This is the second time in four weeks many of these areas have been hit with severe winter weather
Over 3.9 million residents of the Plains and the Midwest got a surprise this week, as a rare inland spring snowstorm slammed parts of six states, including Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.
The storm, named Wesley by The Weather Channel, brought dangerous winds, heavy snowfalls, hail risk, downed powerlines, flooding and even thunderstorms and tornado warnings in some areas.
Its mixture of snow and ice created a travel nightmare, leading to traffic accidents and the cancellation of more than 3,000 flights nationwide, NBC News reported.
Several stretches of interstate highways were closed on Thursday — including Interstate 80 (in western Nebraska), Interstate 90 (in South Dakota, from Rapid City to Sioux Falls), Interstate 29 (from Sioux Falls in eastern South Dakota to the North Dakota border) and Interstate 70 (from the Kansas border to east of Denver, Colorado).
“Roads are becoming impassable,” the National Weather Service said. “Unless you are experiencing an emergency, please stay off the roads.”
In Minnesota alone, state patrolmen had responded to at least 213 crashes, CNN reported.
This is the second time in four weeks these areas have been hit. Just last month, a bomb cyclone hit many of these same areas, including Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.
As of late Wednesday, the snowfall totals were staggering and are only expected to climb. Here are the numbers, according to The Weather Channel:
- Colorado: 9.5 inches in Winter Park
- Minnesota: 7 inches near New Prague; 4.2 inches in Minneapolis
- Montana: 23 inches at Badger Pass
- South Dakota: 18 inches in Dupree
- Utah: 13 inches at Snowbird Ski Resort
- Wisconsin: 4.5 inches near Wheeler; 3.5 inches in La Crosse
- Wyoming: 18 inches near Wheeler; 6 inches in Gillette
It happened fast, too, with the snow falling at 3 inches per hour in certain areas, NBC News reported.
Strong winds have been just as shocking. In parts of Colorado, 107 mph wind gusts were recorded in Pueblo West, The Weather Channel reported. Texas saw 88 mph wind gusts, while they hit 77 mph in areas of New Mexico and 66 mph in parts of Nevada.
Wesley’s center is said to be located in the lower Missouri Valley, The Weather Channel said on Thursday.
Days earlier, much of the affected region had been experiencing warmer conditions, CNN reported. Denver, for example, had a recorded temperature of 78 degrees on Tuesday, Weather Underground reported.
It’s not just cold weather, either. Wesley brings a threat of dry conditions and wind gusts in the Southwest, which could spark dangerous wildfires, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, weather experts have been split as to whether Wesley qualifies as a “bomb cyclone.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a bomb cyclone — or bombogenesis — occurs when a cold air mass collides with a warm arm mass, causing the atmospheric pressure of a storm to drop 24 millibars in less than 24 hours.
On the surface, Wesley did not have that strength, causing it initially to fall outside that “bomb cyclone” classification, The Weather Channel reported. But as NOAA Weather Prediction Center senior forecaster David Roth noted in a tweet, an adjustment for latitude would put Wesley in that definition.