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Powerful storm produces snow, hurricane-force gusts; wildfires rage out west

One storm produced early season snow and 90 mph gusts, as wildfires continue on the West Coast.

Fires, hurricane-force wind gusts, and early season snow in the western U.S.
Fires, hurricane-force wind gusts, and early season snow in the western U.S.

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.

A lone bison stands as a storm packing high winds and snow sweeps through the intermountain West Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Evergreen, Colo. Forecasters predict that the storm will continue through Wednesday before moving out on to the plains. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
A lone bison stands as a storm packing high winds and snow sweeps through the intermountain West Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Evergreen, Colo. Forecasters predict that the storm will continue through Wednesday before moving out on to the plains. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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.

Snow totals from 9/7-9/9/2020
Snow totals from 9/7-9/9/2020

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.

Estimated snow totals reported by various National Weather Service offices
Estimated snow totals reported by various National Weather Service offices

We received this photo of snow near Lander, Wyoming from Keith Trouwborst.

Photo Credit: Keith Trouwborst - Lander, Wyoming
Photo Credit: Keith Trouwborst - Lander, Wyoming (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

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.

A man walks past a fallen tree Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Hurricane force winds caused widespread damage and power outages throughout northern Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A man walks past a fallen tree Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Hurricane force winds caused widespread damage and power outages throughout northern Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

2020 has been the worst year on record for wildfires in California, where more than two dozen wildfires continue to burn.

Current wildfires along the West Coast - 9/9/2020
Current wildfires along the West Coast - 9/9/2020

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.


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