The bad one doesn’t come today, but then again it’s hard to say.
Weather forecasters say the second of two storm systems on the way could dump a good deal of snow on the metro area but caution that their weather models for the weekend come with a high degree of uncertainty.
The worst of today’s weather is expected to go south of the metro area, according to the National Weather Service, but sleet, snow and perhaps freezing rain could hit western Missouri after rush hour this morning. The chance of precipitation is 50 percent. There’s a slight chance of snow into the evening, and the temperature gets down to about 20. Much of the immediate metro area might get no accumulation of snow and ice, but Grain Valley and Oak Grove fall into a zone covering most of the state where a trace to half an inch is expected.
The bigger worry is what comes Saturday night through Sunday night, bringing accumulations of snow and leaving behind bitter cold. The Weather Service said, as of late Thursday, that forecast models suggest 3 inches of snow or more from east-central Kansas to the metro area to northeast Missouri – but stressed a good of uncertainty and said the forecast could change. That storm is expected to start as snow and sleet Saturday night and turn to all snow overnight.
It also will be cold, with a high of just 13 Sunday and about 1 below zero that night. Monday and Monday night are expected to be about as cold as Sunday, and then it slowly starts warming up.
Forecasters also point out that despite new winter storms, the spring severe weather season isn’t that far off, and Missouri’s statewide tornado drill is at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. That means warning sirens, NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio and the emergency alert system will be activated. The Weather Service says the drill is to test community readiness not just for tornadoes but also flash floods, large hail and damaging winds, and residents are asked to treat the drill as if it were an actual tornado emergency.
All next week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Missouri, and there’s a local class to train weather spotters. The National Weather Service SkyWARN presentation is at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crown Pointe Church, 5950 N.E. Lakewood Way in Lee’s Summit. Lakewood Way is the extension of Little Blue Parkway south of U.S. 40, and the church is about a mile south of that intersection. The event is free and open to the public. A Weather Service meteorologist will discuss severe weather, storm spotting and weather safety.
As the severe weather season approaches, weather and safety officials have a wide range of suggestions:
• Have a good supply of emergency items stored in a safe place at home: three to 14 days worth of water (a gallon per person per day), food (nonperishable and easy to prepare) for at least three days, blankets and sleeping bags, a cell phone, radio and flashlight with fresh batteries (or get a hand-crank radio), a first-aid kit, some basic tools, sanitation and personal hygiene items, and copies of personal documents. Think about your meds, and think about the needs of children, those with disabilities, seniors and even your pets. Write down emergency and family contact numbers. A condensed version of these materials, set for about three days, can be your evacuation kit.
• The list of winter-ready items for your car or truck is similar: a shovel, an ice scaper, some high-energy foods such as granola bars, water, matches and candles, a well-charged cell phone, a first-aid kit, a red flag, jumper cables, sand or kitty litter, blankets, extra clothes, a tow rope or chain, traction mats, and flares. If you get badly stuck, don’t abandon your vehicle. Put up the red flag, call for help and wait it out. Run the engine once in a while to stay warm, but keep a window cracked for fresh air.
• If you’re at home when a tornado strikes, go the basement or an interior room on the lowest floor. In general, put as many walls between yourself and the storm as you can, and head for the lowest level, the smallest room and the center of the building. If you’re in a mobile home, seek shelter elsewhere – immediately. Go to a more substantial structure or a designated tornado shelter.
• Weather forecasting has advanced to the point that severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are almost always preceded by watches and warnings. A watch means conditions are favorable for a thunderstorm or tornado, and watches tend to be over fairly large areas and last for hours. Warnings are specific. A warning means either radar or a trained human spotter has detected a thunderstorm, funnel cloud or wall cloud. Radar also can pick up the rotation of air within a storm that’s the signature of a tornado. Warnings are usually for fairly small areas or short lengths of time.
• When the weather looks iffy, keep the TV or radio on for updates. The Weather Service also strongly suggests weather radios, which can be programmed to sound the alert and turn on when a watch or warning is posted in your area.
• Lightning kills about 73 people nationwide each year, including one person in Missouri, on average. When storms are nearby, avoid high and open places. Stay off the water. Stay away from flagpoles, light poles and isolated trees. Avoid metal fences, bleachers and gazebos. Golf carts and convertibles are not a good idea, but an enclosed vehicle provides what the Weather Service calls reasonably good protection as long as you don’t touch metal.
A wealth of emergency preparedness information is available free on online at such places as:
• http://www.crh.noaa.gov/eax%20(the Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill)