FLINT HILLS WEATHER
By local writer & photographer, A.J. Dome
Check out A.J.'s blog, Kansas Atmospheres
A peek into the weather of the "Fly-over" states.
Mother Nature welcomes us to the Flint Hills with a vein of emotion that’s unique upon each visit. Spring is her time to shake off the last cold, cabin-fevered vestiges and show her true colors more. The main color she likes to feature is green – the Flint Hills come alive from spring rains, soaking into land that’s been home to some of the world’s last-remaining tallgrass prairies for thousands of years.
Verdant green hills undulate like waves as you make the journey south to Council Grove. In spring, sunflowers begin sprouting tall along the highways, waving among gentle breezes like lazy greeters saying, “Howdy!” Those sunflowers stick around through the steamy summer months and attract all manner of tiny living creatures to hang out and feast upon the flower’s pollen.
Bug repellent is a must if you go camping or fishing in the Flint Hills in spring; a stiff gust of wind can help alleviate any gatherings of airborne pests.
"On some days, that stiff gust of wind may sustain from sunup to sundown. 0n other days, the wind gusts provide power for dramatic displays of cloud formations. either way, the wind is ever-present in the Flint Hills."
Cumulonimbus clouds, or thunderheads, may grow and churn upwards to the heavens, like a towering whipped topping layered upon a lush green cake. It’s enough to make you pull over, snap a few photos, stare in awe at Kansas’ beauty on the cusp of summer. Those thunderheads are simply noisy nuisances to some folks.
For the farmers of the Flint Hills, a thunderstorm can mean beneficial rainfall that’ll help their crops survive – and, through cultivation and sale of their crops, feed their family for another year.
Sometimes those whipped cream clouds grow dark on the horizon and become severe. The Flint Hills has had its share of dangerous thunderstorms over the years, and each time the people who are affected rebounded with a vigorous sense of community. I’ve seen neighbors rally around each other after tornadoes caused damage to rural farmsteads and old family homes. There was no talk of how difficult it’d be to clean up the debris, or how much money it was going to cost. It was just about the welfare of folks; the “how can I help?” attitude runs thick in Flint Hills communities.
That socially caring nature carries on into summer, as more people venture into the quiet Hills to escape boisterous daily lives. Maybe they’re lovers of nature, seeking solace in footsteps along hiking trails throughout the region. Maybe they’re music aficionados who want to party along with the tunes at Washunga Days in June.
The Symphony in the Flint Hills also attracts thousands of people to the region each summer. The Kansas City Symphony serenades an audience nestled among the Hills at a different location each year, often while modern cowboys herd cattle on horseback on an adjacent hillside.
Summer is when Mother Nature fills the Flint Hills with life, but autumn is when she begins to retract it.
Cooler winds prevail into September and October, with a second warm stretch around the first of October. Light on fall days in the Flint Hills becomes softer, as everything gets a melted touch from the sun’s rays, diffused by whisps of cloud that have no place to be other than “here.” Cattle appreciate the cooling weather and can graze on the remaining spring-borne grasses. Other animals begin to prepare for winter – squirrels and birds gather enough provisions to feed their babies through chilly days.
Splashes of orange and rusty red begin to dot the Flint Hills as fall eeks into November. Those splashes become streaks, then blotches of color tucked among fading green landscapes. As winter settles in and the year nears its end, the wildlife of the Flint Hills is burrowed or hidden enough to remain warm as nighttime temperatures grow brisker.
The Flint Hills sees its share of snow, but heavy snows are few and far between. Just like with spring storms, winter storms are not unheard of in the Hills, but don’t happen as regularly as outsiders may think. In some communities laid out upon the hillsides, winter snow means sledding fun, and maybe a day off school if the kids are lucky.
Chimneys blow smoke from fireplaces crackling inside cozy houses, warm with the love of family during the holiday season. Then, around Christmastime, another warmer pattern settles in as people prepare their annual trips over rivers and through woods to see kin. A ‘white Christmas’ is possible in the Flint Hills, but on many years, you’ll have to ask Santa for help with that arrangement.
A year in the Flint Hills can encompass any kind of weather on any day. Cool drizzle on a Tuesday in June can be followed by a heat wave, or another day of drizzle. Or maybe something entirely different.
Mother Nature likes to showcase her range of emotions through the annual weather of the Flint Hills.