Several Western States Blasted by “Historic” Winter Weather Over The Weekend

A late-season whopper of a snowstorm crippled roads and airports with high winds and blizzard warnings for up to three feet of snow in the higher elevations of Wyoming and Colorado yesterday — conditions are not expected to improve there until later today.  Denver International Airport, the fifth busiest in the nation, shut down all of its runways, with more than 2000 flights canceled over the weekend. Interstate highways 70 and 25 in Colorado and Interstate 80 in Wyoming were also closed for safety because cars were getting stranded. There were even avalanche warnings issued in Colorado. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes struck Texas as the same front passed through the region.

Why This Matters:  Two thousand flights canceled in and out of Denver means there were that many flights TO cancel.  In fact, Transportation Security Administration reported that people were taking to the air again in droves — USA Today’s headline on Friday read “Spring Break or Bust,” but old man winter was not cooperating.  There will always be snowstorms in the spring, but the treacherous road and flying conditions are a reminder that while we MAY be able to see the end of the worst of the pandemic, our new climate normal is not going anywhere.  

Upsloping Severe Weather

There were parts of Texas in distress and recovery again after heavy storms hit on Friday and Saturday — in Amarillo, power lines and cell towers went down and baseball-sized hail was reported in the region.  According to the Omaha World-Herald, the Nebraska Department of Transportation urged people across the state to avoid travel if at all possible.  (Nebraska’s own Creighton men’s basketball team was crushed by an avalanche of three-pointers by the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday night too – but I, Monica, digress.)  Schools in many cities across Colorado and Wyoming as well as government offices are closed today — yet another good sign of abnormal severe weather “normalcy” returning.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Wyoming blamed the storm’s severity on a dip in the jet stream, as well as moisture that was streaming north from both the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico “in amounts rarely seen in this area of the country” — that moisture was pushed up the mountains and fell as snow. According to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, this is known as “upsloping, or orographic lifting, which describes the process by which moisture is channeled upward by progressively higher terrain. That can enhance precipitation rates, with snow potentially coming down at nearly three inches an hour.”

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