It’s certainly not the earliest, nor the worst, winter storm northwest Kansas will ever see, but Wednesday’s forecast is calling for significant cold and snow.
A winter weather advisory is in effect from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 7 p.m. Wednesday for north central into southwest Kansas, and from 1 p.m. Central time Tuesday to 1 p.m Wednesday for northwest and west-central Kansas.
Wind chills could reach the single digits during that time.
“We’ve had some early snows as early as late September, early October, so this isn’t totally unheard of. But the magnitude of the cold with this is extremely unusual,” said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist in charge at the Dodge City National Weather Service.
“This is typical of what you see in mid-winter with extremely cold temperatures. We may very well set some record low temperatures for the month of October Wednesday night,” he said.
According to data from the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center, the record low in Hays for Oct. 30 is 9 degrees, set in 1917 and for Oct. 31 is 12 degrees, set in 1993. The average monthly snowfall for October is 0.22 inch.
That average will likely be blown away, as Ellis County is expected to see up to 4 inches of snow, with up to 7 inches farther west, according to the National Weather Service forecasts as of Tuesday afternoon.
Snow will move into the Hays area starting around midnight to 2 a.m. Wednesday, Ruthi said.
“The most significant snow will probably be before sunrise,” he said.
Light to moderate snow will continue through Wednesday morning, winding down to flurries by about 3 p.m., he said.
While south-central Kansas might see some freezing drizzle, there’s little chance for that in Ellis County, Ruthi said.
Winds will be around 20 to 30 mph, which could cause some drifting and visibility issues, as well as wind chills in the teens and single digits Wednesday afternoon.
Trick-or-treaters will probably want to bundle up Thursday as well.
Temperatures will likely be in the 30s Thursday afternoon and drop back into the 20s just after sunset.
Fortunately, the storm is not expected to be among the worst the region has seen at the end of October. The 1991 “Halloween Blizzard” hit much of the midwest, dumping up to a foot of snow across northwest Kansas and essentially canceling Halloween, also on a Thursday that year, in some towns.
Then-Hays Mayor Dan Rupp informally designated the following Sunday as trick-or-treat night as a way to give a unified “make-up” night rather than having it stretch out over several nights. Plainville Mayor Jay Mongeau named Saturday as the make-up day.