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Brrr: Sudden weather change on way

10/5/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

With a normal weather month barely in the books, Old Man Winter now is bearing down on northwest Kansas, hoping to upset the apple cart.

A freeze watch has been issued for Hays and much of northwest Kansas from late Saturday night through Sunday morning, with temperatures expected to fall into the 29- to 32-degree range.

The forecast is "still up in the air, pardon the pun," Dodge City National Weather Service meteorologist Frederick Kruse said just as the freeze watch was being discussed. "We are looking at a possible freeze or at least a frost."

A frost occurs, he said, when temperatures fall to 32 degrees and above; a freeze is 32 degrees and below.

A killing freeze occurs when temperatures fall to 28 degrees for an hour or more, bringing an end to the summer growing season.

Detailing just how cold temperatures will be as much as 72 hours out -- especially within the range of just a few degrees -- is almost impossible, Kruse said.

The presence of clouds or wind can work together to keep otherwise falling temperatures above freezing.

Clear, calm skies can allow temperatures to fall, in some cases dramatically.

"The potential is there," Kruse said of temperatures falling to either frost or freeze levels.

There's also the possibility of rain -- perhaps with a mix of snow -- Friday night into Saturday morning.

Snow will be light, if there's any at all, and will mix in with the rain. Ground temperatures are so warm, he said, it's unlikely any will stay on the ground.

But there is a good chance of rain, as high as 60 percent.

"There's a fairly good bet of seeing some freezing temperatures," Kruse said. "Whether it will be an end-of-growing-season thing, that's questionable. But possible."

Even though conditions were relatively normal in September, any moisture will be welcome.

Only 1.07 inches of rain fell last month at the KSU Research Center.

That brings the yearly total to 12.67 inches -- 7.14 inches below normal. In Colby, only 0.74 of an inch of rain fell.

While September's rainfall in Hays was the ninth lowest on record, it's the seasonal rainfall -- that most critical to growing crops -- that stands out.

Only 9.97 inches of precipitation has been recorded since the first of April, the seventh driest.

Only 1956, 1868, 1983, 1952, 1895 and 1894 were drier for the April through September growing season.

Temperatures moderated in September from earlier in the summer.

The average high temperature last month settled at 82.8 degrees, 53rd warmest on record. Both the low and mean temperatures for the month were markedly lower.

Temperatures topped 100 degrees twice in September but moderated about halfway through the month.