Skip the navigation header

K-State Logo K-State Research and Extension logo
go to Research and Extension home page go to News go to Publications and Videos ask a question or make a comment search the Research and Extension site


News Logo Search News:   
News Home About Us Staff Links Contact Us

Released: October 27, 2005

Definition of 'Early Snow’ Varies Widely for Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. – By Halloween, Kansans often start wondering when the first snow will arrive.

The answer each year is as variable as all Kansas weather. But, the higher elevations in the west typically get the earliest snowflakes.

“In fact, 10 years ago the west got 2 to 4 inches on Sept. 20,” said Mary Knapp, State of Kansas climatologist, based at Kansas State University. “That’s the earliest, if you don’t count hail as snow – as the National Weather Service did for a while years ago.”

Knapp maintains the state’s official Weather Data Library as part of K-State Research and Extension’s agronomy programs.

She said the average October in Kansas ends with about one in four days bringing moisture, highs in the 60s, and lows between 35 and 40 degrees.

As part of that average, however, one of the worst blizzards in recent history blew in just before Halloween in 1997. It literally buried parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois over the Oct. 24-26 weekend.

“In Kansas, the 10 to 24 inches of snow we got were accompanied by 50 to 60 mile per hour winds. Naturally, visibility was near zero, and hundreds of miles of road were impassable. Drifts ranged from 6 to 25 feet high – sometimes leading to 1- to 2-foot drifts inside attics. Wind chills of 20 degrees below zero were common. Many people lost power. We had one blizzard-related death, and the storm killed an estimated 37,000 Kansas cattle,” Knapp said.

She noted that identifying the state’s earliest, latest and worst snowfalls can be a bit tricky because the National Weather Service once recorded hail as snow. The NWS’s reasoning was that hail also is frozen precipitation. So, for example, the official historical records indicate 2 inches of snow fell Aug. 6, 1952, in Anthony – close to the Oklahoma border in south-central Kansas.

“That approach got changed fairly quickly. To most people, snow and hail are two very different events. Besides, we were seeing snow reports year round,” Knapp said. “You generally can weed out the historical hail events now, though, if you look at the records closely. Foe example, the day Anthony got that 2 inches of ‘snow,’ the temperature reached 96 degrees!”


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Kathleen Ward
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Mary Knapp is at 785-532-6247