Winter! You either love it or hate it but you can’t avoid it, or can you?
Kansans are starting to wonder about whether winter here is changing. Are the days of bitter cold and heavy snow gone?
“Last winter was one of the worst winters ever,” says Richard Waeneger. He runs RW Enterprises, a snow removal company, so by "worst" he means mind. His business depends on the snow.
“It's cold and nobody likes it, but somebody's got to go out and clear the parking lots for people so they can do business and that's us,” he says.
Last winter was indeed a mild one and anything but typical.
Storm Team 12 looked at the numbers and found Western Kansas measured 10-20 inches of snow, less than half the normal amount. Wichita only saw three inches of snow, well short of the 15 inches that south central Kansas normally gets.
A repeat of last year is a worry for Waeneger. “A mild winter means we’re broke,” he says.
Last year’s mild winter changed the way other businesses operate, like pest control companies.
“Things did not slow down, it just continued to be busy,” Chad Swinger with Heartland Pest Control told us. “I like the break in the winter when it is a winter because it gives us time to regroup and get ready for the following spring.”
But Swinger may not get a break this winter either.
Storm Team 12 looked into what kind of winter we should expect.
A definitive answer is tough in the absence of El Nino or La Nina, but a dominant setup, that will likely repeat this winter, favors cool and dry weather across the central United States. When the wind in the upper atmosphere comes from the northwest, our chances for moisture will be very low.
A secondary part of the winter pattern should provide some drought relief. We will likely have - at least on a couple of occasions - a storm that forms in the southwest and then kicks out across the plains. When we see this type of setup, our chances for rain and snow will be much better.
There will be some other variations in the overall winter pattern, but temperatures will likely be near or slightly above normal, which means several days with highs in the 40s/50s. We'll also likely have at least a couple of warm spells with highs in the 60s.
Snowfall this winter will likely be below normal. And the drought should continue into the spring.
Farmers and ranchers understand the struggle that comes with weather that doesn't cooperate.
“We need the moisture, we’re going into this winter again dry so we need the moisture,” says farmer Kent Ott.
Even though last winter was dry, there was just enough moisture to help his wheat crop. But some snow could also help.
“For the wheat crop, the snow does provide some protection from the cold,” he says. “It provides an insulating layer and it’s interesting, the wheat seems to look prettier, with a greener color after the snow.”
How much snow will Kansas get this year? We’ll just have to wait and see. Just know that no matter the weather Storm Team 12 will be here to track the changes.