KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First off, Monday’s system looks like a no-big-deal event for the KC area. Temperatures overnight actually came up a few degrees and we may finish the day near 40 degrees or so. Any flakes that fall won’t really stick.
Locally, there may be a few areas with dustings/coatings to 1/2 inch or so. It was going to be a marginal event, but I was concerned about the timing Monday morning. Rain is being reported on the southwest side of the metro as I type this, and radar is showing maybe a few flakes mixing in.
This is all fine by me. That allows me more time to write about the bigger system coming early Thursday.
As I wrote about yesterday, this is going to be essentially like what happens in the Dakotas each winter, except it’s going to happen in the KC region. Winds, snow, bitter cold, blowing snow and dangerous wind chills.
The rarity is that it’s all going to happen at the same time in the region, and that’s unusual for us.
Kansas City Forecast
Today: Cloudy with light areas of rain and mixed in snow flakes. Highs near 40 degrees
Tonight: Cloudy with steady overnight lows for awhile in the mid-30s then dropping toward daybreak. We’ll have an early morning high in the low-to-mid 30s before waking up to the 20s where we may stay for most of the day tomorrow.
Tuesday: Cloudy, there may be a few snow showers and colder with highs in the upper 20s.
Wednesday: Cloudy with highs near 30 or even 35 degrees. If you’re traveling, no worries on Wednesday.
So let’s just get to the meat and potatoes. If you read my blog yesterday, you know all the things that are on the table. I don’t necessarily want to rehash all of that, but there really hasn’t been too many changes at this point.
Timing the Arctic/Siberian air
This still looks like an early-morning frontal passage. We’re likely going to have a midnight high on Thursday, perhaps near 30 degrees, and then when the front moves in, we tank. We’ll narrow this down more over the coming days, but it appears it will come in before daybreak Thursday.
Temperatures with the front
They may drop almost 20-30 degrees within two hours, perhaps more depending on how “warm” we are before the front gets to us. They’re likely heading down fast into the single digits Thursday morning. It’s possible we go sub-zero during the day itself. The EURO takes us down to minus 10 degrees by sunset. It’s been doing this for days now. GFS is closer to minus 1 degree or so at the same time. This is rare for us to drop to that extent during the day itself. Even a compromise is around minus 5 degrees by sunset. The last big frontal drop we had like that in December I believe was back in 2008, dropping from 60 degrees down to 6 degrees on the 14th.
This will be like a Texas Panhandle “Blue ‘Norther.” If we were down there, there would be a wall of dust with this, but we’re not obviously. The winds will switch towards the north and gust to near 40 mph after the frontal passage. Those winds will continue into the overnight and 30 mph gusts are still possible on Friday.
This will be brutal. Let’s assume temperatures do drop to minus 5 degrees by sunset Thursday with 20-30 mph sustained winds (higher gusts). This will send wind chills down to near minus 30 degrees and as temperatures drop more overnight into Friday, the wind chills may approach minus 35 degrees in KC. That is rare(!) and very dangerous. Frostbite can occur in 10-30 minutes time. Take a look at this wind chill chart. I’ve boxed off the numbers in play.
This is a dangerous setup for wind chills amongst everything else. Humans and animals outside need to be prepared for this. Our vulnerable population may need additional help into Friday with the bitter cold and winds.
It would be rare(!) for our wind chills to drop below minus 30 degrees in KC. How rare? Take a look. That event in 2021 was connected to the February cold shot that paralyzed Texas and created power supply issues in our area
Also important to remember that they changed the wind chill calculation back in the early 2000s. So some/many of those previous years, if they were recalculated with the new equation may not have happened either.
So this is very much on the table, and remember the colder the air is, the higher the snow ratios are. Typically we’d have a 10:1 ratio for snow to rain. 10 inches of snow equals about 1 inch of rain. This event though will have ratios that initially may be close to that, but quickly increase to 20-plus:1. That means with the same amount of moisture, the snow totals may double or thereabouts. Model data (I’m discounting what the GFS is selling right now) suggests the potential of 1/4 – 4/10 inch moisture. If this was all snow, that would be 3-6 inches worth. It’s on the table for discussion for sure. I do think the models will trend downwards with the total liquid this will crank out (which we then convert to snow), but with the higher snow ratios, as a starting point I’m thinking 2-4 inches as a first guess. It won’t matter though, because you won’t be able to accurately measure it because it will by flying everywhere and blowing all over the place.
It’s also on the table. I first mentioned this last week on the air, that if A + B + C would happen then voila, blizzard or near-blizzard conditions. To get a blizzard, you need to have certain criteria:
- The important one is falling snow.
- Visibilities 1/4 mile or less (people still get confused about that and with good reason. Some feel it’s 1/4 mile or less. Others go by under 1/4 mile)
- And winds or gusts that are frequently 35 mph or higher and we need to have that happen for at least three hours. It doesn’t have to be continuous.
The AMS Glossary of Meteorology says this:
“The U.S. National Weather Service specifies sustained wind or frequent gusts of 16 m per second (30 kt or 35 mi per hour) or greater, accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 400 m (0.25 mi) for 3 hours or longer.”
The National Weather Service has this:
“Blizzard: Blowing and/or falling snow with winds of at least 35 mph, reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less for at least three hours.”
Regardless all this is on the table: blizzard or near-blizzard conditions.
The strong winds will act to fracture the snow flakes on impact as well. With the bitterly cold air, the snow will be of the “dry” type, which means it can blow around a lot! This makes road clearing VERY difficult and will cause snow drifts to increase. East-west roads are VERY vulnerable to this scenario with strong northern winds continuing into Friday as well.
So how low can they get? This will be a function of clouds on Thursday night. If we clear out by Friday morning, minus 10 degrees is certainly on the table (the winds too may play a role in mixing the air keeping that extreme number from being attained). Minus 5 degrees though is VERY much on the table… at least.
Then Saturday morning we may be primed with clear weather, lighter winds, and snowpack. Minus 10 degrees on the table for the metro (some colder?).
Christmas morning may be sub-zero as well depending on clouds.
So let’s end on a nicer note. We should moderate to some extent after Christmas. I expect a return to the 40s during New Years Week!
This is a lot I realize, a lot to wrap your mind around. We’ve been very out in front of this for the last couple of weeks. I’d hate to hear how anyone would say I had no idea this was coming. I’ve been yelling at the rooftops for 10 days about this. Hope folks have paid attention. If you’re not sure though, pass this along to them so they know what’s coming.
The feature photo comes from Michael Sixkiller down at the Plaza the other night.