Blizzard warnings remain in effect from northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas to South Dakota. Ice storm warnings also cover eastern North Dakota, where warmer average temperatures allow liquid rain to fall before it freezes into a slippery layer of ice.
“Travel could be very difficult,” warned the National Weather Service. “Widespread blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. Gusts of wind could cause tree branches to fall.
Even after the snow ends, strong, persistent winds could kick up freshly fallen powder and lead to blizzard conditions on the ground, which are just as dangerous.
Interstate 90 in South Dakota remained closed between Mitchell (exit 332) and Wall (exit 110) due to hazardous road conditions and limited visibilities, while Interstate 94 in North Dakota had slow travel. between Hebron and west Fargo.
Conditions will remain dangerous into early Wednesday in some locations before eventually improving.
The storm system that caused the storm began its winter assault on the Four Corners region, dumping snow on high ground in New Mexico and Arizona before reorganizing in the lee of the Rockies. Moisture surrounding the counterclockwise rotating low fell into an area of cold air in the low’s wake. This led to significant accumulations in the Colorado mountains. Then, the storm system ejected toward the northeast.
Here’s a recap of some of the biggest totals so far:
- 14 inches in Mogollan, New Mexico
- 13 inches at Douglas Pass, Colorado.
- 13 inches in Sunrise Park, Arizona.
- 12.8 inches in Glendevey, Colorado.
- 11.4 inches in Lander, Wyo.
- 10.5 inches in Aspen Springs, Colorado.
- 10 inches at Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado.
- 8.8 inches in Lawson, Colorado.
- 8.5′ Burwell, Neb.
- 8 inches in McLean, Neb.
- 7 inches in Norfolk, Neb.
- 6.5 inches in Fort Pierre, SD
- 6 inches in Tyndall, SD
- 4.1 inches in Gann Valley, SD
Overall, it should be obvious that snow accumulations on the Plains are far from blockbuster totals – and rather typical for this time of year. So why this significant impact? Winds sweep across the northern plains and Front Range, lifting anything that has fallen. Sterling, Colo., along Interstate 76, recorded gusts to 61 mph, while Denver International Airport recorded a gust to 64. Sidney, Neb., also recorded gusts to 60 mph, and Gusts of 45 to 55 mph were common across the northern Plains. Rapid City, SD, even had gusts as high as 73 mph, just 1 mph below the hurricane force threshold.
The parent low pressure system was centered in central Nebraska and, after a period of reorganization, slowly meandered southeastward. This means that precipitation will decrease in intensity; the depression is expected to reach Kansas City, Missouri, in the evening, and move toward Paducah, Kentucky, Wednesday afternoon.
The strongest winds are also expected to slow, with gusts of 40 mph or more relegated primarily to the High Plains, from the Nebraska Sandhills and eastern Colorado to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles by Tuesday evening. Only a few sporadic gusts of 35 mph or higher are expected Wednesday in the Nebraska Sandhills. This is why blizzard warnings may expire.
In eastern North Dakota, a filament of mild, moisture-rich air drawn northward on the eastern side of the depression caused problems. That’s because it “overflowed,” or slid upward and onto a shallow lip of cold, dense, frigid air that hugs the ground. This means that moisture falls into the mild air as rain, but then freezes on contact with the ground, transforming the landscape into a virtual ice rink.
By Christmas Eve, places like Rustad and Wahpeton in North Dakota, as well as Moorhead and Muskoda in Minnesota, all had a quarter-inch of ice accumulation. Meanwhile, Fargo, ND, had accumulated 0.4 inches. Just half an inch of ice is enough to tear down power lines and cause outages, but so far relatively few outages have been reported.
The Aberdeen Regional Airport in South Dakota had accumulated 0.25 inches of ice accretion as of Tuesday morning.
Gn En Hd