Winter to start Wednesday with arctic blast of below zero temperatures, wind chills

Lawrence and Douglas County can expect a white Christmas as snow that accompanies a frigid arctic front arriving Wednesday night and Thursday will stick around for the holiday weekend.

Sarah Teefey, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Topeka, said a strong blast of arctic air will move into northeast Kansas with the winter solstice on Wednesday. The coming chill will follow a Monday high in the mid-30s and Tuesday and Wednesday highs in the mid-20s.

“Wednesday is the first day of winter, and it’s going to be very winter like,” she said. “The really cold arctic air we are tracking will arrive Wednesday night and Thursday. We are expecting some snow, but it’s a little early to predict accumulations. We are confident of the cold temperatures.”

The temperature is forecast to fall to 1 below zero Wednesday night and Thursday morning and down to 11 below Friday morning, Teefey said. Strong north winds of 20 to 25 mph with gusts from 40 to 45 mph will dip wind chills to 15 below Thursday and 33 below Friday morning, she said. The wind will ease a bit on Friday with sustained wind of 10 to 20 mph expected and gusts of from 25 to 30 mph.

Lawrence could see snow accumulations of 2 inches, Teefey said. Frigid temperatures and drifting snow will make for extremely hazardous road conditions Thursday and into Friday, she said.

More moderate weather will return with the holiday weekend with daytime highs in the 20s predicted. That’s well below the average daytime high for this time of year of 44 and cold enough to ensure any snow that falls Thursday will still be on the ground on Christmas, she said.

Northeast Kansas experiences the type of arctic air blasts that send actual temperatures down to double-digit below zero levels about once every 10 years, Teefey said. Two such blasts occurred with or near the winter soltice in 1983, when wind chills of 40 below were recorded, and 1989 when wind chills dipped 40 below, she said.

Any snowfall with the icy blast will do little to end dry conditions that have all of Douglas County in moderate drought, Teefey said. There has been 27.99 inches of rainfall recorded so far this year at the National Weather Service monitoring station at Lawrence Municipal Airport, which is 7.02 below normal for the year, she said.

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