ROANOKE, Va. – While our weather was nearly perfect over the Labor Day weekend, many parts of the western U.S. were dealing with record-breaking heat. Areas like Denver hit 101° and one part of Los Angeles County in California hit 121°.
For parts of the Rockies and Intermountain West, a powerful storm system flipped that upside down.
Winter Weather...in Summer
Pocatello, Idaho dropped from 85° to 41° within three hours Monday. Denver saw a 60° temperature drop between Monday and Tuesday. Rapid City, South Dakota saw its earliest measurable snow.
Humans and wildlife alike where taken by surprise, even though the storm was well forecast days in advance.
Snow in September isn’t uncommon in the Rockies, but it usually doesn’t arrive this early or to this magnitude. There were quite a few places throughout Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado that saw 6-12″+ of snow during the storm.
Multiple National Weather Service offices reported snow totals shown below, with one report a few miles outside of Casper, Wyoming of 17 inches. Denver recorded 1″ of snow Tuesday, which is the second-earliest 1″ snowfall for the metro on record.
We received this photo of snow near Lander, Wyoming from Keith Trouwborst.
While parts of North Dakota were spared, areas like Fargo and Grand Forks dropped to freezing. For Fargo, that’s the earliest freeze since 1956. For Grand Forks, it’s the earliest since 2004.
Damaging Wind Gusts
The wind around this bowling ball of a storm system was powerful at times as well, even for those who weren’t getting snow. As the wind screamed down the mountains toward Utah, wind gusts ranged from 50-100 mph. This is according to a report released Tuesday by the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
The image below shows a tree uprooted near the campus of the University of Utah, where a wind gust of 89 mph was reported. That kind of gust is equivalent to the wind at the center of a strong, Category 1 hurricane.
Widespread damage and power outages were reported at the height of the wind Tuesday in parts of Utah.
Devastating Wildfires out West
The gusty wind wasn’t just confined to Utah. Santa Ana winds have teamed up with very low humidity and record heat along the West Coast to provide a doomsday scenario for some areas.
Satellite imagery from Colorado State University shows the multiple wildfires ongoing in parts of California, Oregon and Washington State.
Video from KOBI-TV, the NBC-Affiliate in Medford, Oregon shows the flames approaching town.
Medford reached the lower 90s yesterday with wind gusts of up to 40 mph. Relative humidity has been between 8% and 20%— Chris Michaels (@WSLS_Michaels) September 9, 2020
A recipe for disaster... https://t.co/nVBUkg6MVP
2020 has been the worst year on record for wildfires in California, where more than two dozen wildfires continue to burn.
More than 2 million acres have burned just this year, and the weather isn’t expected to provide any relief to the fight just yet.
For updates on the forecast, including how the Rocky Mountain storm system could impact our weather, be sure to check this article.