KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Happy first day of winter (technically arriving at 3:48 p.m.) and it’s going to be very wintry around these parts for the next few days. There haven’t been many changes to my thoughts regarding what’s ahead over the next 24 hours. After some moderation today in the temperature department into the middle 30s, things go off the rails around midnight tomorrow and we just keep on dropping.

This arctic air will last through Christmas morning. Then we should see some moderation Christmas afternoon. There may be a clipper-type system on Monday that briefly dumps cold air back in, but there is good news for next week as a likely warming trend will come in and temperatures should pop to around 50 degrees before the New Year.

Getting there though will be bumpy for sure.

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Kansas City Forecast:

Today: Cloudy, with perhaps a bit of mist at times. Highs eventually in the mid-30s.

Tonight: The front should move in between midnight and 3 a.m. in the metro from north to south. Whatever we are at midnight will be the high for the day, 30-35 degrees, then we tank hard and fast down to near zero to 5 degrees at daybreak and still dropping from there. Winds will be howling at 25-40-plus mph, perhaps even some higher gusts. Snow will be flying after the front moves through. There may be a very short wintry mix at first.

Tomorrow: Falling temperatures with snow winding down before lunch for most. Blowing snow will create hazardous conditions and low visibilities in areas at times. Temperatures tank to around minus 5 degrees by evening with wind chill factors near minus 30 degrees. Total snows should be generally 1-3 inches or so, but impossible to measure. Wind Chill Warnings and Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for the entire area

Friday: More sunshine, morning lows 5-10 below zero, with afternoon highs near 5 degrees. Wind chills remain 20 to 30 degrees below zero for most of the day.

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Discussion:

I’m off today, but wanted to get out a comprehensive blog update to you. Team will get you through the next day!

So I mentioned the good news about the warmup for next week, particularly after Monday into Tuesday morning. How about more good news. We are very quietly adding some time the sunset these days (four minutes already) and while the length of daylight increases by a whopping one second tomorrow, we will have started the path to the longest daylight of the year in six months.

That’s the good news for today’s entry.

Now onto everything else.

Dangerous wind chill in KC

There aren’t a lot of changes needed to what I talked about yesterday on the air and in the blog. The issue now is the timing of the cold blast. Still looks to be just after midnight Thursday and then the corresponding fast drop in temperatures coming. It will be rather remarkable. Already this morning in Dillon, Montana, we’ve seen temperatures drop 26 degrees in three minutes! Truly remarkable.

Cold air sloshing over the terrain there playing a role in that I’m guessing.

Meanwhile there is a LOT of cold air out there.

At 8 a.m.:

Into Canada:

The leading edge of this nasty air mass is in the Dakotas

Let’s track the progress of this with the morning run of the HRRR model.

For timing:

  • 21Z is 3 p.m.
  • 0Z is 6 p.m.
  • 03Z is 9 p.m.
  • 6Z is midnight
  • 9Z is 3 a.m.
  • 12Z is 6 a.m.
  • 15Z is 9 a.m
  • 18Z is noon

Notice how the temperatures on this model go sub-zero tomorrow morning. This is on the table and that would be a rare feat for us to go sub-zero in the morning and stay that way during the day.

As this happens, brutal winds will move in ushering the bitterly cold air through the region. Here are the wind gust forecasts from the HRRR model:

That’s a downright nasty combination.

So you can sort of see how that affects the wind chill. Remember wind chill goes off the sustained winds, not the gusts. Let’s say we’re down to minus 5 degrees tomorrow afternoon at some point. With 25 mph sustained winds, that brings the wind chill down to minus 31 degrees! That would match the coldest since February 2021 in KC. Below that and I think we have to go back to 1996 for a colder wind chill.

Take a look at the coldest wind chills on record. They all occurred in the 1980s, mostly ’83 and ’89. Tell you what, there’s something about December in that information below.

Data via Iowa State

Minus 46 degrees for a wind chill factor is the coldest on record for KC I believe. We won’t get there, but we won’t be that far away either.

These dangerously cold wind chills will continue into Saturday morning, perhaps not to the extreme (though still awful) as Friday night.

The thing is with temperatures near 5 degrees Friday afternoon and 25 mph winds, you still have a wind chill near minus 20 degrees.

This type of dangerous cold can create frostbite conditions in 10-30 minutes or so on exposed skin. Please be careful with that aspect and take the cold seriously.

Now onto the snow situation.

Snow in KC

We should see snow break out in a couple of bands. One initially, perhaps a burst of moderate to almost heavy snow with the frontal passage. Almost like a fast-moving squall line of thunderstorms in a sense. This happens before daybreak tomorrow with the surge of polar air moving through the region. There may be a lull for a bit after that.

Then we should get into another band of snow for a few hours during rush hour in the morning. This short window of snowfall, and it will be snowing sideways, will tend to keep the accumulations lower overall. Again though, because of all the wind you won’t be able to measure this. Some areas will be bare of snow or just dusted. Other areas will have 12 inches of snow piled up. It’s the nature of what happens in wind-blown snow scenarios.

Overall, I’m thinking roughly 1-3 inches of snow, 3 inches on the high side and not predominate. 1-2 inches or so should be the average, again though impossible to measure.

