Area residents experienced a fairly rare meteorological event around on June 10. A heatburst struck the area spiking temperatures, dropping the dew point and sending dramatic wind gusts through neighborhoods in southwest Johnson County around midnight.
Evan Bookbinder, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather service, said it’s a weather phenomenon area residents can expect to experience once or twice in their lifetimes.
“In parts of Oklahoma, Nebraska and western Kansas, maybe more often, but in the Kansas City area, they’re not very common,” he said. “It’s pretty rare but not unheard of.”
When a nearby thunderstorm collapses, the rain evaporates before it reaches the ground, Bookbinder explained. As the winds work their way down to the surface, they warm.
“What we experience is a very sharp temperature rise as well as a very sharp relative humidity drop,” he said. “That drastic change in temperature and humidity induces very strong winds.”
At New Century AirCenter, temperatures spiked by about 12 degrees between midnight and 1 a.m. on June 10. Prior to the heat burst, the temperature was about 75 degrees. Within the hour, the heat rose to 87 degrees.
Bookbinder said the rising temperature may not have been noticeable to most folks.
“More noticeable was the dew point, which had been around 70 had fallen to 45,” he said. The dew point measures actual moisture content in the air.
“Anyone who was outside would’ve noticed the hot, dry air in the middle of the night,” Bookbinder said.
Wind gusts reached 55 knots in Gardner, or approximately 63 miles per hour. That was enough to knock down tree limbs and branches in may parts of town.
It also kicked up dust.
Visibility also plummeted during the weather phenomenon. It bottomed out from unlimited visibility to a mile of visibility.
“You hit the ground with a 50 to 60 mile per hour gust of wind, and it picks up dust,”
Bookbinder said. “That’s due to the fact that it hadn’t rained here in about a week and a half. Nothing came down from the sky. That was just the mixing up of whatever was sitting on the ground, dust or whatever. The pollen in the air certainly didn’t help either.”
Southwest Johnson County’s mild heat burst isn’t receiving the national attention that a similar event in Wichita on June 9 earned.
On Thursday, temperatures in Wichita soared nearly 20 degrees in the course of 20 minutes. The temps topped out increasing from 85 to 102 degrees just after midnight.