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Record Early Season Snowstorm with Thunder

Topeka, KS

October 22, 1996

Heavy snow accumulated 6 to 10 inches. The National Weather Service Forecast Office on the northeast side of Topeka measured 8 inches. The 8 inches broke all of the records for October prior to 1996, including the single storm record, the record for one day, and the record for the month.

The storm started as rain that gradually mixed and 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 on the southwest edge of Topeka, then spread rapidly northeast. A few reports of thunder started to come into the National Weather Service. Large, wet snowflakes accumulated rapidly, at times 1 to 2 inches an hour, in spite of the warm ground and the snow melting from the bottom. Late in the afternoon, with leaves still on the trees, so many limbs were breaking that the sound was constant in the background coming from all directions. Occasionally, louder cracks could be heard as nearby limbs broke. This observer to date, or at least through the year 2019, has never heard that kind of sound in any other storm.

Nightfall brought an impressive light show but not due to thunderstorms. Falling tree limbs knocked out numerous power lines causing frequent flashes of light, sometimes with multiple colors. 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.

The radar mosaic shows a comma head configuration of heavy snow occurring in the northeast part of Kansas, including Topeka, late in the afternoon.

5 PM CST October 22, 1996


Storm image compliments of the National Centers for Environmental Information