A potentially crippling, historic snowstorm will pummel parts of the Rockies and High Plains this weekend with multiple feet – multiple feet! – of heavy, wet snow that could cripple travel, damage or actually bring down trees and knock out power in parts of Colorado, Wyoming and western Nebraska, warns weather.com.
Early this week, snow blanketed parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Minnesota, with a few locations pickings up a foot of snow. But that was just an appetizer. This weekend’s storm will be the main course.
“The storm has the potential to rank among the biggest on record in Denver,” AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. It could be one of its biggest snowstorms since 1885.
The record for the biggest snowstorm in the Mile High City has stood since 1913, when a storm lasting from Dec. 1 to Dec 5 unloaded 45.7 inches of snow.
“The rate of wet and clinging snow can be excessive, create whiteouts and lead to trees and power lines coming down,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. Blowing and drifting snow is anticipated in the vast open areas and over the ridges and through the passes.
Several feet of snow – as much as five feet (150 cm) – is projected to pile up over the foothills west of Denver and in southeastern Wyoming.
The National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyoming, called this a “potentially historic event taking shape” in their Wednesday afternoon forecast discussion and mentioned “blizzard conditions possible” in their winter storm watch.
There is high confidence that parts of southeast Wyoming, the Nebraska Panhandle and northeast Colorado will pick up at least a foot of snow late Friday into early Monday.
With a potential for more than 2 feet of snow to hit Wyoming’s capital city, Cheyenne, Wyoming, this could be its heaviest snowstorm on record.
It could also be the heaviest snowstorm on record to pummel Scottsbluff, Nebraska, since a mid-April 1927 storm dumped 25.8 inches of snow in three days in the western Nebraska town.
Snow may fall at the rate of several inches per hour at times Saturday and Sunday.
This is a dangerous storm ahead with potentially life-threatening impacts.
Roads – including stretches of I-25, 70 and 80 – in the High Plains and Front Range are likely to become impassable and may be closed this weekend.
You should avoid all travel in eastern Wyoming, western Nebraska and northeast Colorado from the foothills eastward from late Friday night through Sunday. If not, you run the risk of being stranded.
Some locations could see over 130 inches (more than 11 ft) of snow in two days!
Light snow is forecast to develop Friday evening across the region, according to the National Weather Service. However, much of the winter weather impacts are forecast to occur later in the day on Saturday and throughout much of Sunday. Winter Storm Watches have been issued and include southeast Wyoming, northeast and north-central Colorado, as well as western Nebraska.
Snowfall will pick up in intensity across the the central and southern Rockies — Colorado and southeastern Wyoming in particular — on Saturday night into Sunday. Snowfall rates will reach 1-3 inches per hour, accompanied by strong winds.
Depending on temperature trends, portions of northwestern Kansas, central and northeastern Nebraska and southern South Dakota, could also see very heavy snow as well.
The storm also poses a danger to livestock left out in the open.
Before the system fully develops this weekend, heavy snow could fall across the higher elevations of the Intermountain West and Southwest. Portions of Utah and Arizona could see over 6 inches of snow by Saturday morning.
Heavy mountain snow and lower elevation heavy rain will also remain possible across southern California through Friday.
Thanks to Bill Sellers, Murray Stafford and Benjamin Napier for these links