Rare May snowstorm bringing heavy snows from Colorado to Wisconsin

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:42 PM GMT on May 01, 2013

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"Not the typical May forecast." That's the lead-in for today's National Weather Service forecast discussion for Minneapolis, where Winter Storm Achilles is expected to bring 6 - 9" of snow by Thursday morning. Snowfall rates as high as 1 - 3" per hour may occur in snow bands in East Central Minnesota this afternoon, and an 8 - 10" swath of snowfall is expected from South Central Minnesota into East Central Minnesota and West Central Wisconsin. With ratios of snow to liquid water an exceptional 5:1 or even 4:1 (normal is 10:1), the wet, heavy snow will be capable of downing power lines and tree limbs. However, the ground is warm, and accumulation on roads will be less of a problem than for the usual storm of this magnitude. The storm has already brought 7.3" of snow to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and 12 - 14" to locations 10 - 15 miles to the WNW of Cheyenne. Cheyenne's greatest May snowstorm on record was 18.3" on May 5 - 6, 1978. Denver, Colorado is expected to get 3 - 6" of snow from the storm; Boulder, Colorado has already received 8" of snow, Fort Collings got up to 9", and up to 28" has fallen in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Colorado.


Figure 1. Snow plasters trees in Fort Collins, Colorado, on May 1, 2013. Up to 9" of snow has fallen on Fort Collins from the storm. Image credit: wunderphotographer pkkeya.

A historic May snowstorm for some locations
According to the Minnesota Climatology Working Group, the greatest May snowstorm in Minneapolis is 3" on May 20, 1892, so today's winter storm has the potential to be the greatest May snowstorm in city history.

The 1.5" of snow that fell on Sioux Falls, South Dakota this morning was that city's first May snowfall since 1976, the first May snowfall of greater than one inch since 1944, and the 3rd highest May snowfall on record.

On Thursday, after the cold front from Achilles passes through Topeka, Kansas, up to one inch of snow is forecast to fall. May 3, 1907 was the only measurable snowfall at Topeka on record (3.2") during the month of May!


Figure 2. Snow on a Deserted Street in Dawson, Minnesota in Lac Qui Parle County on May 20, 1892. The storm brought Minneapolis its greatest snowfall on record, 3.0". Image courtesy the Minnesota Historical Society.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting mermaidlaw:
Hello everyone. I think I finally just saw a sprinkle at my house here in Spring Hill, FL. Well maybe...I did see a bird.:)
I do have a question: Why does the radar show rain over me when we are not getting rain? Thanks to all that can answer.
I hope everyone is safe, and has a wonderful night!


It may appear rain is over you but it is not. I've seen it happen before myself, sometimes you can just be unlikely to where the radar is either not high enough resolution to show that you aren't getting any, or its not quite over you.
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Quoting bigwes6844:
So basically no problems with development like they were having last year?

When you have more inestable atmosphere is more favorable for Thunderstorm development,In unstable conditions, a lifted parcel of air will be warmer than the surrounding air at altitude. Because it is warmer, it is less dense and is prone to further ascent.

When you have a unestable atmosphere at the time you have a TC is like if you remove a problem when this is trying to put his act together
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2169
wow...the blob went to mush
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There is a serious flood threat in southern MS right now, rain continues to pile up from persistent heavy thunderstorms.
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Interesting, I thought this gulf mess was only a mid level circulation, apparently not, there was a mid level circulation which is near Tampa Bay right now, but there is actually a tight little surface low moving into Ft. Myers, more than likely it is a meso low, but regardless it is tight little low. Surface obs indicate it is a small compact low with deep convection near its center, if it had sat in the southern gulf longer and there was little shear, it probably could have had a chance at becoming the first TC of the year.
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Hello everyone. I think I finally just saw a sprinkle at my house here in Spring Hill, FL. Well maybe...I did see a bird.:)
I do have a question: Why does the radar show rain over me when we are not getting rain? Thanks to all that can answer.
I hope everyone is safe, and has a wonderful night!
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Quoting stormchaser19:
Seem like if the caribbean is going to be the opposite of last year...
So basically no problems with development like they were having last year?
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
What's left of Zane looks to be near landfall:


Need I say that all TC warnings have now been canceled.





