island airport 4.7"
Burr Oak KS 4.3"
Lebanon KS 4.2"
Hebron 4.2"
Ravenna 3.7"
Ord 3.5"
Minden 3.5"
Franklin 3.5"
Greeley 3.1"
Natoma KS 3.0"
Cambridge 2.6"
Smith Center KS 2.3"
Kearney airport 2.0"
8S Elwood 2.0"
Phillipsburg KS 2.0"
2SW Alton, KS 1.0"
Beloit, KS 1.0"
4WNW Plainville KS 0.8"

 

In addition, and on a POSITIVE note, this storm brought much-needed and significant liquid equivalent precipitation to the local area. Below is a table which shows some of the more notable STORM TOTAL liquid precipitation reports (in excess of 0.50") received from across the area from Jan. 31-Feb. 1, from official NWS cooperative observers:

Location (miles from town) Liquid Precipitation (Storm Total)
Beloit KS 1.26"
Hubbell 1.07"
3N York 1.00"
Osceola 0.94"
Smith Center KS 0.93"
Burr Oak KS 0.90"
4N Aurora, NE 0.63"
Shelby, NE 3 NE 0.78"
Superior 0.89"
Clay Center 0.85"
 Hastings NWS Office/airport 0.80"
Osceola 0.76"
Geneva 0.76"
4S Shickley 0.73"
Hebron 0.61"
Grand Island airport 0.59"
Central City 0.59"

 

 

This page was composed by the staff at the National Weather Service in Hastings, Nebraska.



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