Colorado, Wyoming Spring Snowstorms Dump 2 Feet On Rocky Mountains With More Expected Through June

on May 12, 2014 2:31 PM EDT

Although unusually brutal, a spring snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on Colorado, Wyoming, and parts of Nebraska was not necessarily the product of global climate change, meteorologists say.
Although unusually brutal, a spring snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on Colorado, Wyoming, and parts of Nebraska was not necessarily the product of global climate change, meteorologists say. Photo courtesy of Elaine Haley.

A shocking spring snowstorm on Monday left Colorado, Wyoming, and the Nebraska panhandle with more than a foot of snow as skiers rejoiced and others stared wistfully out the window at newly planted herb and vegetable gardens.

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The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for most of northern Colorado and parts of Wyoming as some meteorologists downplayed the global warming angle, saying sporadic “spring storms” may be expected for the rest of May and throughout June.

As denizens of the Rocky Mountain states expressed shock and dismay at the snowstorm, forecaster Kyle Fredin of Boulder, Colo., nevertheless called the weather patterns “typical” for the season. “It's going to be kind of the same thing pretty much through the end of June,” he told The Christian Science Monitor.

Meteorologist David Barjenbruch, of the National Weather Service in Boulder, also downplayed the freak nature of the storm. "May snow certainly isn't unheard of here in Colorado, even down in the Denver metro area," he told The Monitor. "If we see the total accumulations that we are anticipating from this storm, we are certainly going to see a top 10 May snow event for the Denver metro area."

Forecasters also warned of damaging winds as thunderstorms and tornadoes hit Nebraska, the product of instability ahead of the cold front that swept across the region. At one point, the storm even threatened to take a left-turn into Southern states, already hit by bizarre spring weather.

With the snow still falling early Monday morning, Denver dispatched 70 snowplows to clear the roadways for the morning commute, as crews at Denver International Airport worked too to keep runways open. "At this point we are seeing some delays with our airlines while they are getting their deicing operations up and running, and we do expect the airlines to be fully de-icing in the morning," airport spokesman Julie Smith said.

Just southwest of the city, a sheriff’s deputy and three others were injured on U.S. 285 near Doubleheader in a seven-car pileup, the Denver Post reported, with weather believed to be a factor. A state trooper was also injured as a passing motorist struck his cruiser, stopped at the side of the road to investigate an accident. As the storm moved into Nebraska, more than 18,000 households lost power as a series of tornadoes and “straight-line” winds downed trees and powerlines. By morning, some 6,200 households were still without power, as debris shattered storefront windows all along Main Street in the small town of Sutton in the south-central part of the state.

Tornadoes also touched down in Iowa and in Orrick, Mo., leaving behind a massive mess of debris for homeowners and workers to clean. Still, others saw the beauty in nature’s wrath. "We got about a foot of snow and all the trees are covered,” Janie Robertson, a bed-and-breakfast owner, told The Post. “It looks like a beautiful painting.”

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