Sunday, December 30, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

I hope you had a wonderful holiday! I returned to work yesterday after enjoying my first Christmas off since 2004. My family and I spent part of Christmas here in town with my wife's side of the family then we ventured up the turnpike to see my side near Topeka. A good time was had by all!

My daughter is almost 4 and she was definitely more involved in Christmas this year. She really tore into the nice presents that Santa left her. Santa really enjoyed the milk and banana bread she left him too. (We thought he'd want a break from all of the other cookies he would eat that night!)

One of the fun activities during the break was introducing my daughter to sledding...well, perhaps the "redneck version" of sledding. My brother pulled us with his four-wheeler and our "sled" was an old car hood flipped over! At one point myself, my Dad, my niece and my daughter were all on the sled, er hood, flying around my brother's front yard. At first, my little one didn't want anything to do with sledding ("I don't want to go fast Daddy!") but then once she got into it, she didn't want it to end. But her cold hands and red cheeks begged otherwise.

What did Santa leave you? One of my favorite gifts came from my father in-law. He bought me the entire "Friends" series on DVD. We watched a couple episodes the other night and had a good laugh, especially at the bloopers they included with the set.

If you have more days off on your Christmas break, enjoy! Have a Happy New Year and I'll talk to you again in 2008!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's a Blizzard!

It's not often I say that but that's the case this morning and afternoon here in Wichita. First though, what exactly is the definition of a blizzard?

From the National Weather Service, a blizzard is defined as:
  1. Sustained wind speeds of 35 mph or more, or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater;
  2. Considerable falling and/or blowing snow that reduces visibility frequently to 1/4 mile or less.
The NWS will issue a Blizzard Warning if these conditions are expected to persist for 3 hours or more.

Here's a look at the raw observations from Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport today. I've kept just the first few words intact, otherwise the whole observation would look something like this:

KICT 221853Z 35022G32KT 1/4SM R01L/0800V1000FT BLSN FZFG OVC002 M06/M07 A2993 RMK AO2 SNE29 SLP146 P0002 T10561072 $

Anyway, to help you decode:

KICT: the station ID for Wichita

221853Z: 22 means the 22nd day of the month, 1853z is the time: 12:53pm. (basically the 1PM observation)

35022G32KT: 350 is the wind direction (0 is due north on a 360 degree compass reading, so 350 is pretty darn close to due north). 22 is the wind in knots, converted it is 25 mph. G32KT: Wind gusts to 32 knots or 37 mph.

1/4SM: The visibility in miles.

KICT 221853Z 35022G32KT 1/4SM

KICT 221753Z 35025G36KT 1/4SM

KICT 221728Z 35024G34KT 1/4SM

KICT 221653Z 35024G33KT 1/4SM

KICT 221610Z 35027G35KT 1/4SM

KICT 221553Z 36024G31KT 1/4SM

So from just before 10am to just before 1pm, three hours of 1/4 mile visibility and frequent wind gusts to 35 mph or greater....Blizzard!

Fitting for the first day of Winter.

Stay warm and stay safe!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Weekend Storm looming

Once again we're heading into the weekend with another winter storm on our hands. From everything we've been looking at this week, this upcoming system should move through much faster than the one a week ago, so I don't see Hays getting 13.5" of snow at this point. In addition, any changeover that takes place (from rain to snow) here in Wichita would happen very quickly and would happen after Midnight. The transport of colder air into southcentral Kansas means that temperatures will be falling through the day (below freezing).

Here's how our snowfall potential map looks this afternoon:

As it stands right now, we're thinking 2-3" of snow for Wichita. Once again, heavier amounts of snow (3-5" range) are expected to the north and west of Wichita. This includes cities such as Hutch, Salina, Hays and Dodge City.

Could Wichita receive more? Possibly. But being the conservative person I am and since it IS Wichita we're talking about here, 2-3" looks good ....for right now.

As soon as I finish this blog, I'll be looking over new data. Merril just arrived so we'll both have our noses in the grindstone, trying to nail down these pesky snowfall amounts. Watch us tonight at 5pm for the very latest.

Before I forget, thanks to all of you who called our Storm Team 12 Travel Phone bank last night. We had around 285 calls in 2 hours!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Busy Week

Between last week's massive ice storm and this past weekend's snowstorm, it's been an extremely busy past 7 days here in the weather office. As tired as Ross, Mark and I may be, we can put it all in proper perspective: after our shift is over, we can go home to a lighted, heated home. That's not the case for thousands of our fellow Kansans who are still in the dark and cold. Hats off to all of the power crews who have converged on our state, working hard to restore power.

I know a few of you were disappointed that Wichita didn't receive as much snow as we forecast on Friday. My response: "Ditto!"

Ross and I were on shift that afternoon and poured over a mountain of weather data. We looked at the output of 5 different weather models (computer based simulations of the atmosphere), guidance from the HPC (Hydrometeorological Prediction Center) and information from the Wichita National Weather Service. When we completed the forecast around 4pm, I felt highly confident that Wichita would get at least 6" of snow. In the end, the official total for Wichita was 3", while heavier amounts near 4" were reported from the east side of town. Just northwest of us though, Hutch got 7" and Burrton (just east of Hutch) had 8".

Looking back, the snowfall early on here in Wichita was melting as temperatures were around 33 degrees. Then as some dryer air moved in aloft toward Midnight, the snowfall diminished in intensity. Once it picked back up later in the morning, it was too late to make up the shortfall.

With the next storm system set to arrive later in the week and into the first half of the weekend, we'll hunker down again and do our best to give you the most accurate forecast we can.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

This could hurt a little

Since Thursday, Storm Team 12 has been busy with winter weather. Well, it appears Mother Nature is saving her worst for last.

As we've talked about the last couple of days, all of our weather guidance points to a significant ice event over a large part of Kansas Monday night into Tuesday.

The graphic below is a moisture forecast for the time period between 6am Monday through 6am Tuesday. (click to expand it)

This graphic (courtesy of the NWS' Hydrometeorological Center) forecasts a bullseye of nearly 1.75" to the northeast of Wichita, with about 1.50" for the city itself. Even if this forecast is off by half, that's still over 0.75" of liquid...falling into sub-freezing air....yes, freezing rain. 3/4" of ice would be a significant amount. The January 2005 ice storm brought 1/2" to 1" of ice over southcentral Kansas.

Scarier yet: the next panel (not shown, going from 6am Tuesday to 6am Wednesday) depicts another 0.75" to 1" of rain around Wichita.

I've already been asked if this one will be as bad as 2005. Time will only tell but suffice to say, please continue to monitor our forecast on the air and on-line for the very latest.