Winter Storm Pummels Western US With Snow Before Taking Aim at the South, Bringing a Multiday Severe Storm Threat

Wire Service
By Wire Service
December 12, 2022Weather
Winter Storm Pummels Western US With Snow Before Taking Aim at the South, Bringing a Multiday Severe Storm Threat
Caltrans crews are clearing Emerald Bay after a storm in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. (Caltrans District 3/Twitter)

A large winter storm system slammed into the western US over the weekend, blanketing mountain areas with heavy snow before taking aim at the South, where it’s expected to bring severe weather, with strong winds, hail, and tornadoes.

More than 10 million people in over a dozen states are under some level of winter weather alert as the powerful storm moves across the county.

Blizzard warnings extend from just west of Denver into the Dakotas, where whiteout conditions are expected to develop Monday night through Tuesday, making travel nearly impossible in some locations.

The storm already brought avalanche warnings to parts of the West, shuttered major highways as conditions became icy, and triggered flood watches.

The storm blanketed some mountain areas of drought-parched California with thick snow, including Soda Springs in the northern part of the state, which received 60 inches of snow in 48 hours.

A multiday severe storm threat begins Monday for parts of the South and southern central US. A slight threat for severe weather has been issued for parts of western and central Kansas and Oklahoma into northwestern Texas.

The threat strengthens as the system heads east Tuesday, likely affecting a large swath of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Areas including Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport in Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi, could see tornadoes, high wind gusts, and damaging hail.

Additionally, parts of the plains in Colorado are forecast Tuesday to get whiteout and blizzard conditions, the National Weather Service in Denver said.

To the east, residents in Fargo, North Dakota, are expected to see snowfall over 6 inches and will be under a winter storm watch from late Monday night until late Wednesday night. Duluth, Minnesota, could also see 6 inches of snow and will be under a winter storm watch starting Tuesday morning.

Though the storm is walloping some areas, it’s forecast to track across drought-stricken areas, bringing much needed relief—including to the Mississippi River Valley area, where excessive rainfall is possible Wednesday.

‘It Looks a Lot Like Christmas out Here’

In the Sierra Nevada, snowpack totals are already above average, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.

Winter storm warnings were in place overnight for the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, where an additional foot of snow could fall in the highest elevations.

The storm already made for icy and dangerous conditions on key roadways, with authorities on Saturday closing down a long stretch of Interstate 80, from Colfax in Northern California to Stateline, Nevada, due to “blowing snow & near-zero visibility,” Caltrans, the state transportation agency, said on Twitter.

The Tahoe Basin and the Eastern Sierra are seeing snowfall totals which are typically recorded in January.

“The snowpack is about 225 percent of normal, so it’s more than twice what we’d be expecting this time in December,” said Mark Deutschendorf, forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Reno.

“It looks a lot like Christmas out here,” Deutschendorf said. “It didn’t come with a lot of wind, and it stuck to everything. It’s like a picture postcard.”

While he noted the snow totals so far are impressive, Deutschendorf said he is “cautiously optimistic” about this precipitation putting a big dent in the state’s drought.

“We had a similar run of storms last year. We had a nice head start, and then January through March were incredibly dry,” Deutschendorf explained.

In California over the weekend, 48 inches of snow fell in Twin Bridges in a 48-hour period, 46 inches fell in Tahoe-Donner, 45 inches in Donner Peak, and 44 inches at Palsades Tahoe Ski Base.

“We’re Buried,” the Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort wrote on its website Sunday, sharing photos of thick snow covering the ski resort in Olympic Valley, California.

“This is definitely a storm to remember. We’ve now received 7.5 feet of snow since December 1st. Plus, in just 24 hours from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, we received more than 35 inches of snow—the 6th largest snowfall total in 24 hours that we have on record,” resort operators wrote.

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