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Western Storm Spreads East

A western storm will slowly spread accumulating snow into the Intermountain West and Rockies, while heavy snow persists across the southern Sierra-Nevada mountains. Locally heavy rain will be possible from parts of southeastern Arizona into western new Mexico. A strong Bering Sea storm will bring an accumulating wintry mix, coastal flooding and ice shoves to western Alaska. Read More >

Overview:

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During a roughly 36-hour stretch between the evening of Sunday January 24th and the morning of Tuesday the 26th, a major winter storm took direct aim on the entire NWS Hastings coverage area, dropping a widespread 6-12" of heavy (and fairly wet) snow, with unofficial higher reports of up to around 15" (see map and list of totals below). For all areas, the majority of snow piled up between 6am-6pm on the 25th, snarling travel and shutting down countless schools and businesses at the start of the work-week. For especially the southeast half of the area, this was the biggest winter storm (in terms of snow amounts) in at least five years, since at least the Groundhog Day storm/blizzard of Feb. 2, 2016. For at least one official NWS coop observer station (Hebron), the storm total of 12.0" was technically the largest in thirty-four years (since march 1987)! Only far western portions of our local area (primarily portions of Dawson/Gosper/Furnas counties) accumulated less than 6", but still managed at least 3-5". While snow was the only precipitation type for most of the area, a brief period of freezing rain/light icing was noted mainly in/near Mitchell County KS (the extreme southeast corner of our coverage area).

Although snow amounts varied somewhat across our area (generally highest within counties along/east of the Highway 281 corridor and lowest farther west), this event was a bit unique in that our ENTIRE coverage area received several inches of snow, with no truly sharp divide between the "haves" and "have nots" (as often occurs). From a moisture (melted liquid) perspective, this storm was actually very beneficial, featuring widespread totals of mainly 0.50-1.20"...not a bad thing considering that our entire coverage area was in Moderate (D1), Severe (D2) or Extreme (D3) drought going into this storm. 

Despite causing significant disruptions to travel, fortunately this storm was not a true/crippling blizzard, as sustained winds speeds through most of it "only" averaged 15-25 MPH/gusts up to 30-35 MPH. Even so, winds were just strong enough to promote modest blowing/drifting, especially during the evening of the 25th into the early morning of the 26th as winds picked up a bit and the snow became a bit drier. Temperatures were also not all that extreme during the storm, with daytime highs on the 25th at least reaching the low-20s, and morning lows on the 26th dropping no lower than 10-15º. 

Briefly covering the meteorological background and timing: The primary feature was a potent mid-upper level low pressure system that gradually tracked east-northeast from the CO/KS border area on the morning of the 25th, across the heart of our local area during the daylight hours (promoting the heaviest snow during that time), and then departing into IA by daybreak on the 26th. The first flakes started flying across southern portions of our local area on the evening of the 24th, while the last few flurries faded away no later than 6-8am on the 26th. 

From a forecasting perspective here at NWS Hastings, this storm was a little bit "sneaky" in the sense that it was not "truly obvious" several days beforehand that it would end up being a "big deal". In fact, as little as 3 days before the event some computer models still suggested a weaker storm, with maybe only up to 4-6" of snow in the southeastern half of our area, and only 1-3" farther north and west. However, by Saturday afternoon (Jan. 23), concern had grown enough in the potential for a bigger storm that the first Winter Storm Watch was issued for southeastern portions of the area. By early Sunday morning (Jan. 24), it was finally very apparent that this system was indeed going to be a fairly major snow-maker, and a Winter Storm Warning was issued for all but the extreme northern fringes of our area (this north area was eventually added to the Warning as well on the early morning of the 25th). 

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