It’s beginning to feel like spring in Kansas City

The sounds of construction, not snowblowers, fill the air as Kansas City’s mild winter continues. Amid Wednesday’s warm weather, Cruz Morales (foreground), his brother Elmer Morales (right) and Cesar Martinez framed a house at 10606 N. Hedges in Kansas City, North.
The sounds of construction, not snowblowers, fill the air as Kansas City’s mild winter continues. Amid Wednesday’s warm weather, Cruz Morales (foreground), his brother Elmer Morales (right) and Cesar Martinez framed a house at 10606 N. Hedges in Kansas City, North. kmyers@kcstar.com

Is winter over?

Of course not, and we’re doing our best not to jinx ourselves. We know March blizzards aren’t all that rare around here.

But consider:

Kansas City could break an 86-year-old temperature record Thursday. Or at least get close.

We’ve had so little snow this winter that snow blowers have been as lonely as the Maytag repairman. In fact, this could become one of the area’s least snowiest winters on record.

And Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his den to cloud cover back on Groundhog Day, which definitely means an early spring.

So winter must be kaput, right?

“No,” said Mike July, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill. “We still have a month of it left as far as the calendar goes.”

And, as he reminds us, we’ve had snow appear as late as May in these parts.

“I can’t rule out that we may not have another system or two that could give us some snow,” July said. “Will we get to our seasonal averages of 18.8 inches? Probably not. But I can’t say it won’t snow again.”

But it’s highly unlikely that Kansas City will have another arctic blast that tumbles our temperature below zero.

Meanwhile, forecasters expect Thursday to be unseasonably warm — about 30 degrees above normal.

Temperatures across the region are expected to reach the lower to middle 70s, which could threaten the record for this date of 74 set in 1930.

Strong winds gusting to 45 mph are expected as well, prompting high-fire-danger warnings.

Friday also should be warm, and a bit windy. And one long-range forecast site on the Internet shows two-thirds of our March days reaching 50 degrees or warmer.

The mild winter has been a blessing for some — there’s been less snow shoveling, fewer snow days for schools to make up and more construction work getting done.

“We have had a little bit of weather, but our framers have worked almost every day,” said Chris Ragland, owner of Homes by Chris, which is building in Kansas City, North.

“It’s been a good winter for us. We’re going to have sod put down this week. That doesn’t typically happen in February.”

On the down side, there’s been less sledding, fewer snow days for kiddies to enjoy and fewer sales of winter items at hardware stores.

“Of course the sales of ice melters, snowblowers and snow shovels are way down from previous years,” said LeRoy Andrews, manager of Strasser True Value Hardware in Kansas City, Kan. “We really haven’t had any snows that required much snow removal at all.”

People are already showing up with their spring to-do lists, he said.

“I think everybody is ready for spring,” Andrews said.

You might think that city snow-removal budgets would have benefited from the mild winter. But not so. We’ve had enough ice and snow “events” that Kansas City, for one, is over budget for snow removal.

The city’s snow program has spent slightly more than $3 million, which includes things such as salaries, salt and calcium chloride, said Sean Demory, a spokesman for Kansas City’s Public Works department. The snow program has a base budget of $2.75 million. Emergency funding will address any shortfalls, he said.

Now, about that lack of snow.

If Kansas City doesn’t receive another flake between now and spring, this season would go down as the third-least-snowiest on record with only 5.3 inches of total snowfall.

Some southern parts of the metropolitan area have seen only an inch or two.

Our least-snowiest was the winter of 2011-12, with 3.9 inches. The winter of 1922-23 ranks second at 4.5 inches.

“We’ve been kind of missing out on some of the heavy snow storms,” July said. “One passed by here a little over a week ago and nailed Nebraska, the northern half of Iowa and on up to Wisconsin.”

Had that storm tracked about 100 miles farther south, Kansas City and the surrounding area would have had to dig itself out from a foot of snow, he said.

“Sometimes it’s one of those close-but-no-cigar kind of things,” July said. “We have just been fat out of luck if you’re a snow lover.”

Typically, March isn’t very snowy here — the average for the month is only 2 inches.

February, meanwhile, normally is the snowiest month with an average of 5.4 inches. So far this year, we’ve had only a trace.

Here’s another record to consider: The earliest we’ve had the last snow of the season.

This year, our last measurable snowfall came Jan. 23. Kansas City International Airport, the official reporting station for area, reported 0.1 inch.

The current record for the season’s last snow belongs to Feb. 8, 2005, with 2.2 inches.

The average last snowfall is March 23. We beat that last year, when no snow came after 1.3 inches fell Feb. 28.

The latest snowfall: 1.7 inches on May 3, 1907.

Our most recent May snowfall: a half-inch on May 2, 2013.

Kansas City has had some big late-season snowstorms. A record 40.2 inches of snow fell in March 1912.

“You are talking about a very rare event,” July said. “I wouldn’t go out and bet the mortgage on that.”

There’s no worry, yet, about being too dry. A very wet December means we aren’t even close to being in a drought.

So with Kansas City pitchers and catchers reporting Thursday for spring training and temperatures rising to near records, can we put away the boots and gloves?

The answer has July sounding like a Boy Scout.

“Don’t forget that winter is still with us,” he said.

“Be prepared.”

The Star’s Lynn Horsley contributed to this report.

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

Another record

The January figures are in, and the string of hottest-months-on-record has now reached nine in a row. But NASA said January stood out: The temperature was above normal by the highest margin of any month on record.

NASA said January 2016 was 2.03 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which calculates temperatures differently, said January’s average global temperature was a record 55.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.87 degrees above normal. NOAA says this was above normal by the second-largest margin in history; the greatest was in December.

The Associated Press