Holiday Blizzard Recap...Including Photos of Snow Drifts At NWS Hastings

 
 

 2009 Christmas Blizzard

 

Click to Enlarge Photo  
Click to Enlarge Photo

The Christmas Blizzard of 2009 will be one blizzard which won't soon be forgotten and will draw memories of raging blizzards of years past. For 18 to 24 hours, a large part of south central Nebraska and extreme northern Kansas was blasted with 30 to 60 mph winds, visibilities less than 1/2 mile and frequent "white-out" conditions. Winds dropped off dramatically by dawn Saturday, December 26th, although still gusted to 35 mph.

A total of 7.8 inches of snow fell at the Central Nebraska Regional Airport at Grand Island on Christmas Day. That broke the previous record of 3.0 inches of snow set back in 1941. So, Christmas 2009 goes down as the "snowiest" Christmas on record for Grand Island. The snow melted down to 0.51 inches of water, which was also a new record. The old record for liquid precipitation was 0.20 inches in 1941.

Hastings joined the record club as well, and measured 9.2 inches of the National Weather Service Office north of town. That broke the previous record of 9.0 inches of snow back in 1945.  A total of 0.58" of liquid equivalent precipitation was measured. However, that was not enough to break a record.

Christmas Day Record Snowfall and Precipitation
  Christmas 2009 Snowfall Previous Record Christmas 2009 Precipitation Previous Record
Grand Island 7.8 inches 3.0 inches in 1941 0.51" 0.20" in 1941
Hastings 9.2 inches 9.0 inches in 1945 0.58" 1.00" in 1945 (record still stands)
 

Listed below are several snowfall reports from NWS Cooperative Observers across south central Nebraska and north central Kansas. The reports are ranked from top to bottom based on the 5-day storm total snowfall from Dec. 23-27.

Below the table is a map depicting approximate 5-day storm total snowfall across the 30-county NWS Hastings County Warning Area. Please note that values on this map are not necessarily "exact" measured values at a particular point due to computer-generated "smoothing" between available data.  In addition, it goes without saying that this snow was very challenging to measure given extensive blowing and drifting.

5-Day Storm Total Snowfall (Dec. 23-27*)   *Light snow ended by 6 AM on Dec. 27th
  Dec. 23
Dec. 24 
Dec. 25
Dec. 26-27 5-Day Storm Total

Total December Snowfall

(through 12/27)

Osceola

 Trace

3.7"

4.0"

8.0"

15.7 inches

30.2 inches
Shelby (3 miles NE)  Trace  3.8"  5.8" 6.1" 15.7 inches  
Central City
4.0" 0.5" 5.2" 3.8" 13.5 inches 26.0 inches
Grand Island

3.1"

Trace

7.8"

1.3"

12.2 inches

25.5 inches
Hastings NWS Office

3.5"

0.2"

9.2"

1.4"

14.3 inches

29.3 inches
Wood River

3.5"

Trace

7.0"

1.5"

12.0 inches

23.3 inches
Fullerton Trace 4.0" 2.0" 6.0" 12.0 inches 22.0 inches
Bruning

Trace

3.0"

5.0"

3.0"

11.0 inches

21.1 inches
Greeley Trace 4.0" 1.0" 4.0" 9.0 inches 22.0 inches
Geneva 1.0" None 3.0" 4.0" 8.0 inches 17.0 inches
Fairmont

2.0"

4.0"

2.0"

0.5"

8.5 inches

20.0 inches
Oxford (6 miles NNW)

1.9"

5.5"

Trace

0.4"

7.8 inches

16.5 inches
Clay Center (6 miles ESE)

1.0"

2.0"

3.0"

1.0"

7.0  inches

19.0 inches
Ord   2.5"   4.5" 7.0  inches  
Wolbach
 None 2.6" 1.2"  2.9" 6.7 inches 16.3 inches
Loup City

3.5"

Trace

2.0"

1.0"

6.5 inches

17.5 inches
Phillipsburg, KS 2.0" 2.0" Trace 2.0" 6.0 inches 11.6 inches
Franklin Trace 3.0" None 2.0" 5.0 inches  
Edison 0.5" 4.0" None 1.0" 5.5 inches 12.0 inches
Plainville, KS (4 WNW)
 2.0" 0.5" None 1.5" 4.0 inches 13.3 inches
Superior (4 miles E)

0.6"

1.1"

1.3"

0.4"

3.4 inches

17.5 inches
Elwood (8 miles S)
1.0"  2.0" None Trace 3.0 inches 11.0 inches
Miller
   2.0" Trace 1.0" 3.0 inches  
Burr Oak, KS

0.8"

Trace

2.0"

0.2"

3.0 inches

16.5 inches
Smith Center, KS

1.0"

None

0.8"

None

1.8 inches

7.8 inches
Beloit, KS None None Trace  2.0" 2.0 inches 17.3 inches
Alton, KS 1.0" Trace  None Trace  1.0 inches  11.0 inches

 

 Approximate 5-Day Total Snowfall Based On Data Listed Above (Dec. 23 - Dec. 27)

 

The graphic below depicts total snow depth across the NWS Hastings County Warning Area, as of the morning of Dec. 27th. Note the extensive area of 10-15 inch snow depth extending north and east from the Grand Island and Hastings areas. A few Cooperative Observer sites in Polk County even reported snow depths in excess of 20 inches, including 23 inches at both Osceola and Shelby (3 miles NE).

 Total Snow Depth As Of 7 AM, Dec. 27th

 

Of course, its the wind that makes a blizzard, not the snow. The strongest winds occurred during the daylight hours on Christmas Day and into the early evening. Sustained winds were near 40 mph at times with gusts to 60 mph. Here is a look at the strongest winds recorded with the storm:

Christmas Day Wind Gusts
Hastings Airport 58 mph
Aurora Airport 57 mph
Grand Island Airport 54 mph
Ord Airport 53 mph
Holdrege Airport 51 mph
Lexington Airport 50 mph
Kearney Airport 46 mph
 


Views from around the NWS Office -- Please note that a car is  almost completely buried under snow in the top row of photos!
(Click on image to enlarge).

Sable the Weather Dog Drift in Parking Lot Yes...Marla's Car is Still There! Drift in Parking Lot Looking North
Looking at the Back Door Christmas Afternoon The Drift by the Back Door on Saturday Morning. Drift by the Equipment Area Another View of Drift by Equipment Area

 

The final image below depicts water vapor satellite imagery as of 1215 PM CST on Christmas day, during the height of the blizzard across much of south central Nebraska. The darker colored areas indicate locations where dry air is prevalent in the atmosphere, while light colored (white) areas indicate areas of moisture. Note the expansive counter-clockwise swirl centered over Iowa, which is the primary low pressure system responsible for the blizzard conditions.

 

 

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

 



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