It could be a bumpy night.
The National Weather Service says the Kansas City area – and much of western Missouri and eastern Kansas – is likely in for scattered severe storms that could include high wind and hail. Some places won’t get much; some could be hit hard.
Storms are most likely in south-central Kansas – that area already has a tornado watch through 11 p.m. – but everything south of an arc from Marysville, Kansas to Chillicothe and Moberly in Missouri is at risk of storms after dark “that may become strong to severe” with heavy rain, hail, lightning and winds gusting to 40 to 60 mph. Overall, there’s an 80 percent chance of rain, and those chances linger through early Thursday.
Also, the Kansas City area and most of Missouri remain at what the Weather Service calls a slight risk for similar storms Wednesday afternoon and evening.
Already the ground is saturated and the risk of flash flooding is high. The area south and west of a line from St. Joseph to Carrollton to Columbia is under a flash flood watch through late Wednesday night.
Authorities remind drivers to “turn around, don’t drown” when they encounter water – of whatever apparent depth – on a road.
Handling all the expected rain is going to be a headache. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says rainfall in the Missouri River basin in March and April was the highest since the beginning of record-keeping in 1898. April’s rainfall was three times the average amount.
The release of water from the Gavins Point dam in South Dakota – the farthest downstream of the six dams on the upper Missouri – is expected to remain high for some time, meaning more water passing through Kansas City and an added challenge on the Mississippi River, which is flooding in places. Gavins Point is releasing 55,000 cubic feet of water per second, almost double what’s normal for this time of year.
Closer to home, the Weather Service has recorded 12.59 inches of rain at Kansas City International Airport this year, through Monday. That’s 2.99 inches above average. Since March 1, rainfall is 1.59 inches above normal. May and June are the area’s wettest months – each gets 5.23 inches of rain on average – and in six days this month 1.15 inches has fallen, compared with an average so far of 1.0 inch.
Officials advise having several means of getting weather information and being what they call weather alert. Most people rely on the TV, but an all-hazards radio – also known as a weather radio – also works well, as it can be programmed to sound an alert when there’s a storm in your area. Also, any number of smartphone apps can bring you severe weather alerts.
At home, have a plan – that is, clear out a secure place on a lower level to ride out a bad storm. Avoid areas with windows, and put as many walls between yourself and the outside as your can. Have some supplies. A good start would be flashlights and fresh batteries, a first-aid kit, blankets and sleeping bags, basic hand tools, some water and food, and a phone charger. Those are also good to keep in your car.
It’s also helpful to know a little bit of weather forecaster terminology, specifically the difference between a watch and a warning:
• A watch means conditions are favorable for heavy weather such as a severe thunderstorm. Watches are usually posted for fairly large areas – sometimes dozens of counties – and can be posted for several hours.
• A warning means take cover now. It means either radar or a trained human spotter has detected severe weather. Warnings are usually of shorter length than watches and for the specific localities in a storm’s path. The Weather Service often can predict to the minute when a storm will hit a certain town or city.