011619-du-ice

If forecasts are correct, Junction City may be in for yet another glazing of ice late tonight and early this Friday.

The area is currently under a winter weather advisory until noon tomorrow, at the time of this writing. It looks like, this time around, there will be a few snowflakes falling alongside this round of freezing rain.

At this time, the forecast indicates snow, shifting to freezing rain and then to non-freezing rain by the middle of the day Friday.

Geary County Extension Agent Chuck Otte said winter ice storms such as these have become more typical of the Geary County area over the past decade and that people should look to this trend to continue or even worsen as time wears on.

“It used to be that extreme Southern Kansas and Oklahoma was the ice belt and they would get hammered all the time with ice storms,” he said. “We were far enough north that we tended to get more snow — we’d get a little bit of ice, but more snow — in the past 10 years we’ve been saying that ice zone shift north.”

Currently, Junction City is in the thick of it, as the storm that struck Jan. 10 — and the one that may strike within the next 24 hours or so — seem to indicate.

It may seem as though the Junction City/Geary County area is slammed with an ice storm on an annual basis and, according to Otte, this isn’t far from the truth.

“It’s the point to where I am not surprised if we have an ice storm every year,” he said.

And this snowball is only going to roll downhill from here, Otte indicated, with ice storms becoming more frequent.

And what does he think is causing this shift in the weather?

“Global warming, plain and simple,” Otte said. “We can argue about how much (humans are) influencing it. We cannot argue the fact that the climate is warming. And if it’s colder, you get snow. So when you get right on that cusp, is when you have the ice storms. Bad ice storms occur when it’s upper 20s and low 30s. It’s just right there. So those conditions are we’re seeing more and more of those as winter temperatures warm in Kansas. So plain simple, it’s global warming.”

It’s important not to panic in the face of storms, he said.

Lack of preparation and lack of awareness of what’s going on are the biggest problems Otte sees during severe weather.

Often, people fly into a last minute frenzy of preparation, flooding the grocery stores and clearing the shelves of essentials.

“We’re not going to get snowed in for weeks on end,” Otte said. “So just you know, always make sure you’ve got a few days worth of food in the house. It’s that simple.”

In any case, people should avoid being on icy roads during and after the storm, according to Otte. If the roads are slick, he said, stay indoors. And for those who have to drive? Slow down and don’t follow other vehicles too closely, Otte said.

“The biggest problems I see people have with winter weather is failure to be aware that it’s coming and then to make the adjustments in what they’re doing and how they drive,” he said.

Drivers, Otte said, routinely overestimate their vehicles and their own prowess behind the wheel when they venture out on slippery roads.

“It’s four wheel drive, not four wheel stop,” he said.

In addition to causing wrecks, freezing rain can be extraordinarily damaging to both plants and power lines.

“We were really on the edge with that storm on (Jan. 10),” Otte said. “If we would have gotten just another hour or two of freezing rain, we would have seen significant damage on some trees and power lines … And then when that wind started coming up, I was really nervous. But mainly what I’ve seen come down have just been small branches.”

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