It might just be a once in a lifetime occurrence for much of the area ― snow on the second day of May.
The last time there was measurable snowfall in May in the Kansas City area, according to accuweather.com, was May 3, 1907, when about 1.7 inches fell.
But in a storm that started with a drastic drop in temperature Wednesday night and transitioned from thunderstorms and rain to sleet and then snow by early afternoon Thursday, the National Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill, Mo., was predicting new accumulation of up to 3 inches of wet, heavy flakes before the snow was expected to cease Friday. The county was part of an areawide Winter Weather Advisory scheduled to end at 1 p.m. Friday.
Still, Northeast Kansans might consider themselves lucky ― the NWS stated in an update issued at 4 p.m. Thursday that accumulations of about 19 inches were reported in Estes Park, Colo., and similarly high amounts in parts of Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. The system was spread from Oklahoma north to Wisconsin, the NWS said, dumping precipitation in various forms on much of the Midwest, including many places that, like here, have not seen snowflakes in May for some time.
“There have been some snowstorms in May in the region, but they are rare. 1907 sticks out as a benchmark year for a number of locations. However, multiple years during the mid-1940s also brought snow events to the region for several years in a row,” wrote Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, in a report on the current front.
Leavenworth Public Works Director Mike McDonald said the forecast was enough to cause his crews to unpack some of its spreaders and plows, which had previously been stowed away for next winter.
“We're actually going to have two guys come in at 8 p.m.,” he said.
There's little, if any, snow expected to stick to the streets from the storm as a result of the recent warm temperatures. But McDonald said that doesn't mean there might not be some hazardous precipitation.
“We're concerned about the buildup of slush,” in the streets, he said.
The timing of the storm also means some area gardeners were scrambling to get their crops and plants covered.
“There are a lot of very tender annual plants that will not survive this,” said Charlotte Van Wormer of the Leavenworth County Master Gardeners.
VanWormer said among those vulnerable plants are tomatoes, peppers and some summery herbs like basil. Steve McNorton, an agricultural and natural resources agent for the Kansas State Research and Extension office in Leavenworth County, said it's not the snow itself that will cause the harm.
Page 2 of 2 - “We'll certainly take any moisture that we can get,” he said. “The temperature is what is really damaging to these plants,” adding that the last frost for this region is usually expected about April 20.
He said a “scorching” of the leaves might be the most immediate sign that a crop is damaged from the cold, though even that might not be apparent at first. In some cases, the damage might not become noticeable until they start to produce.
“It ultimately will reduce the yield,” he said. “It may have a yield reduction in that 20 to 25 percent range, according to estimates from K-State.”
But because so much of spring so far has been unpredictable, McNorton and Van Wormer both said that many of the producers they've talked to haven't planted summer vegetables yet.