They called the spring snow falling in south-central Kansas on Easter Sunday morning a “blessing.”
A band of wet snow fell over parts of Kansas, including Reno County and wildfire-struck counties along the Oklahoma border.
“Mother Nature did them a big favor,” said Wichita-based National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Jakub.
Comanche and Barber counties probably received 2 to 3 inches of snow, and a photo showed the area “covered in a nice thick blanket of snow,” Jakub said. “That helped them out a lot.”
“Answer to prayers,” said the dispatcher at the Comanche County Sheriff Department in Coldwater. She said it rained before approximately 3.5 to 4 inches of snow fell. “It’s a blessing,” she said.
The firefighting effort continued Sunday in Barber County, out of concern that snow falling in cedar tree-choked canyons did not penetrate the ground.
“We feel like the snow helped us with the lighter fuels, like grass and light brush,” said Shawna Hartman, information officer for the Kansas Forest Service’s Incident Management Team.
However, down in the deep canyons where snow may not have reached the ground, it’s possible as wind picks up and it gets warmer and drier, hot spots will rekindle, Hartman said. Sunday’s precipitation may have minimal effect in those places, according to a statement from the Incident Management Team.
Four Black Hawk helicopters battled the fire Saturday, dropping almost 45,000 gallons of water in Barber County. They were available Sunday for reconnaissance and water drops, and again, they dumped water over Barber County.
“What we’re trying to prevent is in two or three days when drier weather returns, there is not a hot spot where heavier fuels would rekindle,” Hartman said.
Three counties — Woods County, Oklahoma, and Kansas’ Barber and Comanche counties — suffered from the wildfire blaze that started last week and became the largest wildfire in Kansas history. On Sunday afternoon, containment in Comanche County was estimated at 90 percent; Woods County, 40 percent; and Barber County, 31 percent. For the fire perimeter for all three counties combined, the fire was 45 percent contained as of Sunday afternoon.
Containment numbers rose as the day progressed and by Sunday evening, Barber County’s containment was reported at 81 percent.
The Black Hawks departed Sunday afternoon and operations in Barber County did not request additional firefighting forces. Hartman said staff would be reduced Monday.
The fire last week had threatened Medicine Lodge but went around the city. On Sunday morning, congregants gathered in First United Presbyterian Church in Medicine Lodge and lifted up in prayer those who had been affected by the fire and the firefighters, according to Rev. Karen Lemon.
“The snow was a blessing,” Lemon said Sunday afternoon.
Snow in Kansas fell in an area from Hutchinson or a little north of Hutchinson, southward to the Oklahoma border. The territory receiving snow was about four or five counties wide.
Amounts varied from a trace up to about 4 inches. Meteorologist Jakub said there was a report of up to 6 inches, but a tall stand of grass could have contributed to that measurement, he suspected. The Hutchinson area received from 1 to 3 inches of snow, he said, while the Wichita and Kingman areas saw up to to 4 inches.
The snow cover vanished quickly in Hutchinson. By Sunday afternoon, evidence of the snowfall could be detected in only heavily shaded areas
Temperatures will climb into the 60s by today and into the 70s by Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday will bring a chance of rain, and high temperatures could slip back to the 50s later in the week.