National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

The Monster Blizzard of 2011

January 31st - February 1st, 2011




What happened: A blizzard impacted Kansas on the evening of January 31st and all day February 1st, 2011.  Extreme northerly winds caused whiteout conditions across parts of south central and much of southeastern Kansas.  Snowfall totals up to 18 inches were recorded in southeast Kansas. 

Overview: Blizzard conditions impacted states from New Mexico to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and beyond.  Snowfall totals of a foot to 18 inches were felt across the region.  Here at home in central, south central and southeastern Kansas snowfall totals ranged from 1-2 inches in western sections of central Kansas to 18 inches in extreme southeast Kansas.

Meteorological Background: An extremely potent winter storm moved into the Southern and Central Plains from New Mexico.  As this storm approached the southwestern United States, south winds ahead of the storm allowed moisture to stream northward.  Meanwhile a shallow arctic airmass dove south over the Northern and Central Plains.  As this system pushed northeast, the resulting instability produced thunderstorms in the warmer air to the south, as well as thunder sleet and thunder snow across Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois.  The greatest snow totals occurred where this instability was located with the colder air. South central and southeastern Kansas were just north of this instability, but extreme moisture allowed intense snowfall rates across this region.  Accumulations up to 18 inches were reported in southeast Kansas,  with smaller amounts to the west.  Ultimately, this storm system will have impacted much of the country from the Southern Plains northeast to New York City.  The combination of Heavy snow and very strong winds caused blizzard conditions.  Visibilities were reduced to near zero, and significant drifting occurred.




Overview loop of water vapor satellite imagery as the snowstorm approached and moved overhead.

Storm total snowfall as of 7am February 2nd, 2011





The snow drift outside of the NWS Wichita office at 5pm February 1st. The drift measured around 2 feet high. Picture courtesy of Mick McGuire.

Image of traffic in snow
Image of blowing snow and reduced visibility in Wichita.  Picture courtesy of Jim Reed.


Image of blowing snow and reduced visibility in Wichita. Note headlights of oncoming car on the left. Picture courtesy of Jim Reed.

Image of the snow and drifts around cars at the NWS Wichita office.

Image of snow from Caney. Photo courtesy of Pascal Vanschijndel.


Image of snow blowing by a light at the NWS Wichita office.


Image of the snow and drifts around cars at the NWS Wichita office.

Near the Russell I-70 exit. Picture taken by KDOT.


Snow in Wichita on February 1st, 2011. Picture taken by KDOT.






Summary of Snowfall Reports