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Late-season snow snarls travel in Colorado

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
May 22, 2019, 12:09:02 PM EDT

Only several days ahead of Memorial Day weekend -- the unofficial start of summer -- heavy snow pounded the Denver area Monday evening into Tuesday morning. The late-season snow caught motorists off guard, causing numerous accidents and a major pileup along I-70 in Colorado.

At least least one person was injured after dozens of cars slammed in to each other on I-70 on Monday, The Denver Post reports.

Many in Colorado were disappointed to find a heavy blanket of snow outside their windows, including Twitter user Nancy Lambert said in a tweet. "I hate the snow! It broke my maple tree! It’s May 21 here in Colorado and it’s 32 freaking degrees," Lambert said, posting a photo of her snow-crushed tree.

This was not the only case of a broken tree, multiple social media users reported damaged trees throughout the region due to the heavy snow.

"Colorado Springs got around 5-6 inches of snow last night. Half of the trees in my community are broken," Twitter user John R. said in a tweet.

(Tripp Fay via Storyful)

Several drivers were involved in a multi-vehicle crash on Colorado’s I-70 during heavy snow on Monday, May 20.

(Twitter photo/Parker Parks and Recreation)

"So, um, opening day is only four days away," Parker Parks and Recreation, located in Parker, Colorado, writes on Twitter on Tuesday.

(Twitter photo/@jtr115)

Numerous social media users reported that the heavy snow broke local trees in Colorado.

(Twitter photo/@jtr115)

"Colorado Springs got around 5-6 inches of snow last night. Half of the trees in my community are broken," Twitter user John R. said in a tweet on Tuesday.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In this image take with a fisheye lens, snow covers baskets of hanging flowers displayed outside at a store, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Bergen Park, Colo., following a spring snow storm.

(Twitter photo/@PennCoSheriff)

Roads were reported to be slippery and dangerous in parts of South Dakota on Tuesday morning.

(Twitter photo/@PennCoSheriff)

An ambulance and plow both slid off the road due to poor road conditions in South Dakota on Tuesday morning.

(Twitter photo/@PennCoSheriff)

Deteriorating road conditions reported on South Highway 16 in South Dakota on Tuesday afternoon.

(Twitter photo/@PennCoSheriff)

"Please heed Pennington County Sheriff’s NO travel advisory in Keystone and Hill City," the Pennington County Sheriff's Office said in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon.

(Twitter photo/@PennCoSheriff)

Snow accumulated on roads in South Dakota on Tuesday, causing treacherous travel conditions.

(Twitter photo/@PennCoSheriff)

Keystone, Hill City or Mount Rushmore are covered in snow on Tuesday. The visibility is about 100 yards, and the roads are slippery with 8 to 10 inches of snow.

(Twitter photo/@yahayatee)

Colorado Springs covered in a blanket of heavy snow on Tuesday morning.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Snow clings to branches of a tree, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Bergen Park, Colo., after a spring snow storm.

(Twitter photo/@JessicaSharp)

"Summer break starts in 2 days ... can someone please alert the weather gods," Twitter user Jessica Sharp said in a tweet on Tuesday.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Low clouds hang through the tops of the skyscrapers as a spring storm sweeps over the metropolitan area Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Denver.

(Twitter photo/@LoridiansLab)

Twitter user Michael Kilman posted this photo of snow outside his house in Colorado. Kilman said that they officially received 8 inches of snow.

(Twitter photo/@MetmanJames)

"Apparently, it’s a week until summer," Twitter user James Warner writes on Tuesday morning, capturing the snow in Denver, Colorado.

(Twitter photo/@NWSDuluth)

Snow accumulated at the NWS office in Duluth, Minnesota, on Sunday, May 19. NWS measured 0.4 inches at 10:00 a.m, local time, Sunday morning.

(Twitter photo/@Corteran)

Lake Minnesuing north of Solon Springs, Wisconsin, at 11:30 a.m, local time, Sunday morning.

(Twitter photo/@KnomadicKnitter)

Snow covered the ground of Willard Springs, Arizona, early Monday afternoon.

(Twitter photo/@KnomadicKnitter)

About 3 inches of snow fell near Munds Park, Arizona, by late Monday afternoon.

(Twitter photo/@ArizonaDOT)

"It's looking more like mid-January than late May up north," Arizona Department of Transportation writes on Twitter on Monday, May 20, 2019.

(Twitter photo/@ArizonaDOT)

Snow showers persisted across areas above 6500 feet through much of the Navajo nation through early Monday afternoon, according to the NWS office in Flagstaff, Arizona.

(Photo/Jason Calandra)

Snow covers the roads in Flagstaff, Arizona, near Munds Park on Monday, May 20.

