Get ready for some serious winter weather, for the first time in nearly two years.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for Douglas County and other parts of northeast and north-central Kansas, warning of the possibility of several inches of snow and strong winds late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
Jared Leighton, a meteorologist at the NWS Topeka office, said the good news is that the worst of the storm around Lawrence and Douglas County should come between about midnight and 6 a.m. Thursday. The advice for that period of time: If at all possible, don't venture out from your home.
"There could be some pretty tumultuous conditions: whiteouts, perhaps blizzard-like conditions," Leighton said.
He said Lawrence-area residents could expect about 1 to 3 inches of snow, which by itself wouldn't be too much of a problem. But when combined with 20- to 30-mph winds, with gusts up to 40, things could get pretty dangerous overnight. Visibility could be very low.
"Anybody that's out in the elements at that time will be in some peril," Leighton said.
The storm appears more severe than anything that occurred last winter, which was unusually mild, he said. It won't compare with the blizzards that came through during the winter of 2010-11, though.
Mark Thiel, assistant public works director for the city of Lawrence, said that might be his biggest concern as drivers take the roads on Thursday morning after the storm: that they won't remember to take proper caution while driving in winter weather, since it's been so long.
He hopes drivers remember to set aside some extra time for their commute Thursday morning, check news reports before heading out, drive slowly and watch out for icy surfaces that may appear to be just wet.
The powerful winds expected might drop the windchill into the low teens Thursday morning, Thiel said, which could allow for some snow accumulation on the roads. He said drivers could probably expect roads to be wet and slushy during their morning commute Thursday, and bridges and overpasses may be especially dangerous.
"Those are probably road surfaces that will become slickest the quickest," Thiel said.
He said city crews would be watching to see if they can deploy trucks to pretreat roads with a liquid salt solution in the hours before the storm.
But forecasts right now call for rain immediately before, he said, and pretreating streets while it rains can actually cause them to be slicker later on.
Snowfall should be finished by 6 a.m., Leighton said, though the stiff winds may continue for a bit.
"If you don't have to drive anywhere early Thursday morning, I wouldn't," Leighton said.
The Kansas Highway Patrol on Tuesday released reminders for drivers as winter weather begins. Among them: When conditions are bad, slow down and turn your headlights on and your cruise control off; replace wiper blades, check your tires and fluid levels; stock your car with an emergency kit; allow for a safe following distance; and, of course, always wear your seat belt.
The city of Lawrence reminded residents last week of the sidewalk snow removal ordinance in place since 2008. All property owners have 48 hours after snow or ice stops falling to clear off all sidewalks adjacent to their properties.
Property owners cited will be fined $20 plus court costs. To report violations, residents can call the city's Code Enforcement Division at 785-832-7700.