Denver Braces for a Blizzard, a Day After Basking in Spring Sunshine

Pack away the sidewalk tables and flip-flops; break out the boots and shovels.

Nature was showing its fickle side on Wednesday, with blizzard conditions, heavy snow and frigid air expected to pound parts of the Rockies and the Plains, just a day after the weather was sunny and idyllic in some of those same places.

The storm, caused by a low-pressure system moving east from the Pacific Ocean, is expected to bring temperature drops of about 50 degrees to places like Denver, where it was in the mid-70s and sunny on Tuesday but could drop to the mid-20s by Wednesday night, with 55-mile-an-hour wind gusts and up to 10 inches of snow. Whiteout conditions could make driving nearly impossible, forecasters said.

The effects of the low-pressure system will be felt from Colorado through Michigan, with heavy snow and thunderstorms, and even down into Texas, where dry conditions and high winds have led to fire warnings.

While the whiplash from pleasant to grim conditions might draw a collective groan, it should not come as much of a surprise to those familiar with springtime in the Plains.

“In Colorado, that’s not uncommon at all,” said Natalie Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colo., noting that April is historically the state’s second-snowiest month of the year, behind March. “We have warm conditions, and then a weather system will come through and bring cold air from a different region, and then — boom — you have snow coming down.”

Officials in states across the Midwest were bracing for the dangers that come with severe weather.

Much of the region is still reeling from severe flooding brought on by storms and rising rivers last month. The floods inundated small towns and created a humanitarian crisis on the Pine Ridge Native American reservation, where tribal members found themselves trapped in their homes with little access to food.

[Read more about how an overwhelming bout of snow and flooding set off a humanitarian disaster at Pine Ridge.]

Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota ordered state offices closed on Wednesday. In Nebraska, officials announced the closing of some public aid offices and encouraged residents to be cautious when driving.

Forecasters were hoping that the long-term effects of this storm will not be as severe as those from the storm last month that set off the flooding. A heavy snowfall takes time to melt and run off into rivers and streams, reducing the chance of flooding, meteorologists say, while heavy rain leads to faster runoff, presenting a greater danger.

“Snowfall will delay the amount of water coming in, and that could be a real benefit,” David Pearson, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Omaha, said earlier this week. “The snow just takes the edge off.”

Leave a Reply