Year-end summary of Kansas weather in 2014: From windy to wet

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In 2014, the year started with a dry and windy pattern. From January to May, 2014 ranked as the second driest start to the year since 1895. Temperatures fluctuated considerably during the year, with the temperatures ranging from 111 degrees F at Great Bend on August 23 to -18 degrees at St. Francis on December 31st.  The average temperature for 2014 was 53.5 degrees, which ranked as the 36th coldest year since 1895. All divisions had temperatures exceed the 100-degree mark. All divisions also had temperatures plunge below zero. The average date for the last spring freeze was April 28th. The earliest start to the growing season was a last freeze on April 14th at various locations. Half of the stations reported a last freeze after the 1st of May, with widespread temperatures of 32 degrees or lower in western Kansas from May 13-15. The first fall freeze was also early in parts of the state. The average date was October 13th, but there were widespread reports of freezing temperatures in north central Kansas on September 13th. The latest first frost was reported at Elkhart on November 11th when temperatures plunged to degrees. The average length of the growing season was 178 days. The shortest growing season was in the North Central Division, where several stations reported 118 days. Not surprisingly Elkhart, with the late end start, had the longest growing season at 208 days.

Moisture also had a sharp contrast during the year. As mentioned earlier, the first 5 months of the year were the 2nd driest on record. The statewide average precipitation for 2014 was 25.41 inches. For 2014, the statewide average ranked 45th out of 120 years, placing it on the dry side of the middle of the range. One of the biggest contrasts was the timing of the moisture. March to May statewide precipitation averaged 4.04 inches, which was just 46 percent of the normal. During the critical summer months the pattern was reversed. The Jun-Aug precipitation averaged 13.03 inches, which is 117 percent of normal. The western divisions came closest to average for the year, with the West Central Division averaging 20.17 inches, or 101% of normal. The eastern division, where more moisture is typically recorded in the winter, averaged between 79 percent of normal in the southeast and 89 percent of normal in the northeast.

Snow was again a factor in 2014. The state average annual snowfall for 2014 was 21.0 inches. The greatest total was 36.7 inches reported at Atwood. Of the stations reporting snowfall, Oswego in Labette County had the lowest annual total at 8 inches.


Drought conditions shifted over the year, but ended in a similar pattern to the start of the year. While none of the state was in exceptional drought to start the year, almost 6 percent of the state was in extreme drought conditions. By the end of the year, the portion of the state in extreme drought dropped to 2 percent. Wet conditions during the summer eased the impacts significantly. By the end of the summer, most of the eastern half of the state had moved into a drought-free status. Lack of moisture in the late fall resulted in deterioration. That meant abnormally dry conditions returned to the east, and severe drought expanded again in the west. Still, the exceptional drought status was completely erased from the state, and the portion of the state in severe drought shrank substantially. Unfortunately, the continued dry conditions and below normal moisture late in the year have stalled any further improvement. Little change is expected during the winter. Normal spring rains are critical for improvement in drought conditions. The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that has been expected still hasn’t developed and the chances of that occurring continue to decrease. The lack of a strong ENSO signal provides little guidance for the spring seasonal outlook.



Severe weather was a factor in 2014, but the tornado season was less active than in previous years. Preliminary numbers from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) show a total of 48 tornadoes in 2014.This compares to a five-year average (2008-2012) of 116 tornadoes. There was a rare December tornado, but no damages or injuries were reported. There were 534 hail reports and 649 reports of damaging winds. August was a major month for hail. Crop damages in excess of 5 million dollars were reported, with 2 million dollars’ worth reported in Jewell County on the 9th of August. According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) storm database, there were 107 flood or flash flood events affecting over 36 counties through the end of September 2014. Preliminary damage reports total to property and crops from the floods was over 5.5 million dollars. Generally, these property and crop damage reports are underestimated. In many cases, crop damage isn’t immediately available and fails to be included in the storm total. Likewise, in property damage that is from uninsured losses often is also missing in the overall total. There was only one excessive heat event reported in 2014. That was an incident in Wichita, where a child was left in a vehicle, and died from the heat. In contrast, there were 50 excessive heat events reported in 2012, affecting 30 counties. There were two major cold outbreaks in the first half of the year. These occurred on January 6th, and February 5th. Recent cold has not yet been included in the storm database.



2014 Annual Summary

Kansas Climate Division Summary


Precipitation (inches)

Temperature (oF)





Monthly Extremes



Dep. 1

% Normal


Dep. 1











West Central
























North Central
















South Central
























East Central



































1. Departure from 1981-2010 normal value

Source: KSU Weather Data Library





Weather Stories by Month for 2014




Rapid swings in temperature and strong winds were the major features. While most of the storm events reported were winter storms, there was a dust storm in northwest Kansas that caused an 11-car accident with 3 fatalities. On the other side of the state, Cherokee County reported a wildfire that caused 100,000 dollars in damages.


