High Plains

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By Jordan Root – AccuWeather

Another round of windswept snow is set to blast Colorado and the High Plains Monday night and Tuesday, mimicking the storm that brought blizzard conditions this past week.

An area of low pressure that brought rain and snow to the West Sunday into Monday will emerge across the Plains and rapidly intensify early this week, setting the stage for a major winter snowstorm.

While this storm will spawn severe weather across the southern Plains, cold air and moisture will connect on the backside and produce a swath of very heavy snowfall.

Continue reading at AccuWeather: Blizzard to Unfold Across Denver, High Plains Early This Week

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As a storm and cold air plunge southward, heavy snow and travel delays will expand over the interior Northwest and northern Rockies Friday into this weekend. The cold will head eastward next week.

The setup will produce low snow levels and locally heavy accumulations of the white stuff in the Northwest.

Expect slow travel over the passes along I-90 in Washington, Idaho and western Montana to begin in earnest on Friday. High winds may add to the travel problems through the mountains and over the High Plains with blowing and drifting snow.

Six to 12 inches of snow is forecast over Snoqualmie and Lookout passes. Motorists who must head cross country Friday into Saturday are encouraged to take a more southern route, such as I-84.

A moderate snowfall is forecast in Spokane, Wash., and Missoula, Mont.

Rain will fall along the Washington coast, including in Seattle, Tacoma and Bellingham as well as in Portland, Ore.

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The new push of arctic air aimed at the United States will first hit a little farther west this time when compared to the last cold blast. However, the arctic air will still have eyes for the Plains, Midwest, Northeast and South next week.

The air mass has the potential to be as cold or even colder than the arctic air affecting the Central and Eastern states this week.

For starters, the air could bring the first day of the season with high temperatures in the single digits over the High Plains of Montana and highs in the teens in a portion of the the Dakotas to Minnesota.

The snow may not stop over the northern Rockies and High Plains. There is a chance of a swath of snow developing farther east from the central Plains to the Upper Midwest early next week, just as the new push of cold air arrives. – AccuWeather

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Additional drenching and severe thunderstorms over the Plains will not only foil holiday weekend activities through Monday, but will also put some lives at risk.

Repeating Downpours

More downpours and strong thunderstorms will sweep from portions of the Dakotas to Iowa, northern Missouri, southern Minnesota and Illinois through the rest of the Memorial Day weekend.

While more drenching thunderstorms are erupting in and around Iowa, the latest round of severe thunderstorms will continue to ignite from eastern Montana and the western Dakotas to Nebraska through this evening.

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A narrow line of severe thunderstorms will also extend southward across the southern High Plains.

These thunderstorms will spread eastward across the central Plains tonight, producing more flooding downpours than damaging winds as the night progresses.

Close to 10 inches of rain has left some neighborhoods around San Antonio, Texas under water. A similar scene may evolve across the central Plains this Memorial Day weekend. Image by breakingweather Twitter follower kingfontenette.

More severe and drenching thunderstorms will follow for the northern and central Plains on Memorial Day.

In addition to the risk of lightning strikes clustering around a local area, there is the potential for additional flash and urban flooding.

That is especially true where the ground is severely saturated from recent rounds of thunderstorms. Any future downpours will have no trouble flooding poor drainage areas, overwhelming storm drains and causing rapid rises on small streams.

Earlier this morning, an area near Grinnell, Iowa, reported a 24-hour rainfall total of nearly 7 inches. Runoff from that rain inundated and made some roads impassable.

Seek shelter as the storms approach in a vehicle or building. Golf carts, tents, gazebos and picnic pavilions do not offer adequate protection from lightning. Avoid setting up camp in low lying areas along a small stream. During a downpour small streams can rise several feet in a matter of minutes.

 

Do not drive through flooded roadways. Flooding less than knee high can push your vehicle into deep water.

More on the Severe Weather

The majority of the severe thunderstorms that erupt through this evening will target places from eastern Montana and western North Dakota, southward into Nebraska. More isolated storms are expected southward to the Texas Panhandle and into Big Bend Country.

The storms in the narrow swath have the potential to bring large hail, damaging wind gusts, frequent lightning strikes and a short-lived tornado.

Memorial Day Severe Weather

During Monday, several ingredients will come together to enhance thunderstorms from eastern Montana and western North Dakota to Nebraska, northern Kansas, western Iowa and northwestern Missouri.

Dickinson, N.D., Rapid City and Sioux Falls, S.D., Omaha and Grand Island, Neb., and Russell, Kan., are among the communities at risk for the violent thunderstorms on Memorial Day.

Another line of isolated violent thunderstorms will also form from south-central Kansas to around Midland, Texas, later Monday.

In addition to the risk for large hail, strong wind gusts and power outages, a couple of tornadoes could be produced.

Severe Weather Outbreak Wednesday to Friday

It is looking more likely that there will be an outbreak of severe weather beginning Wednesday over the High Plains, spreading slowly eastward over the lower Plains and Mississippi Valley Thursday into Friday.

