Central Plains Ice Storm Update 1-13-17

Significant moisture will move over the Central plains from tonight through early next week. Right now, there is a substantial batch of cold air still sitting over all of Kansas, Nebraska, eastern Colorado and parts of northern/NW Oklahoma. Rains will be rotating up the backside of a strong surface high over the  Deep South. This moisture will “overrun” the cold air at the surface and move through a nice pocket of warm air aloft. This means our atmospheric profile is inverted (usually warmest at surface and cooling as you go up). This is a classic recipe for freezing rain and ice…as we are about to experience.

Major weather outlets have blanketed very large areas with ice warning and have really ramped up the fear mongering. Lets be clear. The worst ice, (much like the worst snows in a strong, classic winter storm) will be over a much smaller area that what has been put out there. That being said, the atmospheric profile is well set to see at least some ice in a lot of places. Most of the southern half of KS will see potential for ice, and northeast Kansas will see some too. We can see a period of about 6-24 hours with temps at or below freezing at the surface while well above freezing at 5000 feet. The longest periods will be found in central Kansas. These temps are going to dance around freezing very closely…usually from 30 to 32, and there will be some pushes to 33 in there. Still, once ice forms, it is fairly easy to add to it, even if you do go above 32 by a few tenths or even a degree from time to time. All of this points us to the conclusion of a pretty good ice event. Note: we are well under other ice totals out there…as you will not see any shock an awe numbers of 1.5″ of ice. But…to be clear – you can skate on .1″ of ice just as easily as you can on 1″…so its going to be treacherous. The one thing that thicker accumulations impacts is infrastructure – like power lines, trees, ect. That will be what bears the biggest threat from larger ice accumulations. Particularly, we are looking for some very gutsy winds later Sunday and Monday as the ice is done, but the heavy rain and storms are not. Big ice accumulations will not be nice to deal with there.

Below is a table we have put together to show the geographic coverage of the ice out of this event.

Area Moisture totals with surface temps at or below freezing  Time frame
Wichita .42″ Midnight Friday – Midnight Saturday
Emporia .22″ Midnight Friday – Midnight Saturday
Pratt/Medicine Lodge .34″ 6A Saturday – Midnight Saturday
Hutchinson .72″ Noon Saturday – 6A Sunday
Salina .92″ 6P Saturday – Noon Sunday
Topeka .30″ 6P Saturday – Noon Sunday
Concordia .32″ 6P Saturday – Noon Sunday
Dodge City 1.14″ 6A Saturday – 6A Sunday
Garden City 1.06″ Noon Saturday – 6A Sunday

A few notes: In the Hutch area, we see most all of that moisture coming with temps right at 32 at the surface, and closer to 42 at 5000 feet. So…warm rains may lead to less freezing, and temps may fluctuate more and see more time at 32.5 to 33 degrees. keep your fingers crossed. By the same token, while the dodge city total is impressive, we are saying right up front that we are not at or below freezing the entire time, so that liquid potential is not even close to being all ice, the way we see it right now. However, heavy moisture is still going to be an issue. To me, the place of biggest concern is north central KS, particularly around Salina – where temps are colder, and moisture could be heavier.


All of this freezing potential is done and out of the area by midday Sunday at the latest. However, moisture is not done. We can see another 1-2.5 inches of rain through the central plains before we get out of Monday. So…look for some localized flooding. The map at above shows rain totals through Tuesday. This is not ice…its total rain. While this model map may be a little bit over done at its zenith…1-3 inch rain totals are easily possible…and we probably should not say we would be surprised if there were some 3+” totals here or there. These moderate to heavy, warm rains will cause rapid melt. Wind will likely trigger some fairly impressive projectiles. Please be careful.

If you want to find the silver lining, or want to stay as positive as possible — 2 inches of moisture will go a long way toward shrinking the driest areas on the most recent drought monitor!

So, to wrap up…while we don’t think other news outlets should have screamed sensationalistic headlines all week…this will be a situation to be smart about, stay home, and expect things like power outages, snapped trees/limbs, and flooding.




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