Winter weather was the big culprit. On February 3rd, a storm system crossed the state. By the time the system exited, over 12 inches of snow had fallen. More than 2.5 million dollars in damages were reported. Wichita had more than 100 accidents reported with 12 injuries.


This was a relatively quiet month. A winter storm started the month, but was followed by colder- and drier-than-normal conditions. High winds, hail, and dust storms were the most common severe weather events.


April had a mix of challenging weather as the drought continued and intensified. Windy weather aggravated the dry conditions in western and central Kansas.  Several fatal accidents were attributed to low visibility due to blowing dust. In addition, cold temperatures April 13-15th provided an additional blow to already stressed winter wheat.  Temperatures in the mid-20s reached most of the state, while in the northwest and west central, temperatures plunged into the teens. There were several stations in western and north central Kansas that reported more than five hours with temperatures at or below 24 degrees, which can cause significant damage to the wheat. The final week of the month saw a severe weather outbreak that produced a tornado in Baxter Springs that resulted in 25 injuries and 10 million dollars in damages. The system also produced heavy rains in a small portion of northeast Kansas, which resulted in isolated flooding. In all, preliminary severe storm reports for April included 5 tornadoes, 97 hail events, and 25 damaging wind events.


May was a month of extremes. Temperatures ranged from a high of 103 degrees at Ashland on the 20th to a low of 25 degrees at Wilmore in Comanche County on the 2nd. Many stations reported the highest temperature and the lowest temperature within two days. Windy weather continued to aggravate the dry conditions in western and central Kansas. The month ended with a widespread precipitation event. Some stations had as much in the last three days of the month as they had in the previous three months combined. Statewide average precipitation, at 4.80 inches, made this is the second driest start to the year on record. The driest was in 1966, when the Jan-May total was 4.16 inches.


Much of Kansas was wetter-than-normal in June. Statewide, the average precipitation was 7.25 inches, which places it as the fifth wettest June since 1895. June was also the stormiest month of the year, with storm events reported on 25 of the 30 days in the month. Severe weather was also a feature for the month. There were 21 tornadoes reported, but fortunately no fatalities. Hail and damaging winds were even more prevalent. There were 159 reports of hail damage and 310 reports of wind damage. Given the heavy rains, it isn’t surprising that flooding was also an issue in many locations.  Garden City was particularly hard hit on the 28th after an early morning storm dumped over 4 inches on already saturated ground. More than 10 million dollars in property and crop damage was reported.


The wet weather in June shifted to much drier conditions in July. The exception was southwest and south central Kansas. These divisions had much needed drought relief. Not surprisingly, severe storms were also less prevalent. No tornadoes were reported in July. There were 26 hail events and 74 damaging wind events.


In general August was warmer than average and drier than average. There were exceptions to the pattern. The Northwest Division had the coolest temperatures, with the most stations averaging below normal. It was also the month of hail. More than 5 million dollars in crop damage was reported, with 2 million reported in Smith County on the 9th.


An early freeze in parts of the state was the major feature in September. The most dramatic incursion of cold air occurred between the 12th and 14th. Alton, in Osborne County, had the low for the month at 29 degrees on the 13th. Emporia set a record low for the location in September with 35 degrees, again on the 13th. 


October began the month on a cool, wet note but then moved to a warm, dry pattern. Overall, the statewide average temperature was 2.9 degrees warmer than normal. There were no tornadoes, 34 hail events, and 13 high wind events.


The major weather story in November was the abrupt arrival of winter weather, including extremely cold temperatures. The chill started on the 11th, when highs were in the 70s and 80s. In western Kansas, Tribune went from a high of 76 degrees on the 11th to a high of 13 on the 13th. Low temperatures below zero were common in the western third of the state, with low temperatures in the single digits reaching as far as Columbus in southeast Kansas. Statewide average temperature was 38.1 degrees, or 4.5 degrees cooler than normal. There were no reports of tornadoes, hail or high winds.


The big story for December was the tornado on December 14th near Harper. It was reported as an EF0, and no damage was noted. While a weak tornado, this is only the 6th time since 1950 that a tornado was recorded in December. The monthly average temperature was warmer than normal, but the month ended on a cold note. The coldest reading for the year was reported at St. Francis on December 31st as -18 degrees. Cloudy weather was a significant feature of the month. Based on the Mesonet stations, this December saw an average of just 57 percent of the possible sunshine. In comparison, last year that average was 79 percent of possible sunshine.


Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library