Record-setting cold leaves blanket of snow over north-central US

Chaffin Mitchell
·6 min read

It's beginning to look a lot like winter across parts of the north-central United States as a snowstorm targets millions of Americans. The wintry mix is spreading to areas much farther south, including some that typically don't pick up snow until much later in the season.

With this storm coming on the heels of recent winterlike weather that shattered a 115-year-old snowfall record in the Twin Cities, residents across the Plains and Upper Midwest may check their calendars twice to make sure it's still October.

Residents in Denver, Colorado woke up to snow on Sunday morning, Oct. 25, 2020. (Image via Twitter/@MileHigh_Scribs)

The Washington Cascades as well as the mountains across the interior Northwest were first in line Friday as snow expanded southward from southern British Columbia. Those who attempted to travel across some of the mountain passes Friday afternoon and night -- especially on the eastern-facing slopes of the Washington Cascades and into the northern Rockies -- were faced with dangerous travel conditions as heavy, wet snow fell.

Progressing through the nighttime hours on Friday, the snow continued to expand to the south and east, spreading into Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. On Saturday, Helena, Montana, had already reported over 20 inches of snow by 4:30 p.m. MDT. Potomac, Garnet, Montana City and Drummond were following close behind with snowfall totals ranging from 18-19 inches by 4:30 p.m.

As the evening continued across the mountainous area, snow continued to pile up across the region, providing a hefty early-season snowpack for people itching to hit the ski slopes.

Temperatures tumbled on Saturday to the lowest levels so far this season, and in some cases, shattered their daily records. Billings, Montana, fell to 16 degrees F on Saturday morning, breaking the previous record of 19 degrees for that day set in 1976. On Friday, Idaho Fall, Idaho, fell to 13 with a previous record of 16 set in 1980 and Casper, Wyoming, broke their previous daily record of 11 in 1984 with -5.

Spokane, Washington, shattered its snowfall record for that day on Saturday with nearly 8 inches of snow, while the previous record was 0.2 inches in 1957.

"Cold air will continue to steadily march southward through the early part of the week with many areas seeing records challenged once again," AccuWeather Meteorologist Maxwell Gawryla said. "As significantly below-average temperatures remain in place, many more records will likely be broken through the first half of the week."

Snow continued to advance southeastward through the day on Saturday, into Wyoming, as well as the High Plains of Montana and the Dakotas, although snow totals remained lower throughout the other states.

Blowing and drifting snow on Saturday morning led to poor visibility and snowy roads across North-Central and Southwest Montana that lasted through the day, the National Weather Service warned.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

On Sunday, snow reports started to add up into the double digits. Mishowaka, Colorado, reached nearly a foot and a half of snow while Wellington, Colorado, was closely behind with nearly 16 inches of snow.

By Sunday evening, snow reports reached from northwest Montana all the way down to Colorado and stretched into the Great Lakes and Michigan. In 24 hours, Helena, Montana, had the heaviest snowfall with 25 inches.

Minneapolis has had quite the stretch of winterlike conditions this October, with just over 8 inches of snow already observed. If the city picks up just 0.20 of an inch of snow from this storm, a new monthly snowfall record for October will be set. The city is expected to shatter that record with 1-3 inches of new snow expected by the end of the weekend, however as of Sunday evening they were yet to report any accumulation.

Previous to this past Sunday, in Billings, Montana, the lowest temperature ever recorded on Oct. 25 was 18 degrees Fahrenheit set in 1997. On Sunday, Billings shattered that record as the mercury dropped to 5 degrees Fahrenheit late in the evening.

The same can be said for Casper, Wyoming, with the low temperature on Sunday night not only shattered the current record for the date but also came within a few ticks of the all-time lowest temperature recorded in the month of October.

The panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma are no strangers to snowy and icy conditions, but this impending storm system would prove to be unusual given the time of year. However, what may be even more unusual is that these locales also had an October snowstorm last year, when places like Amarillo picked up nearly a half of a foot of snow.

"From northeastern New Mexico to Iowa, 1-3 inches are expected," Gawryla said. "Additionally, at higher elevations from central Colorado into Nebraska, significantly higher amounts of up to 6-12 inches are possible. The highest accumulations will be at the highest elevations in the Rockies."

Portions of the drought-stricken Southwest may also get their first bouts of precipitation in weeks as the storm continues to dive southward by next Monday. Residents of Flagstaff, Arizona, could even see snowflakes fly early next week.

As the storm's snowfall area continues to spread out on Sunday, North Platte, Nebraska, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and even places as far east as Minneapolis could get some snow accumulation.

The snow on the ground paired with a biting wind will allow AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures to drop to near or below zero degrees F throughout the day on Sunday from Montana to Colorado, including Denver.

The plummeting temperatures made for the coldest NFL game so far this season as the Denver Broncos host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. During the time of the game, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures plunged to -8 degrees F. Flurries could be seen in the air during the game along with a light dusting of snow on the field.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

In Denver, 30 flights were delayed and 53 were canceled out of 230 delays and 70 cancelations nationwide.

The snow, wind and extremely cold conditions could be a major issue for crews battling the East Troublesome Fire, which has grown to become the second-largest wildfire in Colorado history. The fire is burning the northern Colorado Rockies and has forced several communities to evacuate and Rocky Mountain National Park to be closed.

Even though the snow may help to slow the spread of the fire, it could make it even more difficult for ground crews with more than a foot of snow in the forecast for the Colorado Rockies.

Keep checking back on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.