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Powerful April snowstorm buries Colorado Rockies, High Plains

By By Brett Rathbun, Meteorologist
April 19, 2016, 7:25:38 AM EDT

A slow-moving, strengthening storm will cause snowfall to continue over a large part of the Rockies and High Plains Sunday.

People in the region, including the Denver area, should stay prepared for travel disruptions, power outages and property damage.


The heaviest snow will fall across the Colorado Rockies with up to a few feet of accumulation.

As of Sunday morning, 2-3 feet of snow has fallen over the high country of Colorado with progressively less snowfall at lower elevations along the Front Range and foothills.

While the heaviest snow will fall across Colorado, enough snow could fall to lead to travel delays across portions of Wyoming, western Nebraska, northern New Mexico and southwestern South Dakota.

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Travel will be slippery and hazardous across much of Colorado across interstates 25, 70, 76 and 80 in Sunday. Some portions of the major highways can close for a time.

Temperatures and the exact track of the storm will be the determining factors regarding how much snow will fall and where.

"Outside of the mountains, there will be much more snow on non-paved surfaces, compared to roads and sidewalks," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

In parts of the High Plains, heavy snow will follow flooding rain and severe thunderstorms as the weekend progresses.

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"The most dramatic change in road conditions is likely at night, when temperatures lower slightly and energy from the April sun is lost," Sosnowski said. "In most cases over Colorado, the heaviest snow will fall through early Sunday morning."

Motorists are urged to allow plenty of time and to make sure a winter survival kit is on hand since conditions could become treacherous enough for vehicles to become stranded.

Slushy snow will accumulate on runways and delays will result from aircraft deicing operations. Hundreds of inbound and outbound flights were cancelled at the Denver International Airport on Saturday.

The weight and amount of snow can knock down trees and power lines, leading to sporadic power outages. Those with a flat or weak roof should seek safe snow removal to avoid collapse.

“Snow will be heavy and wet due to temperatures around the freezing mark,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson said.

Blizzard conditions are not as likely as with this storm compared to other events from this winter and spring due to the heavy, wet nature of the expected snow. However, winds in some locations could gust over 30 mph.

Conditions will slowly improve during Sunday midday and afternoon after a wintry start.


“After springlike temperatures for the past several days, a dramatic change has unfolded this weekend across the High Plains,” Adamson said.

From April 2-14, highs in Denver have been in the 60s and 70s. Temperatures failed to reach 40 on Saturday and Sunday will likely be a repeat.

“While wild changes are not uncommon this time of year, it will still be a shock for many,” Adamson said.

While the baseball season has begun, this storm will not impact any games at Coors Field.

"Fortunately, the Colorado Rockies are on a six-game road trip starting on Friday, so the snow in Denver will not have any impact on their games," AccuWeather Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.

The bulk of the accumulating snow will be over by Sunday evening in the Denver metro area. However, there will still be some snow falling across the high country through Monday. The storm will slowly leave the area during Monday night and Tuesday as drier and milder weather replaces it for the rest of the week.

April snowstorms are not uncommon across Colorado.

"Denver averages nearly 7 inches of snow during the month of April," Pydynowski said. "Given the city has yet to receive any snow this month, this storm should take Denver up to or even a bit above its monthly April average."

Snow can also make an appearance in Denver during May. A snowstorm on May 9, 2015, postponed a baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers after Denver received 4 inches of snow.

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