Looking at his computer screen Tuesday afternoon, meteorologist Jon Finch at the National Weather Service in Dodge City was watching an upper level storm system expected to hit our area this Friday.
“It’s about 3,000 miles west, out in the Pacific Ocean right now,” Finch said. “It’s moving at about 30 miles an hour, it’s a pretty fast-moving system.”
Forecasters are predicting the storm system will meet up with arctic air coming down from Canada right over the high plains. The result, they say, will be rain starting Friday afternoon, changing to snow Friday night as temperatures turn very cold.
“Right now we’re not expecting a lot of snow, maybe one to two inches,” Finch said. “But it will be hard to measure because it will be blowing sideways.”
Winds will reach up to 50 miles an hour Friday night, he said, so the main problem won’t be a lot of moisture, but rather cold air and very low wind chills.
The snow should stop by 6 a.m. Saturday morning, but temperatures in the Hays area will be around 9 degrees, with a wind chill of about 10 below.
That won’t be a record low, said Milissa Alexander at the KSU Agricultural Research Center in Hays.
“That’s not even close,” Alexander said.
The record for Jan. 18 is minus 13 degrees, which was set in 1984, she said. On Jan. 18, 2018, it was minus one degree; on that date in 2017 it was a balmy 28 degrees; and in 2016 it was 12 degrees.
These kinds of systems moving in from the west are seen mainly from October through April, said Finch, and unless it slows down and lingers it won’t bring much moisture.
“It’s a pretty fast-moving system. It has to be a slow-moving system to bring a lot of moisture,” he said. “At this point it doesn’t look like a real major storm for us. But there will be blowing and drifting snow, so it could be a few rough hours for us Friday night.”
There will be some who enjoy it, however. City of Hays Animal Control Officer Stan Moore said double-coated dogs, like malamutes and Huskies are fond of the cold weather.
“They’ll be loving it, and they may be driving you crazy, wanting to go outside all the time,” Moore said.
Other pets can also withstand the cold, but they need a little extra help. Hunting dogs, cats and rabbits that are accustomed to being outside, will be OK in their shelters, as long as they have lots of bedding to keep them warm.
“They need good bedding, either straw or hay,” Moore said. “I wold not use blankets, they hold moisture, and they are not good insulators.”
He advises increasing their food ration, since they’ll be burning extra calories to stay warm. A heated bowl isn’t a bad idea, but otherwise just change the water every six to eight hours to make sure it isn’t frozen, Moore said. Short-haired dogs, like Chihuahuas, should be brought inside, he said.
Now it’s wait and see.
“This is a four-day forecast, so things could change,” Finch said. “If it moves far enough north or south, we could miss the whole thing.”