Well, that escalated quickly. Less than a day after calling for a half foot of snow and gusty winds to hit a portion of the Midwest this week, the National Weather Service has vastly upped its forecast.
A sprawling complex of winter weather, storm, blizzard, and flood warnings now blanket an area from Colorado to Michigan, while red flag fire danger warnings are up from Arizona to Oklahoma. Millions of people will face potentially life-threatening conditions tomorrow as a souped-up bomb cyclone sets its sights on the heartland for the second time in as many months.
On Monday, the forecast looked pretty bad. But conditions have continue to line up for a major weather maker that could set all-time April records. A strong jet stream is ushering rain, snow, and wind gusts up to 70 mph into California on Tuesday. That system will cross southern Colorado before sweeping northward into the Plains, powering up as the low pressure system draws energy from cold air to the north and warm air to the south. The expected drop in pressure could challenge the April low pressure record in Kansas, and quite possibly other states in the area as well.
That tension will unleash its fury in the form of 55 mph winds. Some precipitation may start as rain but will quickly turn to snow in many areas. A huge chunk of the middle of the country could see 12-24 inches of snow on Wednesday into Thursday. That includes the Front Range where temperatures are in the mid-70s today, and the Twin Cities where the National Weather Service has warned of a “potentially historic storm.” The agency is also calling for up to 30 inches of snow in South Dakota. Thirty inches! In mid-April!
The whiteout conditions that come with heavy snowfall would be more than enough catastrophic weather on their own. But areas on the south side of the storm will also have to contend with dangerous fire weather to boot. Nature loves a vacuum, and all the air racing from the south toward the low pressure center in the Midwest will gust across the Southwest, Texas, and Oklahoma, whipping up 40-50 mph winds.
Add in humidity which could drop to the single digits in parts of the Southwest while temperatures will be in the 90s there and in Oklahoma on Wednesday, and you’ve got a gnarly recipe for fire conditions. With 4.5 million Americans facing critical fire conditions, the Nation Weather Service warned that those in the danger zone should “[a]void activities that may produce outdoor flames or sparks.”
Unfortunately there’s one more issue to contend with in this gauntlet of weather-related despair. Flood warnings and watches criss cross the Upper Midwest as winter snow continues to melt out on Tuesday. The added snow should melt off quickly in the wake of the storm, which could cause rivers and streams to crest, including areas already suffering from March’s catastrophic flooding.
So yeah, after this storm, I think we can all agree winter needs to be cancelled.