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A white Christmas in Kansas City? History shows mostly in your dreams

Kansas City’s white Christmases by the numbers

White Christmases are uncommon in Kansas City. On average, only 1 out of every 5 Kansas City Christmases has snow on the ground.
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White Christmases are uncommon in Kansas City. On average, only 1 out of every 5 Kansas City Christmases has snow on the ground.

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Weather history — and a warm, rainy forecast — suggests that you would be better off looking somewhere besides Kansas City.

When it comes to the likelihood of a white Christmas, Kansas City doesn’t fare too well, according to a post on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate website.

Based on U.S. Climate Normals from the latest three-decade averages of weather data, Kansas City has a 23 percent likelihood of having a white Christmas.

You have better chances of a white Christmas in Idaho, Minnesota and Maine. Not to mention the Rockies or Sierra Nevada mountains.

“On average, one out of every five Christmases we have snow on the ground,” said Dan Hawblitzel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill.

This year isn’t looking too promising for Kansas City.

“Any chance for a white Christmas is not going to happen with the snow that is currently on the ground,” Hawblitzel said. “We are going to have to have another system to do that.”

On what was one of the coldest days this century, Kansas City residents refused to hunker down. There were still places to go -- as long as you dressed warmly.

Meteorologists define a white Christmas as one having at least 1 inch of snow on the ground.

Kansas City is facing a warming trend and highs will be in the upper 30s and lower 40s through the rest of the week. That will melt the snow on the ground from the weekend’s storm. Kansas City’s temps could reach into the 50s on Christmas, well above normal.

“We are watching the potential for a strong system to move out into the center of the country on Christmas Day,” Hawblitzel said. “Right now, that system is looking to track well to the north.”

The best chance of snow, some of which could be heavy, will be across the Dakotas and into Minnesota.

“We would get mostly rain,” Hawblitzel said. “However, since that is still about five days out, there’s a small chance that track could change a little bit and shift. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on just in case.”

But the way it appears now, snow will fall well to Kansas City’s north. And depending on the strength and track of the storm, Kansas City has a chance of thunderstorms and strong winds.

Those traveling for the holiday will need to watch the forecast if their plans take them to Nebraska, the Dakotas and Minnesota. A system this strong has the potential to produce heavy snow and blowing snow conditions, Hawblitzel said.

The reason white Christmases are uncommon in Kansas City has a lot to do with the city’s geographical location. The snowier regions to the north in the upper Midwest have a lot more opportunity for snow storms to pass through, Hawblitzel said.

And those states are much colder, so any snow they do get prior to a snowfall tends to stay on the ground longer.

“Here, as we are about to find out soon (with Sunday’s snow), once snow is on the ground, it doesn’t stay around for much more than a few days on average,” he said.

To see just how uncommon white Christmases are in Kansas City, The Star looked at daily summaries data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and found that there have been 25 white Christmases since 1895.

The last white Christmas was in 2013, when there was 3.9 inches of snow on the ground. The snowiest Christmas was in 1918, when 10 inches of snow blanketed the city.

 

KC’s Top 5 Snowiest Christmases

(Based on snow depth)

YearSnow Depth (in inches)
191810
19618
19837
19247
20096
19146

It’s even more uncommon that it snows on Christmas. The last time it snowed on Christmas Day was in 2009. That year, a multi-day storm dumped 7 inches of snow at KCI. About half of that — 3.3 inches — fell on Christmas Day.

It’s snowed only three other times on Christmases that qualified as a white Christmas — 1895 with 2.5 inches of snow, 1949 with one-tenth inch of snow, and 1962 with 1.3 inches of snow.

There were other years when it snowed on Christmas Day, but those years didn’t have enough snow on the ground to qualify as a white Christmas. Those years were 1899, 1920, 1925, 1935, 1964 and 1987.

 

KC's Top 5 Christmas Day snowfalls

(includes Christmases that did not qualify as being white)

YearSnowfall (inches)
20093.3
18952.3
19621.3
19640.6
19870.3

The warmest Christmas Day was in 1922, when the high reached 67. The coldest was in 1983, when the high was 4 degrees and the low was minus-16.

 

KC's Top 5 warmest Christmases

YearHighLow
19226740
19366553
19506524
19546439
19606436
 

KC's Top 5 coldest Christmases

(Based on lowest high temperatures)

YearHighLow
19834-16
1914143
1924162
198017-5
1985173
2000173

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

Make sure you and your car are prepared for cold weather by making your own vehicle safety kit. Many of the items the National Weather Service of Kansas City shows in this video are things you probably already own.

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