Record Early Season Snowstorm with Thunder

Topeka, KS

October 22, 1996

Topeka, KS was a disaster as far as snowfall during this observer's time in the city. We could not get much snow in the winter so October had to bail the city out. Soggy dripping wet snow of 6 to 9 inches fell in Topeka with locally higher amounts in the surrounding county southwest of city. The National Weather Service officially measured 8 inches while this observer measured 7 inches. The 8 inches set the October single storm record, the 24 hour record, and the record for the most snow in the month. This storm also turned out to be deeper than anything that fell during the three winters this observer spent in the city.

The storm started as rain that slowly gradually changed to snow from 5:10 AM to 6:30 AM. The snow attempted to accumulate a little during the early daylight morning hours but diminished. Later in the morning, the snow redeveloped mainly to the southwest of Topeka. The snow then spread rapidly northeast and a few reports of thunder started coming into the National Weather Service. Heavy wet snow with big flakes accumulated rapidly, at times 1 to 2 inches an hour. The snow depth increased rapidly in spite of an attempt of the warm and wet ground to melt the snow from the bottom.

Nightfall brought an impressive light show but not due to thunderstorms. Snow loaded up power lines, transformers, and trees still with plenty of leaves. Whenever something blew out the sky would light up brilliantly in multiple colors. When standing outside I could hear numerous breaking tree limbs. Occasionally you could hear a loud crack in the near vicinity but in the background the sound was almost constant.

Late in the evening between 10:30 PM and 11:00 PM the snow changed briefly to rain then ended. Rising temperatures overnight caused half of the snow to melt by sunrise.

Storm image compliments of the National Centers for Environmental Information

5 PM CST October 22, 1996