Compared to last year’s barrage of snow, this winter should be a mild, dry one with plenty of sunshine, state climatologist Mary Knapp said.
Unfortunately, it might not be as good as it sounds.
A recent forecast, which brought a high of nearly 60 degrees one day followed by a low of 10 and snow the next, is a good indication of what Kansans can expect in coming months.
The cause is La Niña, the counterpart to the better-known climate pattern El Niño. La Niña, caused by cooler water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, displaces the jet stream farther north. La Niña explains the heavy snowfalls that have already hit the Northern Great Plains and the Great Lakes Region this winter.
But in Kansas, the La Niña shuts off the flow of moisture coming from the Gulf of Mexico, the source of the region’s winter time precipitation. At the same time, Kansas will be hit by cold fronts from the Canadian Arctic. That pattern can cause mild days followed by blustery cold ones.
“Because the air is so dry, it can go from warm to cold very quickly. It can start out in the morning maybe 40 degrees, a front comes through and by evening it may be 10 degrees,” Knapp said. “That could be very common this winter.”
And that 10 degrees could feel even colder with wind chill present. With such fluctuations in temperatures, Knapp said it’s a good idea to be prepared for cold weather when traveling.
Here are some tips for safe travels during winter months.
• Get your car ready for winter.
No one wants car trouble, but being stuck on the side of the road when temperatures are below freezing can be particularly dangerous. Kansas Department of Transportation advises motorists to check the vehicle’s tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses before hitting the road.
• Keep tabs on weather conditions.
Kim Qualls, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation, encourages travelers to check weather conditions at their destinations before leaving. You can call 511 from any phone in Kansas to get information on road conditions and roadwork for interstate, U.S. and state highways in Kansas and Nebraska. More detailed information can be found at kandrive.org and a new mobile feature for smart phones at 511mm.ksdot.org.
• Have a survival kit in your vehicle.
That kit should include a fully charged cell phone, red flags, fuses or flares, matches or lighter, flashlight, candles, ice scraper, shovel, sand or cat litter, traction mats, tow rope or chain, jumper cables, extra winter clothing, blankets, nonperishable food, drinking water, can opener, first aid kit and metal coffee can.
“Having your emergency preparedness kit in your car is just standard practice,” Qualls said.
• Be prepared to call for help.
Before you leave, let someone know your route and when you expect to arrive at your destination. And, if you become stranded, call for help.
On interstate, U.S. or state highways you can call *47.
On the Kansas Turnpike you can call *KTA.
These numbers can be used to report an emergency, accident, vehicle breakdown, erratic driving or criminal activity. If you have difficulty reaching these numbers, try 911.
• Stay in your vehicle.
If you do become stranded during a winter storm, the car provides the best protection from the weather and the best chance to be discovered by highway maintenance crews and law enforcement officers, according to KDOT. Don’t attempt to find help by walking in snow storms. You can become disoriented in blowing and drifting snow.