The outbreak would feature the full spectrum of severe weather and could include a number of tornadoes.

Additional details will soon follow on AccuWeather.com.

Thumbnail image shows clouds forming over a flooded intersection in San Antonio on Sunday, May 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski contributed to the content of this story.

More at AccuWeather-Drenching, Severe Storms into Memorial Day on Plains.

Another blast of cold air is charging southward across the Rockies, causing another round of spring snow to accumulate quickly.

More than 6 inches of snow have piled up in Cheyenne through Wednesday morning, and snow has arrived to the city of Denver. Up to 18 inches have been reported for parts of Larimer County, Colorado. Slick conditions are being reported across portions of I-25, I-70 and I-80 through many of Colorado’s major cities.

Denver had a high of 80 degrees, just 3 degrees shy of the 1948 record high for the date, on Monday. Temperatures plummeted behind a potent cold front Tuesday night into Wednesday.

The return of cold air, the right wind direction and a storm tracking just to the south, Has set up a snow situation for the Denver area on Wednesday.

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Enough snow can fall to make for slushy and difficult travel conditions along stretches of I-25, I-70 and I-80 in the region. However, there is the potential for enough snow to fall to shut down some sections of these highways.

Temperatures fell into near freezing across the Denver area early Wednesday morning. The cold air combined with an east wind flowing up the mountains will allow 3-6 inches of snow to fall in the city.

“If everything comes together, the mountains to the west of Denver could receive a foot or more of snow on Wednesday,” AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Erik Pindrock said. “Denver averages about 1.3 inches of snow during the month of May, which means that snowfall this time of year isn’t rare.”

A foot of snow could also fall well away from the mountains and foothills in the region over part of I-80 on the High Plains.

Just like snow is no stranger to Denver in May, often it will warm up quite a bit ahead of most snowstorms throughout the fall, winter and spring.

Before the snow starts in Denver, snow had already started accumulating in other areas across the region, including Cheyenne and Casper, Wyo. and North Platte and Scottsbluff, Neb.

As the storm rolls out from the Rockies, it may continue to produce a swath of heavy snow from portions of eastern Nebraska to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski has more on the potential for an unprecedented May snowstorm from Omaha to Minneapolis as well on the risk for more flooding in the Midwest later this week.

AccuWeather.com also has some insight as to what the summer will bring to the Rockies, Plains and the balance of the nation.

AccuWeather-Snow Piles On I-25, I-70, I-80 Around Denver, Cheyenne.

Another blast of cold air will charge southward across the Plains this week, which will lead to more spring snow for Denver.

Denver had a high of 80 degrees, just 3 degrees shy of the 1948 record high for the date, on Monday. Temperatures will plummet behind a potent cold front Tuesday night into Wednesday.

The return of cold air, the right wind direction and a storm tracking just to the south will set up a snow situation for the Denver area late Tuesday into Wednesday.

Enough snow can fall to make for slushy and difficult travel conditions along stretches of I-25, I-70 and I-80 in the region. However, there is the potential for enough snow to fall to shut down some sections of these highways.

Temperatures will fall into 30s across the Denver area by early Wednesday morning. The cold air combined with an east wind flowing up the mountains will allow 3-6 inches of snow to fall in the city.

“If everything comes together, the mountains to the west of Denver could receive a foot or more of snow on Wednesday,” AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Erik Pindrock said. “Denver averages about 1.3 inches of snow during the month of May, which means that snowfall this time of year isn’t rare.”

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A foot of snow could also fall well away from the mountains and foothills in the region.

Just like snow is no stranger to Denver in May, often it will warm up quite a bit ahead of most snowstorms throughout the fall, winter and spring.

Other cities in the region that will receive snow include Cheyenne and Casper, Wyo., Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colo., and North Platte and Scottsbluff, Neb.

Possible Snowstorm for Omaha, Other Cities on the Plains
As the storm rolls out from the Rockies, it may continue to produce a swath of heavy snow from portions of eastern Nebraska to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

If all the right pieces were to fall into place, some communities over the central Plains that rarely get a foot of snow from a storm in January, may be digging out from a foot of snow by the end of the week.

While such a storm is more common in Denver and the High Plains, such an event is increasingly more rare farther east and over lower elevations in the region. The storm would be hitting these areas on May 2 and 3.

AccuWeather.com will continue to provide updates on the snowstorm, return of cold air to the Plains and any severe weather and flooding consequences farther to the east in the Central states.

AccuWeather-Denver: Snowstorm, Dramatic Change to Cold in Store.

While wildfires are inevitable in the West during the summer, this year the season has the potential to be worse than average.

Drought, which began last summer, become significantly worse over many areas of the West this winter. The drought is showing few signs of improvement this spring.

Only portions of Wyoming and Colorado to the central High Plains have had some moisture-rich storms of late.

