First Major Snow Event of Season Wreaks Havoc on Interior West

Posted: October 14, 2021 10:56 am

Mercury Plummets Out West as Winter Snow System Pushes Through

While the Northeast is baking under the last surge of summer warmth, the first major snowstorm of the season has left parts of the Rocky Mountains a winter wonderland.

Details of Snowstorm

The first major snowstorm of the year dumped a significant amount of white stuff over the Intermountain West to start the week, leading to a number of travel disruptions. The chaos stretched over a wide swath of land, stretching from the Rocky Mountains in Montana down to the rim of the Grand Canyon.

More than a foot of snow fell in the northern Rockies, hitting the highest elevations in Montana and Wyoming particularly hard. Some isolated areas recorded over two feet of snow in less than 24 hours by the time the system had moved through. Colorful fall foliage continued to peek out of the trees that were blanketed in snow. There were also reports of thundersnow as the weather system ramped up.

Snow Snarls Travel

The snow caused a host of travel disruptions throughout the region. Traffic came to a standstill over many of the area’s mountain passes. A 50-mile stretch of highway on Interstate 25 was closed for nearly 24 hours as snow piled up on the roadway causing hazardous conditions. In addition to the large part of Interstate 25 that was forced to close, other areas of Interstates 80 and 90 remained closed in the overnight hours on Tuesday into Wednesday.

The early season snow caught many travelers off guard. While this type of weather is common during the winter months, the timing of the mid-October snow left people unprepared for the road conditions. The snow pushed as far south as the rim of the Grand Canyon, causing park officials to alert visitors of the dangerous icy and snow-packed roads in and out of the park.

Other Effects of Storm

Because so many leaves were still hanging on branches, the wet snow led to a number of widespread power outages. While the snow was wet and heavy, the warmer than average ground conditions meant that the precipitation melted quickly when it hit the ground.

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The snow was certainly a welcome sight for weary fire crews out west. The recent rain combined with this snow will help to finally put out the fires still burning in the area. In addition, the precipitation is good news for the drought-stricken interior West.

Cold Temperatures Accompany Snow

The snow was not the only story with this weather pattern. While there were no daily low-temperature records that fell with this system, the mercury did fall up to 30 degrees below average for the middle of October. Although major metropolitan areas were spared the significant snowfall, Salt Lake City recorded a low temperature of 20 degrees on Tuesday morning. These temperatures were an extremely noticeable departure for an area of the country that saw a hotter than average summer and early fall.

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