Spring snow haunts the Rockies, snarls travel

Adriana Navarro
·6 min read

Never mind that it's mid-April, winter made a major comeback across the Rockies this week dumping snow and delivering well below-normal temperatures, which snarled travel on roadways and may have been a shock to the system for some.

Take Denver for example. Just a couple of weeks ago, the weather there was practically summerlike. The Mile High City hit a high temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit on April 4. On Friday, the temperature was sub-freezing and enough snow had fallen to push the city's seasonal total to 73.3 inches, nearly 23 inches above what Denver sees in an average season. Thanks to some help from a major winter storm in mid-March, Denver has now experienced its snowiest season in eight years, according to National Weather Service records.

Other parts of Colorado and Wyoming received double-digit snowfall accumulations, and AccuWeather forecasters say another dose of wintry weather is likely on the way.

While late in the season, this storm was hardly a blockbuster event in the Denver area compared to a storm back in 2016 that, around the same time of the month, delivered more than a foot of snow and up to 2 to 4 feet in the foothills, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck noted.

A person checks a mobile device while walking a dog along 6th Avenue as a storm packing strong winds, rain and light snow sweeps over the intermountain West late Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Still, this week's storm unleashed a sloppy mix of rain and snow along with gusty winds in Denver on Thursday. Snow picked up in intensity overnight into Friday, reducing visibility to a quarter of a mile at times.

Denver International Airport officially recorded 6.9 inches of snow from the storm, and amounts around the Denver area ranged from 6-8 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Though the mid-April snow was disruptive, some saw beauty in it.

Jean Reidy, a children's author who has lived in Greenwood Village, Colorado, since 1987, said in a post on Twitter accompanying a photo of her front lawn looking like a winter wonderland that she is "always amazed" at how the snow is capable of enhancing the look in her neck of the woods.

April snow Colorado

Author Jean Reidy captured a photo of her front lawn in Greenwood Village, Colo., which is about 13 miles south of Denver, looking like a winter wonderland on Friday, April 16, 2020. (Twitter / Jean Reidy)

Reidy told AccuWeather she has a fascination with snow -- indeed one of her books is titled When The Snow Is Deeper Than My Boots Are Tall -- but, in an online message added, "While I love snow and I'm grateful to be safe and warm, I'm very worried about those who aren't."

Temperatures plunged into the 20s and lower 30s early Friday morning in the wake of wintry precipitation.

The spring snow also wreaked havoc with the Major League Baseball schedule. The game scheduled for Friday night between the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets at Coors Field in Denver was postponed, the Rockies said in a statement. The game was scheduled to be made up a day later as part of a double-header. The Rockies posted a photo on social media of a member of the grounds crew using a snowblower to clear the field, a task that looked to require a monumental feat to achieve. The Mets game against the Phillies in New York was postponed a night earlier due to rain in the Northeast.

Places west and north of Denver saw even higher snow totals.

Reports of localized amounts of more than a foot came in from higher elevations of Colorado and Wyoming Saturday morning. Indian Hills, Colorado, just outside of Denver, picked up 18.3 inches.

Farther north, Rob Roy Reservoir, which sits at an elevation of more than 9,500 feet in the Snowy Range of southern Wyoming, picked up 18 inches of snow.

Several roads were closed Thursday night, including WB US-36 and I-70 from Limon to Burlington, Colorado, due to whiteout conditions, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Colorado State Patrol.

A semi truck with "no chains" was stuck in the snow along Westbound I-70 at Floyd Hill, Colorado, according to Colorado State Patrol. (Twitter / Colorado State Patrol Golden)

Colorado State Troopers reported numerous semi trucks without chains and also numerous incidents of the roadway being plugged up by semis, noting that hefty fines would be given to commercial motor vehicle drivers without the proper chains.

Road conditions varied on Friday morning, ranging from snow-covered to slushy or wet, as seen on Colorado DOT webcam images that were tweeted by the NWS office in Boulder, Colorado.

Road conditions varied across north-central portions of Colorado on Friday morning. For the latest road report from CDOT call 511 or go to their website at http://cotrip.org. (NWS Boulder / Colorado DOT)

As wintry conditions spilled over into the Plains on Thursday night, the Nebraska State Patrol also tweeted photos of snow-covered roadways and alerted drivers that troopers were out and ready to assist them.

Heavy snow piled up quickly, creating a snowglobelike scene at the National Weather Service office in Goodland, Kansas, early Friday morning. Forecasters with the NWS reported rapid accumulations of snow in the area.

Winter weather and ski enthusiasts delighted in the mid-April snowfall. Loveland Ski Area tweeted a photo of the latest snow measurement, which showed several inches of accumulation, on Thursday night, saying, "Here we go. See you Friday."

This radar image shows snow moving eastward out of the Rockies Friday morning, April 16, 2021. (AccuWeather)

Copper Mountain also took note of the late-season wintry weather ahead of the snow, tweeting on Thursday, "There are only so many high-alpine adventure days left this season," adding that with the wintry weather, skiers should "dig in."

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Even before the storm arrived across the Rockies and Plains, parts of the Sierra Nevada in California were able to rack up some snowfall totals nearing a foot of snow. The Mount Rose Ski area in Nevada had 12 inches, and farther east in the northern portion of the Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah, Park City got up to 13 inches of snowfall.

On Thursday morning, the National Weather Service office in Boise, Idaho, noted snow falling on Highway 93 between Twin Falls and Jackpot, Nevada, cautioning motorists about slippery spots and low visibility.

What's next for the Rockies? Temperatures will rebound a bit over the weekend prior to another burst of winter weather. Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Denver are predicted to record highs in the low to mid-50s on Sunday.

Winter will once again clamp down on the Rockies early next week, a weather pattern that will stand in stark contrast to unseasonable warmth expected just to the west along the Pacific coast.

Snow is expected to move from Canada into Montana and Wyoming late in the weekend, accompanied by a blast of cold air. This next bout of snow can disrupt travel in the Rockies once again by early in the week.

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