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Heavy Late-Season Snow Buries Wyoming and Colorado

By: Christopher C. Burt, 9:37 PM GMT on May 13, 2014

Heavy Late-Season Snow Buries Wyoming and Colorado

An exceptionally heavy snowfall buried many locations in Colorado and Wyoming the past few days. In the mountains two to three feet accumulated and even low elevations saw near record snowfall amounts for this time of the year. Here are some details.

Snowfall blankets the baseball field at Coor’s Field in Denver on Monday. Photo tweeted by the Rockies Baseball team.

The most remarkable snowfall totals were in Wyoming where a site 19 miles WSW of Encampment picked up an astonishing 43.0” between 2 p.m. Saturday (May 10) and 9 a.m. Monday (May 12). Cheyenne, Wyoming had a 10.5” calendar day accumulation on May 11th (Sunday) and a 12.0” storm total (Sunday-Monday), the heaviest snowfall for so late in the season since snowfall records began in 1883. Just a week earlier (on May 4th) the temperature had been 79°.

Welcome to mid-May in Wyoming. A resident of Cheyenne, where 12.0” of snow accumulated, sent this photo to The Weather Channel following the big storm on Sunday. The drifts appear to be about five feet deep. Thanks to a friend of Jeff Eno at TWC for sharing.

In Colorado the top amount was 33.3” at Arapaho Ridge, and in the Denver Metro area amounts of 4”-7” were common. Chadron, in Nebraska, received 6.0”.

Here are some of the top storm totals listed from the NWS Storm Prediction Center:

Map of snowfall totals in north-central Colorado May 10-12. Although the map shows two locations with 34.7” amounts, a list that accompanied it stated only 33.3” at Arapahoe Ridge as the top total for the region. Map from NWS-Colorado.

A powerful cold front accompanied by a surface low of 29.65” centered over northeastern Kansas was responsible for the snowfall. Temperatures fell sharply as the front sagged south and east late last week. Riverton, Wyoming received a daily record 1.1” of snowfall last Wednesday (May 7th) just a day after a rare tornado touched down near the NWS office there. The storm was so bad in southern Wyoming that almost the entire stretch (350 miles) of Interstate-80 was closed for a period of time.

May snowfall is not all that uncommon in Wyoming and Colorado, especially in the mountains (where it IS common), but this storm was exceptional for the amounts that accumulated at valley and Plains locations like Cheyenne. Keeping that in mind, it is interesting to note that Cheyenne once had a 7.0” snowfall on June 7th (in 1889) and its latest measurable snowfall on record occurred on June 14, 1955 when 0.3” fell. Havre, Montana (another Plains site) experienced its greatest single snowstorm on record (for any month) during a May when 33.8” accumulated on May 2-4, 1899.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.