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This is a contour plot of total totals index with a contour interval of 2. The TT field shows instability in the atmosphere based on the lapse rate from 850 to 500 mb plus dewpoint at 850 mb. Where TTs are greater than 45, thunderstorms are possible. The higher the number, the more unstable the atmosphere is and as a result, the bold the thunderstorms could become. Values of 52 or higher indicate areas where severe thunderstorms are possible. Values <40 indicate areas of stable weather where skies are generally clear
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Quoting stormchaser19:
Seem like if the caribbean is going to be the opposite of last year...


Good.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I actually don't think this year might be a huge threat to the US East Coast unlike the last three seasons. Given there's some similarities between 2004 and 2007 with this hurricane season as I discussed a few days ago, I personally believe as your graph also indicates that the Caribbean islands, Mexico, and the Gulf Coast are the highest risks this year. To be honest, if I had to pick a US state.. I'd go with Florida or Texas this year.

That being said, these predictions and conditions are utterly meaningless if we don't get a storm at the right time with the right conditions. Remember when Isaac looked like it would clock Florida as a Category 2 hurricane? Didn't happen - instead it hit Louisiana just after becoming a Category 1.

What similarities exist between 2007 and 2013 other than a similar SST profile and ENSO phase?
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
I wouldn't be surprised to see some early morning thunderstorms tomorrow, though. There is at least still a TON of moisture to work with


Yeah exactly, while I'm not counting on another big complex moving through tomorrow, I wouldn't count against it either.

Also the possible lack of morning overcast could allow more significant heating which could also means stronger thunderstorms with the heating of day.
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Seem like if the caribbean is going to be the opposite of last year...
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2169


Backing off, as usual.
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Quoting Grothar:


It is reminding me of the old days during the Florida rainy season. These things would last for days. I can remember some June months that it rained almost every day.


Well I don't know about your house but last rainy season was like a classic one for much of Florida last year :)
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Quoting MississippiWx:


I have my doubts about that forecast. Looks very El Nino-ish. High pressure basin-wide in the heart of the hurricane season just doesn't make sense when it's supposed to be an active season.


High pressure basin-wide didn't seem to stop 2012 from being ridiculously active.
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Tell you what, I'm out here east of Ft Myers.....63 degrees to 71..back down to 66 in 15 minutes.....wind out of the NE-E at 20...rain, and radar shows a heavy storm coming in...53 yrs here, never in May...global cooling...damn....
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597. VR46L
Quoting Forsaken:
Looks like popup thunderstorms from the daytime heating, if you mean what's on top of the peninsula.


Yeah thats what I am looking at !
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6971
Quoting Jedkins01:


I agree, the vort lobe moving over us now is leaving negative vorticity advection behind it, so things will calm down for a little while probably. We'll see though, this is a pretty complex mess for us so as usual with Florida forecasts, its tough to say what will happen for sure.

Late last night it looked like only the Florida Keys would get rain and that changed pretty quick, so we'll see.
I wouldn't be surprised to see some early morning thunderstorms tomorrow, though. There is at least still a TON of moisture to work with
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Quoting WDEmobmet:


Yea, definitely a little spin there... Could get interesting


Right off the miss/ala coast near singing river island, there is also what appears to be a decent hook possibly a waterspout
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The MJO forecast looks like it may cause some tropical activity after mid may in the North Atlantic and at EPAC. Time will tell about that.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14764
Quoting MississippiWx:


Interesting. A mesolow has formed in that persistent convection and it apparently provided the spin needed to produce a tornado-warned cell.



Yea, definitely a little spin there... Could get interesting
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Quoting VR46L:
What the Heck is that Building at the Yucatan...



