Thursday, March 24, 2016

Springtime In Denver: Big Blizzard, As Usual

Wednesday's blizzard in Denver. Photo by Aaron
Ontiveroz, Denver Post.  
It was 70 degrees and beautiful around Denver Colorado on Tuesday.

However, anyone who even glimpsed at the news Wednesday saw it was a different story yesterday.

A blizzard pummeled the Denver area, and most of eastern Colorado for that matter, reducing visibility to zero for hours.

According to the Denver Post, the city's International Airport shut down. So did area Interstates and highways. Up to 190,000 lost electricity amid the heavy, wet snow and strong winds.

March and sometimes April are usually the snowiest months of the year in places like western South Dakota and the eastern halves of Wyoming and Colorado, so this snowstorm wasnt totally a fluke at all.

In the early spring, the weather pattern tends to shift toward one in which strong storms form to the lee of the southern Rockies and move out into the central and northern Plains. These are the storms that cause all those tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and South this time of year.

Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota are usually on the colder, northwestern flanks of these storms.

Very moist air comes up from the Gulf of Mexico, then gets caught up in the circulation of these storms. Low pressure systems spin counterclockwise, so the winds are from the east north of the storms.

 In places like eastern Colorado and Wyoming, these moist east winds are forced to rise, to follow the terrain, which also rises from east to west in this part of the country.  When air rises, it cools. Moisture condenses into raindrops, or if it's cold enough, snow flakes. Then you get these whopping spring snowstorms in Colorado and Wyoming, and in South Dakota's Black Hills.

The weather there is extremely variable this time of year, too. Hence the 70 degrees followed by the blizzard.

They do get a lot of snowstorms this time of year in places like Denver and Rapid City, but the snow tends to melt fast, too.

This particular storm is heading east, and has caused a lot of snow in a stripe through Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota, northern Iowa, southern Minnesota and on into Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Winter storm warnings are up for the northern tip of Maine, too, because of heavy snow and ice anticipated with this storm. Various freezing rain and winter weather advisories are up for central and northern New England because of this storm.

Here's some scenes from the blizzard Wednesday:

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