An early preview of winter for the western half of the US

Posted at 9:16 AM, Oct 26, 2020

More than 100 places from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Lakes region could set record cold temperatures during the next few days as Old Man Winter arrives early.

At the same time, parts of the Rocky Mountains could pick up more than a foot of snow, which could provide welcome relief to firefighters battling wildfires in Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

After a rollercoaster of temperatures in the last few days across much of the Mountain West and northern Plains, another shot of even colder air will arrive Sunday night into Monday. The frigid air will keep high temperatures from going above freezing as far south as the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

On Sunday, areas from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Denver to San Angelo, Texas -- and everywhere in between -- will see temperatures 20 to 25 degrees below normal. On Monday, that same region will be 25 to 40 degrees below normal.

Dallas, which saw a high near 60 degrees Fahrenheit Saturday, will jump back up to near 80 degrees on Sunday, and then back down to a high temperature only in the mid-40s on Tuesday.

In Denver, which experienced afternoon temperatures in the mid 50s range on Saturday, will have temperatures only in the mid-teens on Sunday afternoon. It won't improve much by Monday, when high temperatures will only reach the low 20s.

"Midland, Texas has a chance to break records for both heat and cold only 24 hours apart," said Haley Brink, CNN meteorologist.

Midland's forecast high on Sunday is 90 degrees, the same as the current record high set in 2011. The next day, the forecast high temperature is 44 degrees, which would go down as the coldest high temperature for that date since 1936 when it only got up to 50 degrees.

San Angelo may be in a similar situation since its forecast high on Sunday is also 90 degrees and the current record is 91 degrees from 1950. Then, just 24 hours later, the city is forecast to hit a high temperature of only 47 degrees, which would be two degrees colder than the previous record for coldest high temperature on that date since 1932.

Those cold temperatures in Texas will also usher in the potential for accumulating ice. Midland and Amarillo, Texas, along with Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Wichita all have the chance for freezing rain in the forecast which could lead to ice accumulations on roadways, so take extra caution Monday if you have to travel.

Record snowfall

It is officially the snowiest October on record for Minneapolis and more snow is on the way. As of Friday, the Twin Cities had picked up almost 9 inches of snow, breaking the old record of 8.2 inches in 1991.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and St. Cloud, Minnesota, have each picked up more than 7 inches as of Saturday. Both cities have had their snowiest Octobers on record, each beating previous records by more than an inch.

The snowy forecasts are not limited to the Midwest, however. Winter weather alerts are in effect from Montana to Iowa.

Many locations will see up to 6 inches by Monday morning for the lower elevations. For the higher elevations in the northern and central Rockies, snowfall totals could exceed 1 foot.

Some locations will have heavy bands of snow combined with gusty winds which will bring visibility levels very low, so caution is advised for travelers in the next few days.

Snow will help battle wildfires

So far this year, Colorado has had two of its largest wildfires in recorded history, neither of which are fully contained. The frontal system forecast to move through the state is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because of the added moisture, but bad because of the gusty winds.

The leading edge of that cold front on Saturday brought very low humidity levels and sustained winds around 20-30 mph. Gusts were even higher up around the 50-60 mph range, making it very easy to spread the already extensive fires.

Sunday brings the good part -- moisture in the form of snow and a quite a bit of it. Adding moisture and reduced winds will go a long way in helping the firefighters battling multiple blazes throughout the state.

"Much welcome relief on the way for Colorado from late Saturday night through Monday with much colder temperatures and snow," the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado, said in its forecast. "This will be a huge help to the current fire situation and alleviate the worsening drought conditions. Expect a nice blanket of snow on our current fires by Monday morning!"

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