Despite the low totals, with the strong winds and the dry and powder-like nature of the snow, it will be blowing all over the place reducing visibilities. This is what is common in the northern Plains. Strong winds create blowing/drifting snows, reducing visibilities. My colleagues at the National Weather Service in Topeka, Kansas, were contemplating a blizzard warning for parts of their area of responsibility because of this potential.

Remember a blizzard doesn’t have a snow total requirement. You can have a blizzard with 2 inches of snow. The keys as mentioned yesterday are:

  • 1/4 mi or less visibilities,
  • frequent winds of 35 mph or higher,
  • and the key, this needs to happen over 3 hours with blowing and/or falling snow.

We’ll take that as it comes tomorrow. We may get close, I’m just not convinced we’ll get there though.

If you’ve been reading the blog for the last few days, you know that I’ve been watching and expecting the models to diminish the amounts of “liquid” that they have been cranking out for this whole scenario. This has been happening. It’s the reason why I haven’t been convinced that this would be a “big” snowstorm for the region.

The data this morning suggests that is still the proper path to forecasting the snow. Here is the liquid equivalent off the NAM model:

This model shows roughly 1/10 inch to 15/100 inch of moisture.

So now when we convert that to snow (we’ll do a 20:1 ratio), that comes to about 2-3 inches of snow based on this model.

The hi-res NAM has this “liquid” output:

In some cases that’s less than 2 inches of snow, and this won’t surprise me.

Hence my 1-3 inch thought process, some with less. Likely very few with more. Since it’s blowing all over, really not measurable. With the snow being too dry, it’s not going to be snowball-making snow. The sugar-like consistency will be impossible to pack it into a snowball (sorry kids).

Although with the small snowflake structure, it might be rather sparkly. So there’s that.

Remember the blowing snow will likely be a thing and that will create dangerous conditions, especially on the east to west roads in the region. Rapidly changing road conditions are expected tomorrow and tomorrow night because of this. Swaths will be just fine, other areas not so great.

Weather around the U.S.

Now the scope of this whole system. From a snow standpoint, we have these amounts.

Snow totals through Saturday morning

Now take a look at this air pressure forecast:

That pressure with the storm in the Great Lakes is similar to some Category 3 hurricanes. It equates to 28.79 inches. That big HIGH in eastern Montana equates to 31.03 inches. That is a LOT of air pressure difference and uncommon except in these extreme scenarios.

The winds will be widespread and strong.

The worst, except for the mountain areas out west will be in northern Ohio and western New York.

The folks out there have already had themselves an interesting last few weeks with all the crazy snow. Here is part of the discussion from the NWS in Buffalo, New York. (sorry for the caps)

“…ONCE IN A GENERATION WINTER STORM TO SLAM THE REGION HEADING INTO
AND THROUGH THE CHRISTMAS WEEKEND…

OLD MAN WINTER WILL UNLEASH THE FULL FURY OF WINTER UPON OUR REGION
DURING THIS PERIOD…AS AN EXTREMELY AMPLIFIED LONGWAVE PATTERN WILL
SPAWN ONE OF THE MOST INTENSE STORM SYSTEMS IN DECADES TO IMPACT THE
MID WEST AND GREAT LAKES REGION. THIS SYSTEM WILL LIKELY END UP
SETTING LOW PRESSURE RECORDS ONCE IT PASSES NORTH OF THE BORDER AND
WILL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE AT LEAST STORM FORCE WINDS OVER
THE LOWER GREAT LAKES.

AS IF THE VERY REAL THREAT FOR DAMAGING WINDS OF 60-70 MPH WERE NOT
ENOUGH…THERE WILL ALSO BE THE RISK FOR A PROLONGED…PARALYZING
HEAVY LAKE EFFECT SNOW EVENT. THE VERY STRONG TO DAMAGING WINDS,
BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WITH LOCALIZED BLIZZARD CONDITIONS
PRECEDED BY A RAPID FLASH FREEZE ALL COMING RIGHT BEFORE THE
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY WEEKEND RESULTED IN A LONG DURATION WINTER STORM
WATCH BEING ISSUED FOR WESTERN NY. A WINTER STORM WATCH HAS ALSO NOW
BEEN ISSUED FOR JEFFERSON AND LEWIS COUNTY FROM MIDDAY FRIDAY
THROUGH MONDAY. WHILE HEAVY LAKE EFFECT SNOWS HAVE ALREADY OCCURRED
THIS WINTER SEASON…THIS WILL BE THE FIRST EVENT WITH MULTIPLE
IMPACTS FROM SUCH INTENSE WINDS. WINTER STORM WATCHES ARE ALREADY IN
EFFECT FOR PARTS OF WESTERN NEW YORK WITH THE HIGH COMPONENT WRAPPED
INTO THE SAME PRODUCT.”

That is in western New York. They’ve had themselves some doozies. For them to refer to this as a once-in-a-generation storm… wow.

This won’t be their biggest snow though.

Still a nice snow for them

Take a look at all the advisories, watches, warnings out there via the NWS.

Seems like something for everyone

One heck of a storm.

The feature photo is from Kevin E Lewis taken southwest of Warrensburg, Missouri.

Joe