1. K-State home
  2. »Research and Extension
  3. »News
  4. »News Stories
  5. »Time to prep for winter? You bet, says K-State climatologist

K-State Research and Extension News

Snow on pine tree branches

We're not here yet...but assistant state climatologist Mary Knapp said you should be preparing your house and car for when the weather turns cold and icy. (File photo, K-State Research and Extension)

Time to prep for winter? You bet, says K-State climatologist

Focus on home and car before the weather turns cold

Sept. 28, 2020

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It’s early October…do you know where your snow boots are?

You may not really need them for a while, but assistant state climatologist Mary Knapp says now is about the right time to start preparing for winter.

“A couple things you can do right now to get ready for winter is to look at preparations around your house and car,” said Knapp, who has worked for Kansas State University for more than three decades.

Listen to an interview by Jeff Wichman with Mary Knapp on the radio program, Sound Living

Around the house, she said, the work begins outside by cleaning up damaged branches from summer storms, particularly anything hanging over power lines or the home’s roof. “That’s important because if we get strong winds or an ice storm, you have less chance that it’s going to take down your power,” she said.

“Another thing is to look at disconnecting your hose and covering outside faucets so they don’t freeze and break. And a third thing is to cover your air conditioner, or remove window air conditioners. You won’t likely need that during the winter months and you don’t want to create a portal for cold air to get into the house.”

Knapp also suggests covering windows or screens, or any area where cold air can seep into the home.

“With your automobiles, make sure they are in good maintenance shape,” Knapp said. “Check the tread on tires, top off fluids, switch windshield fluid from bug removal to something more tolerant of cold temperatures, and check antifreeze levels so that you have enough for colder conditions.”

Other maintenance have-tos include checking that the car’s battery is holding a strong charge, replacing windshield wipers and building a winter weather emergency kit.

According to Knapp, the essentials in an emergency kit include:

  • Flashlight and batteries.
  • Blankets.
  • Gloves.
  • Hat.
  • Snacks.
  • First Aid kit.
  • Boots or waterproof shoes.

“You should also have water,” she said. “But what I would recommend is that you take that out to the car when you’re getting ready to travel, rather than storing it in the car, because if we get into the cold weather that we typically have during the winter, you’re going to end up with a frozen bottle of water which isn’t going to help you much if you’re stalled because of a traffic delay, snow storms or anything else.”

In addition, check to be sure that you have a good ice scraper, snow brush and jumper cables. Road flares and tire chains can also be useful.

“When you’re traveling out of town, one of the first things to do is check what the weather outlook is along your route… and anticipate what kind of conditions you might encounter,” Knapp said. “Also let somebody know when you’re going, what route you’re taking and what time you’re planning to arrive. You may not be able to get a cell signal wherever you are stranded, so it’s important to have that backup in place before you get on the road.”

More information on weather conditions, forecasts and other weather-related data in Kansas is available online from Kansas Mesonet.


Winter weather varies across Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State University assistant state climatologist Mary Knapp notes that preparing for winter weather may mean different things to different people.

“In Kansas, our weather not only varies from east to west, but remember that the reported average is a composite of 30 years of data, so it can vary from year to year in the same area,” she said.

In western Kansas, she said, an “average” winter will bring 15 inches of snow from December through February. In eastern Kansas, that average can be between 18-20 inches.

“The thing that is interesting about our winter precipitation is that it tends not to persist very long,” Knapp said. “As you go further north, when they get snow on the ground, they expect it to stay for some time. In Kansas, it’s much more customary for that snow to be there for a couple days and then it melts away.”

In the extreme, western Kansas has recorded more than 100 inches of snow in a single season; eastern Kansas has recorded as much as 50. Even so, Knapp notes that much of the snow that falls in Kansas does not translate into a liquid equivalent.

“December through February corresponds with our driest time of year,” she said. “In western Kansas, you can add up the three winter months and not equal the precipitation for a typical March.”

Winter temperatures in Kansas are also variable. “We can have days where our highs are in the 60s and 70s, then days when the highs are in the teens,” Knapp said.

Warmer temperatures arrive when south winds bring along gulf air, she said. Sometimes, west winds also bring warm air.

“What’s happening there is that the west wind is coming downslope from the Rockies,” Knapp said. “As that air compresses downslope, it tends to warm up. That’s what quite frequently is known as a Chinook, or the ‘snow-eaters,’ where you can jump 20, 30 or even 40 degrees in just a couple hours.”

More weather-related facts can be found on Knapp’s weekly radio program, Weather Wonders.

At a glance

Leaves are just beginning to fall from trees, but assistant state climatologist Mary Knapp says it’s time to be preparing for winter.


Kansas Mesonet

Notable quote

“A couple things you can do right now to get ready for winter is to look at preparations around your house and car.”

-- Mary Knapp, assistant state climatologist, Kansas State University


Mary Knapp

Written by

Pat Melgares


KSRE logo
K‑State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well‑being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K‑State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu. K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.