Storm Track 3 Forecast: Tricky travel by New Year’s Day as a winter storm brings rain, ice and snow

Kansas and Wichita Weather Forecasts by Storm Track 3

Winter Storm Watches are in effect starting at 12 AM New Year’s Day until 12 AM Sunday for portions of the Sunflower State as our first impactful storm system of the season arrives.

Tonight, clouds start to build into the region as our sign that the pattern is changing. Expect temperatures to fall into the 20s and 30s.

Daytime highs Friday afternoon for some parts of the state are set to reach the upper 50s to lower 60s before a strong cold front arrives to bring a sharp drop in temperatures.

A few spotty showers will be possible Friday afternoon into the evening for areas generally along and south of HWY 400. 

As temperatures fall Friday night with the cold front passage, rain will begin to change over to freezing rain and sleet.

Ice accumulations will be likely initially on elevated surfaces and bridges that are able to cool faster as road temperatures continue to drop overnight.

This will lead to slick driving conditions during the early hours of New Year’s Day. Freezing rain accumulations of 0.1″ to 0.25″ will be possible with additional sleet accumulations up to 0.2″ in spots. Greatest ice potential will be for southcentral into southeastern Kansas and across the state line into northern Oklahoma.

The timing for the icing to occur looks to be as early as 11 PM Friday, but more likely starting around 1 AM Saturday and lingering through midday. Areas farther south and east will experience these impacts later into the morning on Saturday. 

For areas farther north and west, this will be an all-snow event.

A narrow band looks to set up across northcentral into northeastern Kansas that could easily produce snowfall totals between 3″ to 5″ with locally higher amounts in excess of 7″. Areas farther to the south will see a change over to snow as the event carries on into Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. Snowfall totals will range from 1″ to 3″. However, due to rain and ice initially, snowfall totals will be much lower the farther south and east you travel.

The timing of the cold air arrival and track shifts will be crucial to monitor over the next 24 hours as we prepare for this winter storm. For the Wichita area, this will be a mainly ice event and folks should prepare for that headed into New Year’s Day before a quick burst of snow as this storm system exits to the east. In other parts of the state ice as well as blowing and drifting snow will lead to difficult travel across the region.

Winds gusting to 40 MPH will be possible. Combine the gusty winds with temperatures into the teens and wind chill values will easily feel like 10° to 20° below zero.

Wind Chill Watches are in place for northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska starting Friday into Saturday.

Please make sure you are protecting yourselves and your pets from the cold air if you have to be outside as wind chill values will remain below zero throughout the day on Saturday.

Temperatures will remain colder through the weekend as our snowpack melts leading to a gradual warming trend into the middle of next week before another cold front arrives to lock in the wintry temperatures through the end of next week. 

— Meteorologist Erika Paige

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