NOAA: 'Historic' blizzard unfolding in the Plains

Arturo Kim
March 15, 2019

The storm could rival one that hit the region in 1979 in terms of the extent of heavy snowfall, according to meteorologist Richard Emanuel with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, where wind was gusting to 60 miles per hour (96 kph) with heavy snow.

Fargo-Moorhead residents are bracing for another round of precipitation as a winter storm is set to hit the area on Wednesday. "High speed in poor driving conditions is being investigated as a possible causal factor".

Watches, warnings and advisories for the storm cover about 1.5 million square miles, which is roughly half of the area of the continental USA - and they stretch from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

More than six inches of heavy, wet snow is expected in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

The blizzard has exited Colorado but Blizzard Warnings remain in place for the eastern Plains of Colorado until noon on Thursday.

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The Lower Mississippi Valley and southern Plains will experience thunderstorms with heavy rain and flooding. Southwest, Frontier and United have all canceled flights, Denver Airport wrote on Twitter.

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To the east, near zero visibilities are expected with wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour and up to a foot of snow on the plains east of a line from Greeley to Denver International Airport.

More than 1,400 flights had been canceled by Wednesday morning, according to FlightAware.

"We've got a lot of water, and it's got to find a way to get out of here", said Tracy West, mayor of Lennox, South Dakota.

The winds toppled high profile vehicles in Texas and, in Logan, N.M., blew 26 rail cars off a bridge.

South Dakota's governor closed all state offices March 14 as the blizzard conditions moved in, while wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways also made travel treacherous in western Nebraska. Thankfully no injuries were reported. Coincidentally, this is the 26th anniversary of the 1993 Superstorm, also known as "The Storm of the Century", which also brought a wide array of severe weather over a large area.

The Red Cross reported Thursday that 620 people had stayed in shelters overnight in Colorado and in Wyoming, where the state Transportation Department reported snow drifts on Interstate 80 that were as high as 10 feet (3 meters). "Please stop by the customer service booths on Concourses A, B or at baggage claim 9 in the terminal and pick up a blanket", the airport tweet Wednesday evening.

By Thursday, the storm system will weaken as it moves over the Tennessee River Valley, bringing mostly rain from MI southward to the Gulf Coast and some remaining snow only in the far northern parts of the country, he added. Northern Utah will see the heaviest amount of snow in the morning. Ice jams are a major concern along rivers in this region.

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