This winter's particularly cold and snowy conditions may give Midwesterners the feeling that winter will never end. But Mary Knapp, who is the state climatologist for Kansas, says February can provide surprises.
"With continued winter in the forecast, it might be nice to remember just how warm it can be in February," Knapp said. "On Feb. 22, 1996, Wichita temperatures soared to 86 degrees F, their warmest temperature recorded in February. On a broader scale, state-wide average mean temperatures for February range from a balmy 45.1 degrees F - recorded in 1930 and again in 1954 - to a bone-chilling 18.4 degrees reached in 1899."
Knapp, who oversees the Kansas Weather Data Library, based in K-State Research and Extension, said this year, February started out with an average mean temperature of 30.7 degrees F, placing it on the bottom side of middle-of-the-range.
For stormy weather, February can also bring some major snows. On Feb 21, 1971 southern Kansas was hit with a major blizzard, dropping from 10 to 13 inches of snow. Winds up to 40 miles per hour reduced visibility to zero. Wichita's Mid Continent airport recorded 12.8 inches of snow, placing the storm as one of the five worst on record.
On Feb. 17, 1958 the Northeastern United States was hit with about 30 inches. Baltimore had 20 inches in 24 hours and the mid-Atlantic region had as much as 3 feet, resulting in 43 deaths and more than $500 million in damages. A year later, on Feb. 18, 1959, higher elevations in California were in the midst of a five-day storm, resulting in a mind boggling 189 inches, a single storm record for North America.
The south isn´t immune either, Knapp said. On February 15, 1895 the Gulf Coast was struck by their worst winter storm ever. Houston saw 20 inches of snow, and Brownsville had 6 inches.
More information about Kansas weather is available on the Weather Data Library Web site: www.ksre.ksu.edu/wdl/. "Weather Wonders" audio reports are available on the K-State Research and Extension News Media Web site at www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/.