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Cold snap to linger through mid-week

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
A group of school buses for USD 457 head along a US-83/50 highway bypass exit ramp Thursday after picking up Garden City High School students at the end of the school day.

The cold weather isn't going anywhere yet. It will linger throughout the next week.

Jonathan Finch, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Dodge City, said a deep trough of low pressure out of Canada is to blame for the cold weather.

The trough is moving cold air across the southern part of Canada, Finch said. The center of the cold air is north, but the southern end of it is hitting the area.

Finch said typically when this happens the winds are moving easterly and northeasterly up slope, so the cold air moves up slope and becomes saturated and a lot of the time the clouds are low, which is why earlier in the week there were snow flurries — the moisture is just deep enough to get very light now.

"That arctic air is moving southward out of Canada and we have sloping terrain here – as you go from eastern Kansas out to western Kansas the elevation increases from about 1,000 feet up to about 4,000 feet," he said. "As air goes uphill it cools and becomes ... closer to saturation. That's why we're socked in with low clouds and that's not going to change anytime soon."

The cold winds and cold air will stay in southwestern Kansas over the next week as an area of deep arctic high pressure that was over western Canada earlier this week, slowly moves southeast, with Kansas staying in its southern end, Finch said.

Temperatures will get even colder this weekend, Finch said. While this week the temperatures in the area remained in the teens, by Saturday and Sunday they are expected to drop into the single digits for highs and lows will be near or below zero.

More snow is also expected Saturday, maybe an inch or two, but it'll be a dry, powdery snow, Finch said.

By Sunday afternoon into Monday another storm system is expected to come into the area, Finch said. As of Tuesday the system was in the Pacific, but as the system moves east and approaches the area by Sunday it will encounter the cold air across the plains.

"When that happens we'll have snow developing again and we could see several more inches of snow, but we don't know exactly how much yet, it's so far away, but we are expecting more accumulations of snow Sunday into early Monday," he said.

The coldest temperatures of the cold snap will probably be Monday and Tuesday when the skies clear out after the snow, Finch said.

"When you have snow cover and the sky's clear, if it's already cold it gets much colder because any heat that we do have near the earth's surface goes out and we can plummet," he said. "So we could have (temperatures) well below zero by Tuesday morning, it just depends if the sky is clear and the winds are light."

By the middle of next week there will be a warming trend. However, if there is snow on the ground and the ground is frozen, it will take a few days for the area to really warm up, Finch said.

"We will warm up, but to get above the freezing mark, that's very iffy," he said. "We may not get above the freezing mark through next Wednesday or Thursday just because we'll have snow on the ground most likely and it's hard to get above freezing when you have snowpack, it keeps the temperatures down close to freezing."

To keep safe outside during the cold, Finney County Emergency Management has some tips:

• Wear appropriate clothing – wear several layers that fit loosely, as tight clothing restricts blood circulation.

• Protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather. In other words, wear insulated and waterproof boots, a hat and expose as little skin as possible to the cold environment.

USD 457 is also doing its part to make sure students aren't out in the cold too long while waiting for the bus or during transportation to school.

Charles Stillian, USD 457 transportation director, said they are doing what they can to make sure buses are in tip-top shape to transport students and to keep them warm.

One way they're doing this is by using diesel fuel with an additive, basically a winter blend, and by putting another additive called 9-1-1 in the fuel that heats up the fuel as it goes through the engine.

Additionally the buses are plugged in every night so in the morning the engine can start and bus drivers are asked to come in early, Stillian said.

"We've asked drivers to start coming in at 5:30 a.m. to start their buses, even if they don't begin their route until about 6:30, that way the bus has been running for at least an hour and they're as warm as they can be," he said.

Drew Garcia, head mechanic in the Transportation Department, said buses are also being rotated through the shop daily for preventative maintenance.

"We have an eight-bay shop, so what I try to do is every night I bring in different buses, so we can thaw them out and take a good look at them," he said.

Stillian said the Transportation Department's main goal is to get every student to school as safely and as quickly as possible.

One thing they can do to have students out in the cold for as short of a time as possible is for parents to download an app called MyStop, Stillian said.

"That will help keep the kids out of the wind and out of the weather as much as possible waiting for the buses because it does show when the bus is about to arrive and the kids can stay inside where it's nice and warm before they have to come out and get on that bus," he said. "It's a great feature."

People are not the only concern with cold weather, so are animals.

Nikki Spanier, marketing manager at the Garden City Animal Shelter, said the first thing people need to know about animals that are outside is that all animals are different and certain animals are used to and prefer this type of weather, so just because an animal is outside doesn't mean it's being neglected.

"Huskies and chows and Great Pyrenees, they're meant for this weather," she said. "As an owner of one of them, just go out and check on then every once in a while, make sure that they always have food and water if they're outdoors."

If an animal is going to be outside they should be provided with housing of some kind with some insulation like hay or a blanket on the ground, Spanier said.

"I've seen wood structures built that have three sides just to keep the wind from blowing, just give them a blanket or towel, something like that to just give them a little extra warmth would be nice," she said. "Ideally to come inside would be nice, but that's not feasible for all homes, and we understand that. If you can sneak them inside for an hour or play with them for a little and let them warm up and then take them back out, that's also good for them."

Before people call the shelter about an animal they see outside, Spanier recommends that people go talk to the owners to see if they need help, if they could take the animal inside their house for an hour or let them hang out in their garage while it's cold.

"Going back to the old school days when everyone knew everybody, introduce yourself," she said. "It's a great way to meet a neighbor."