(Photo/Jason Calandra)

Snow covers the roads in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Monday, May 20.

(Twitter photo/@Rankinstudio)

In Arizona, a powerful storm moves into Page and LeChee at 9 a.m, local time, Monday.

Denver International Airport picked up 3.7 inches of snow as of 3 p.m, local time, Tuesday. Heavy snow fell Monday into Tuesday, with the heaviest snow falling through 4 a.m, local time, in Elbert County and near the Wyoming border with up to 1 inch per hour.

This is the latest measurable snowfall in Denver in at least 10 years. The latest date of last measurable snowfall on record is June 2, 1951, when Denver received 0.3 of an inch of snow. The average date for last snowfall is April 27, according to the NWS.

Though many saw the late-May snow as a nuisance, some recognized some positives in the winterlike weather. "While a lot of Colorado Twitter is complaining about the late May snow, this makes me so happy," Twitter user Joe Ventura said in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

Several locations accumulated more than a foot of snow by Tuesday morning. Black Forest was clobbered by 20 inches and Peyton was buried by 18 inches. These are the highest snowfall totals recorded in Colorado by mid-day, according to NWS snowfall reports.

Colorado is not the only state to experience considerable snowfall this week, several locations in South Dakota were inundated with over a foot of snow, and in one case over 2 feet of snow, into Wednesday. A whopping 25 inches buried Pactola Reservoir, South Dakota, as of Wednesday morning.

The Rapid City Regional Airport has only once seen over 1 inch of snow after May 12, and that was on June 1, 1951. Downtown Rapid City received anywhere from 3.5 inches to 12.5 inches, according to NWS snow reports on Wednesday morning.

Thirteen states, mainly in the western U.S, received measurable snowfall early this week. Many social media users expressed disappointment with this snowfall in May.

"Is that seriously happening out there right now?" flabbergasted Twitter user Michael Phillippi wrote on Twitter Sunday, in response to a photo of a winterlike scene shared by the NWS office in Duluth, Minnesota.

Phillippi is far from the only social media user to express his dismay with the winter display. Meteorologist Joe Moore declared the May snow in Duluth was 'CRAZY.' Many other social media users responded with disappointed memes about the snowy post.

Duluth picked up 2.4 inches of snow on Sunday, a record for May 19 that surpassed the previous snowfall record of 0.2 of an inch of snow for that date set back in 1963, according to NWS. However, temperatures reached the upper 50s on Monday, so most of the snow has likely melted, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Gresiak.

"It does snow in May there on occasion but usually not very much," Gresiak said.

The latest recorded day for snowfall in the region is May 28, 1965, when 0.4 of an inch was recorded, NWS Duluth said in a tweet.

Earlier this month, Duluth set a record for a May snowstorm when the city was hit with about 10 inches over two days. Currently, the area is not forecast to receive any more snow over the next several days.

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Minnesota was not the only state to receive snowfall early this week. Areas throughout the West, mostly at higher elevations, also received snow.

While snowfall in May seems surreal for many regions across the U.S, March through May is typically the snowiest time of year in the Rockies. Snowfall is all about the terrain in the West.

Flagstaff, Arizona, which is at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, received about an inch of snow on Monday. The area even experienced the snowfall with thunder and lightning, Gresiak said. And in the afternoon, about 90 miles north of Flagstaff, just outside of Tuba City, a tornado briefly touched down, which was part of a larger severe weather outbreak taking place over parts of Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and into north-central Texas.

Cities surrounding Flagstaff accumulated one to three inches of snow Monday into Tuesday. Snow is also forecast in the area again on Wednesday into Thursday and the high temperatures are expected to be 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below normal on Wednesday. While it is late in the season for this winterlike weather, the latest recorded measurable snowfall in Flagstaff was on June 8, 1907, when the area picked up 0.2 of an inch, according to the NWS. The average last day for snow in the Flagstaff area is April 25.

"One of the many reasons we love Flagstaff ... snow in late May!" Northern Arizona University (NAU) Police said in a tweet, sharing a video of the snow. Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Transportation posted photos taken by highway cameras on Twitter with a message saying that the scene looked "more like mid-January than late May."

Other noteworthy snow accumulation totals for Sunday into Monday included Cedar Grove, California, which notched a reading of 14 inches; Lake Thomas Edison, California, picked up a foot of snow; and back in the Midwest Poplar, Wisconsin, recorded 7.3 inches of snow. Of course, not everyone was disappointed by the continued snowfall. Mammoth Mountain ski resort in California reported that it measured another 3 inches of snow on Sunday, bringing its four-day total to about 16 inches.

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