DENVER – A powerful spring storm dropped more than a foot of sloppy, wet snow in parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Mother’s Day, and forecasters warned that instability ahead of the cold front created conditions ripe for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in the Plains states.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for most of northern Colorado and parts of southern Wyoming for all of Sunday and this morning. Strong thunderstorms and tornadoes developed in Nebraska and were threatening to push south on Sunday. The storm also created high winds across the West.
Several tornadoes were reported in southeastern Nebraska, the weather service said, blowing down outbuildings and damaging power poles and irrigation systems. Large hail and strong winds seen in the state were expected to head south into Kansas, and a tornado watch was issued for parts of Oklahoma.
In Colorado, Department of Transportation officials said plunging temperatures and heavy, wet snow have created icy conditions and forced several closures along Interstate 70 west of Denver on Sunday afternoon. Multiple accidents were reported on the mountain corridor, frustrating skiers and snowboarders eager to get a few more runs in before the season ends. Authorities also closed parts of Interstate 25 because of accidents Sunday afternoon.
Snow amounts could vary greatly, but up to 15 inches could fall at higher elevations and 4 to 9 inches could fall at lower elevations, including Denver and other cities along Colorado’s Front Range.
A foot of snow had already fallen in the foothills of Larimer County northwest of Denver by Sunday morning, and workers along much of the Front Range can expect a “slushy, sloppy morning commute” today.
The weather service also warned that snow could be heavy and wet enough to snap tree limbs and power lines, causing power failures. Winds gusting up to 30 mph could reduce visibility, and slushy roads could be treacherous to drive.
Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for Denver International Airport, said crews have treated runways in anticipation of dropping temperatures Sunday night and they expect the airlines to be fully deicing in the morning.
In southern Wyoming, the storm forced transportation officials to close a 150-mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Cheyenne to Rawlins on Sunday.
The weather service said mountainous areas in Wyoming could get a foot or more of snow, and 5 to 10 inches are forecast for Cheyenne and Laramie.
High winds sent dust blowing across Arizona and New Mexico, and the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas were under “red flag” fire warnings, with authorities saying blazes could quickly spread out of control.
The storm is the result of a low-pressure system moving east colliding with a cold air mass from the north.