Weather Blog - Dangerous Winter Storm in Kansas City is in progress

Posted at 1:43 AM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 12:46:04-05

Good morning bloggers,

6:40 AM Update: SNOW IN THE CITY!

There is a heavy band of precipitation over the KC metro area. This is changing to snow earlier than anticipated. Every hour early is possibly an additional inch of snow. This is five hours early, so let's see if this transition continues. If it does, then we will be adding a few inches to our forecast totals.


The mixture of precipitation began at 2 AM or so! The first wave of precipitation was in the form of sleet and it coated everything. Remember, sleet is frozen rain, or ice pellets that are already frozen before touching the ground. The sleet literally turned everything white across the KC metro area creating a slick mess. It is very slick & hazardous. The precipitation then changed to freezing rain, and with temperatures near 28 degrees it is freezing on most surfaces adding to the mess out there.

Wes Peery, our 41 Action News meteorologist, has been outside describing the sheet of ice that coated everything. Again, it was sleet, or the frozen rain, that caused this mornings dangerous conditions. And, now wind, sleet, and freezing rain are adding to the problems. Lindsey Anderson is showing radar and forecasting the developing snow band right now on 41 Action News.

Weather Headlines:

  • It started as sleet and became a mixture of sleet and freezing rain
  • Farther south and east of KC, it is more freezing rain
  • Snow is developing north, west, and southwest of KC and this is spreading our way
  • The wind is increasing and once the snow starts falling it will likely blow around, causing some blowing and drifting of the snow

It is somewhat good news that it has mostly been sleet in the KC metro area, as this doesn't coat power lines and tree branches. It is bad news because it coated all of the roads creating slick and hazardous conditions. The wind is also increasing, and it may gust to 25 mph or a bit stronger as this storm moves by.

If you are just south and east of the KC metro area, it has been more freezing rain. Power outages are being reported in some spots as some tree branches were breaking early this morning and possibly falling into some power lines.

Radar at 1:30 AM:

At 1:30 AM the leading edge of the sleet was shown in the blue shade, and then between 1:30 and 3 AM this band spread off to the northeast. The pink shade is freezing rain, which is liquid water freezing on contact with the below freezing surface. There is a warm layer above us around 5,000 feet that is above freezing, and this is melting the snowflakes. This layer will cool between now and noon and the mixed precipitation will change to snow, and possibly become heavy.

By 5:10 AM the storm had spread a bit farther north:

Look at this impressive storm. Drier air was surging north from Joplin and Springfield into the Lake of the Ozarks. This is called a "dry slot", and when it is well defined like this one, it indicates that the precipitation in the comma head is heavy, and this is what we are now experiencing in KC with the sleet and freezing rain, and snow. The comma head will increase the chance of higher accumulations if it does change to snow early.

This has been one very impressive storm with a large area of precipitation. The comma head of a storm is the shape you can see in this precipitation shield. The head of the comma was over western Oklahoma early this morning and that will move over KC this afternoon. Here is a look at our Powercast valid at noon today:

That white shade in the middle of the blue shows one of the likely heavy snow bands. The snowfall rates may reach 1 to 2 inches per hour, and last two to four hours. If you get in this band of snow, then the accumulations will add up fast.

Snow Accumulation Forecast:

Here is the snow accumulation forecast we showed last night on 41 Action News. I am still in this ballpark. The KC metro area is in that 2" - 5" forecast band, with a heavier band likely. This heavier band may only be 25 miles wide and we are monitoring for where this will line up.

Kansas City Weather Time-line:

  • Now-Noon: A changeover to snow, heavy at times. The freezing rain and sleet end and this will limit power outages. Areas east and southeast of KC will have the changeover a little later, so more ice accumulation there will cause more problems. accumulations possible. Temperatures in the 20s.
  • Noon- 4 PM: Snow likely, possibly heavy at times. Accumulations of 4" to 8" likely with some spots reaching a bit more than 8" of snow where that heavy band forms and lines up.
  • 4 PM - 8 PM: Snow ends as the sun sets. Slick and hazardous conditions will continue overnight

The snow accumulations are falling in a narrow band. If you are on the edge of this band you may get only 1" or so, if that. We will showcase this on our newscasts tonight.

2020 Stats: We never reached 95 degrees all year!

Thank you for sharing in this weather experience. If you do have to go out, please provide a lot of extra time as it will be slick and hazardous. Have a great start to 2021! Happy New Year from our entire news, sports, and weather team at 41 Action News.