NorthAmerica-CONUS-East/vap_images/goes
Looks like popup thunderstorms from the daytime heating, if you mean what's on top of the peninsula.
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Like clockwork:

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Quoting WDEmobmet:
747
WFUS54 KMOB 012242
TORMOB
ALC097-MSC039-012330-
/O.NEW.KMOB.TO.W.0020.130501T2242Z-130501T2330Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOBILE AL
542 PM CDT WED MAY 1 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOBILE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EASTERN GEORGE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI...
WESTERN MOBILE COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST ALABAMA...

* UNTIL 630 PM CDT

* AT 539 PM CDT...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED 12 MILES SOUTH OF LUCEDALE...OR 9 MILES NORTH
OF WADE...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 20 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
U.S. HIGHWAY 98 NEAR THE GEORGE AND MOBILE COUNTY LINE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED BASED ON DOPPLER RADAR...IT MEANS
STRONG ROTATION HAS BEEN DETECTED AND A TORNADO MAY ALREADY BE ON THE
GROUND...OR IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP SHORTLY. TAKE

&&

LAT...LON 3074 8859 3100 8858 3100 8849 3097 8820
3073 8845
TIME...MOT...LOC 2241Z 215DEG 17KT 3077 8852

$$









Interesting. A mesolow has formed in that persistent convection and it apparently provided the spin needed to produce a tornado-warned cell.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
589. VR46L
What the Heck is that Building at the Yucatan...



NorthAmerica-CONUS-East/vap_images/goes
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6971
12Z & 18Z GFS : bust.
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747
WFUS54 KMOB 012242
TORMOB
ALC097-MSC039-012330-
/O.NEW.KMOB.TO.W.0020.130501T2242Z-130501T2330Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOBILE AL
542 PM CDT WED MAY 1 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOBILE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EASTERN GEORGE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI...
WESTERN MOBILE COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST ALABAMA...

* UNTIL 630 PM CDT

* AT 539 PM CDT...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED 12 MILES SOUTH OF LUCEDALE...OR 9 MILES NORTH
OF WADE...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 20 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
U.S. HIGHWAY 98 NEAR THE GEORGE AND MOBILE COUNTY LINE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

WHEN A TORNADO WARNING IS ISSUED BASED ON DOPPLER RADAR...IT MEANS
STRONG ROTATION HAS BEEN DETECTED AND A TORNADO MAY ALREADY BE ON THE
GROUND...OR IS EXPECTED TO DEVELOP SHORTLY. TAKE

&&

LAT...LON 3074 8859 3100 8858 3100 8849 3097 8820
3073 8845
TIME...MOT...LOC 2241Z 215DEG 17KT 3077 8852

$$







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I just found out Amanda Knox is a temptress per Diane Sawyer, now I'm ready for blob #2.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
747
WFUS54 KMOB 012242
TORMOB
ALC097-MSC039-012330-
/O.NEW.KMOB.TO.W.0020.130501T2242Z-130501T2330Z/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOBILE AL
542 PM CDT WED MAY 1 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MOBILE HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
EASTERN GEORGE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI...
WESTERN MOBILE COUNTY IN SOUTHWEST ALABAMA...

* UNTIL 630 PM CDT

* AT 539 PM CDT...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A
TORNADO WAS LOCATED 12 MILES SOUTH OF LUCEDALE...OR 9 MILES NORTH
OF WADE...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 20 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
U.S. HIGHWAY 98 NEAR THE GEORGE AND MOBILE COUNTY LINE.
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What's left of Zane looks to be near landfall:

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FIRING UP SHORTLY

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If it makes people feel better, the CFSv2 has high pressures across the entire global tropics come September. Only area with lower heights relative to the rest of the Globe is the WPAC. Even then, there the heights aren't actually below average. Global warming maybe? This year has already seen incredibly low global TC activity.




Last two weeks of CFSv2 2m Temperature forecasts for September -- entire globe is warm.
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... Umm, I forgot to give you this as a bedtime sweet from Germany. And somehow weather related because we had to wait for the asparagus season this year quite a while. Tomorrow I'll buy some for sure ...

