Blizzard Hits Denver, Rapid City, Casper and Scottsbluff

By , Expert Senior Meteorologist
April 10, 2013; 7:43 AM
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A wild storm has slashed temperatures by more than 60 degrees over the High Plains and was producing wind-driven snow from Colorado to Minnesota Tuesday.

While the area is prone to getting heavy snow and blizzards during early April, the storm is more fitting for February, factoring in temperatures.

Areas from Denver to Rapid City, S.D., Casper, Wyo., and Scottsbluff, Neb., had blizzard conditions begin Monday night. The storm continued through the day Tuesday.

At Denver, temperatures peaked at 71 degrees Monday afternoon. During Tuesday morning, the actual temperature was 16 degrees in snow with an AccuWeather RealFeel® temperature at minus 14 degrees.

At Alliance, Neb., temperatures peaked at 73 degrees Monday afternoon. During Tuesday morning, the actual temperature was 10 degrees with an AccuWeather RealFeel temperature at minus 20 degrees.

Several hours of whiteout conditions, combined with temperatures plunging into the teens and wind gusts between 40 and 50 mph will make for dangerous travel conditions.

The storm has the potential to drop between 1 and 2 feet of snow in north-central Colorado, southeastern Wyoming the Nebraska Panhandle and the Black Hills area of South Dakota.

Travel Impact

Travel may be very difficult or could grind to a halt along a stretch of I-25 in Colorado and Wyoming, as well as portions of I-70, I-76, I-80 and I-90 over the High Plains.

Some roads were closed Tuesday due to whiteouts, drifting snow and icy conditions in Wyoming and Nebraska. Drifts up to 9 feet have been reported in Scotts Bluff County, Neb.

According to Winter Weather Expert Brian Wimer, "With the plunging temperatures and snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour, roads will become quickly snow-covered and icy. Slush will freeze."

The storm has already been intense enough to impact flights at Denver and other airports in the region.

Cold, Snow and Ice Expanding

As the storm moves away from the High Plains, wind-whipped snow is also forecast to slice northeastward across north-central Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota and central Minnesota.

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Snow was falling as far south as the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico Tuesday.

In southeastern South Dakota to southwestern Minnesota, it was freezing rain and not snow that was causing problems. Sioux Falls, S.D. was receiving heavy freezing rain and sleet with thunder and temperatures hovering near 30 degrees Tuesday morning.

Another pocket of snow and ice is forecast to expand from western Kansas to part of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles Tuesday night.

While much of the snow that falls may melt, it is likely to be followed by a freeze-up. Even a thin coating of snow, slush and ice can make for slippery travel.

Needed Moisture

The storm system with its snow, rain and severe thunderstorms will bring much-needed moisture to hard-hit drought areas.

The storm has the potential to bring 1 to 4 inches of water over the area in the form of rain and snow that will soon melt.

The storm is hitting winter wheat areas, grassland for cattle and large tracts where corn and other crops will be planted.

Storm Synopsis

As the storm rolls slowly eastward, it will exploit a large temperature contrast (up to 100 degrees difference) over the Plains. A push of arctic air will invade the system from the north, leading to the spread of snow across a large part of the northern Plains.

As of 1:00 p.m. CDT, temperatures ranged from the single digits from southeastern Wyoming to over 100 degrees in South Texas.

The action of winds blowing uphill from the lower Plains to the eastern slopes of the Rockies will manufacture enough cold air for snow in the I-25 corridor. The advancing arctic air will drive temperatures down to lower levels than what would normally occur in this setup.

The difference in pressure with the storm and the arctic high pushing out of Canada will help generate the strong winds and blizzard conditions.

Thumbnail images of Colorado during a blizzard by Flickr user mobil'homme.

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