Long-term indications are that these storms will break off in the weeks ahead and are not a sign of wetter times through the summer. This year’s drought will shift farther west, compared to last year, which focused from the Plains to the Midwest.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, head of AccuWeather.com’s Long Range Forecasting Department, “The latest indications are that the core of heat and drought for the summer of 2013 will focus from the High Plains to California and will expand into the Northwest and the northern Rockies.”

The region is likely to have many critical Fire Weather days, which are defined by the National Weather Service as days in which the relative humidity is at or below 15 percent, winds are 20 mph or higher and the fire danger is rated at a high or extreme level.

“As the summer progresses, we believe thunderstorms will begin to fire over the Southwest, associated with the monsoon, but moisture may be limited moving farther north to a point over the West,” Pastelok said.

While the storms will provide a source of moisture to a small fraction of the region, lightning strikes from the storms will ignite wildfires. Many of the storms will not bring significant rainfall to a broad area.

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Extreme heat is forecast over a large part of the West this summer. Last summer, Denver officially hit 100 degrees 13 times. This summer has the potential to bring just as many, if not more, 100-degree days. It could be a similar story for Salt Lake City, which had 11 days in which temperatures hit 100 degrees or higher.

The higher the temperature, the lower the humidity. The dry air and extreme temperature increase the flammability of the brush.

Adding to the danger of the dry brush is the bark beetle over western forests, which is killing scores of trees and creating more dry fuel for the fires.

Budget cuts to the U.S. Forest Service could also play a role, by limiting the amount of firefighters and lowering the amount of acreage set aside for hazardous fuel reduction.

The Forest Service estimates to have substantial cuts this year, and over half of those cuts could be shouldered by wildland fire management.

While one area may be favored over another for wildfires and thunderstorms, there is still the potential for a random stray storm or careless human activity in the region.

Even though available firefighters will be positioned in key areas, there is the potential for a large fire breaking out and rapidly spreading in an area with limited coverage.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), on average, wildfires burn 4.3 million acres each year in the U.S. Last year, 9.3 million acres burned.

An area of high pressure is projected to set up at most levels of the atmosphere, centered over the Four Corners region this summer. Last summer, the high set up farther east, over the central Plains.

A pattern such as this represents an area of sinking air and warmth at the surface and aloft. The combination makes for a very stable atmosphere and tends to prevent thunderstorm activity initially. However, as the pattern progresses, moisture can circulate into the high from the outside. Such moisture can lead to thunderstorm formation over the mountains.

The full AccuWeather.com forecast for the Summer of 2013 will be released in a couple of weeks.

More at AccuWeather-West Rough Wildfire Season Ahead With Building Drought.

A wild storm, which brought a blizzard and severe thunderstorms this week, also delivered heavy rainfall (and snow) to some very needy areas of the Plains.

The storm has delivered a general swath of 1- to 6-inch rainfall or the liquid equivalent from portions of Wyoming, eastward to Iowa.

Many of these areas, especially locations from the High Plains to the Rockies, have been experiencing building drought since last summer.

As of April 2, 2013, 52 percent of the nation was experiencing severe drought.

There have been improvements in all stages of drought over the much of the middle of the nation. This is the first week in many, where the drought status has improved in more places, rather than worsened.

State Highlight: According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, Nebraska saw widespread improvement. In the area of exceptional drought the state decreased from 75 percent last week to 15 percent of the state this week.

 

As of April 9, 2013, the area of the nation experiencing severe drought had slipped to 44 percent, or had improved by about 8 percent. Additional moisture has fallen on some locations since the map was prepared by the USDA and NOAA.

More moisture in the form of rain or snow that slowly melts is needed in the weeks ahead.

There are indications that the weather pattern will continue to oblige for a while longer. Another storm is forecast to bring rain and snow to parts of the Rockies, Plains and Midwest next week. The amount of precipitation and specifically which areas will benefit the most will depend on the track and strength of that storm and other lesser systems.

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The storm did not bring benefits to all areas.

According to Agricultural Weather Expert Dale Mohler, “The cold plunge and freeze associated with the storm did cause some damage to the developing winter wheat from southwestern Kansas to the northern Texas Panhandle.”

Temperatures dipped into the teens and lower 20s during the last few days of the week in the wake of the storm over the southern High Plains.

In parts of the Southwest, winds associated with the storm this past week raised evaporation rates, which outweighed any moisture that fell.

“With the new series of storms next week, there is concern of another freeze driving into central and southern winter wheat areas,” Mohler said.

While wheat is a grass and will generally recover from setbacks and delays such as this, there could be an issue as far as yields are concerned later on.

“This would be especially in cases where the developing head of the wheat may have been damaged,” Mohler added.

Look for updates to your local AccuWeather.com forecast, as well as new information on our website by way of blogs, news stories and videos in the coming days on the drought situation and the prospects for more rain, snow, thunderstorms and cold over the Plains.