Queen Asparagus reigns supreme over Germany

Germans don't just love asparagus - they worship it. Mithila Borker offers her thoughts on Germany's vegetable cult just as springtime Spargel madness sweeps over the nation. ....

(with an ultimate asparagus photo gallery)
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Quoting MississippiWx:


I have my doubts about that forecast. Looks very El Nino-ish. High pressure basin-wide in the heart of the hurricane season just doesn't make sense when it's supposed to be an active season.
I wasn't really looking at the forecast for what it showed over the tropics. I was looking at the extratropical pattern to get an idea of where storm threats would be. Hard to say how well the forecast will verify and TA did only posted the average of the last day of CFSv2 runs (4-runs). A 4 run ensemble isn't very useful four months out but the last two week average has a similar idea (average of last 56 CFSv2 runs) with the idea of higher heights in southern Canada and in the west US with lower heights around the Great Lakes.

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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
I doubt the complex forming in the central gulf is going to bring much weather this way. It's following in the wake of today's mcs, diffluence aloft has decreased, and there hasn't been enou heating bends today's rains for destabilization over land.


I agree, the vort lobe moving over us now is leaving negative vorticity advection behind it, so things will calm down for a little while probably. We'll see though, this is a pretty complex mess for us so as usual with Florida forecasts, its tough to say what will happen for sure.

Late last night it looked like only the Florida Keys would get rain and that changed pretty quick, so we'll see.
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Quoting Dakster:


What are we talking about?

I'm late to the blog today.
I'm not trying to be a jerk, but why don't you just read back and see? Unless someone is your personal assistant for the blog, in which case a PM may be more appropriate.
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18Z GFS TOTAL PRECIP OUT TO HR 144

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A few severe storms out there this evening, including one passing right over the Frederick, OK radar site:



The SPC has a large severe thunderstorm watch up for that area and points south until midnight CDT:

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I doubt the complex forming in the central gulf is going to bring much weather this way. It's following in the wake of today's mcs, diffluence aloft has decreased, and there hasn't been enou heating bends today's rains for destabilization over land.
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Quoting Grothar:
Going out to dinner, guys. It is always better to do it between blobs. Later.


What are we talking about?

I'm late to the blog today.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


I have my doubts about that forecast. Looks very El Nino-ish. High pressure basin-wide in the heart of the hurricane season just doesn't make sense when it's supposed to be an active season.


That is what the ECMWF April MSLP forecast had.
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14764
Quoting TomTaylor:
That CFS forecast would put the region from the Carolinas to New England at greatest risk for storms north of the Caribbean or off the East coast. Reminds me a lot of the Sandy set up.




Looking back at the CFS forecast, for a storm in the GOM it would favor the storm curving up in to the northern or eastern Gulf. If the storm were in the western Caribbean it may try and curve up into the eastern Gulf or just continue straight into central America. Here's the CFS again.



I have my doubts about that forecast. Looks very El Nino-ish. High pressure basin-wide in the heart of the hurricane season just doesn't make sense when it's supposed to be an active season.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting Gearsts:
It doesn't look favorable for activity.

Well it is a four month forecast. I doubt it pans out exactly as depicted, I just think it's interesting how it shows a favorable pattern for East Coast hits, one of the things many here have been advertising since December.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I think I saw Levi make a post about how the Indian Ocean may get a tropical cyclone or two over the next two weeks. I wouldn't doubt it given the strength of the upcoming MJO pulse.

Looks like it will travel around the world. If we extrapolate some, it'd reach Octants 8 and 1 sometime after May 20. May have to watch for "Andrea" at the time.




Mainly centered over northeastern Canada and Alaska.
It doesn't look favorable for activity.
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18z GFS up to 120 hours

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16215
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




Still hanging there. Let's see how it does when it makes the splash into the water.
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Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16215
Going out to dinner, guys. It is always better to do it between blobs. Later.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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