An unusually early blast of record cold and snow has spread across much of the central United States in recent days. Throughout north-central parts of the country, this is a continuation of a cold, stormy and early start to the winter of 2018-2019.
This onslaught of frigid air is shifting east, in a modified fashion, over the next week. It is slated to bring many places in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic the first significant wintry temperatures of the season. More early season snow may also fall along the way.
Snow with the latest storm broke out across the Rockies on Saturday. By Sunday, totals exceeding a foot were common in the higher elevations across the Intermountain West, with several inches also accumulating on the adjacent High Plains, in places such as Denver.
Through Sunday, snow spread from the mountains into the High Plains, parts of the western Great Lakes, and then into Canada. Pockets of heavy early season snowfall fell across parts of Nebraska and Kansas.
After widespread record lows across the western half of the country Monday, it was a similar story Tuesday morning, with some shift eastward in the records as a cold front moves into the Atlantic.
This cold shot penetrated all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, bringing much of the Plains the coldest day so early in the winter season on record, or close to it.
For instance, both Dallas and Oklahoma City set high temperatures just after midnight Monday, of 49 degrees and 50 degrees, respectively. Those were the coldest on record for the date. In Dallas, the 49-degree high was the chilliest so early in the season by a full week (besting Oct 22, 1936).
Numerous other records have fallen from the central United States to the Intermountain West and from the Canadian border to Mexico. Widespread lows in the teens and 20s have been common at low elevations, dipping to the single digits to near zero in the high terrain. A large section of the region has seen temperatures running 12 to 20 degrees below normal over the past week.
According to data compiled through the Southeast Regional Climate Center, the past two days have been as cold as any on record this time of year, from the Montana-South Dakota border through Nebraska and Colorado then across much of the southern Plains into Texas.
Month-to-date, the coldest air has been centered over parts of Minnesota through the Dakotas and into Nebraska and Kansas. Many locations in that region are running coldest on record or close to it for this lengthier period.
All this early season cold is leading to snow.
Although the sun is still strong enough in October to melt snow quite quickly, North American snow cover ranks highest on record for mid-October, according to weather.com (although the period of record is just 13 years).
While much of the central and western United States have had plentiful tastes of winter, the story is not the same in the East yet.
A big chunk of the eastern and southern United States as well as northern Gulf Coast region has seen an extremely warm October — ranking among the five warmest on record, if not right at the top. But that’s changing for most folks now.
Reinforcements of chilly air have taken over most of the country, except for the Southeast, which is likely to lose the battle to colder air later this week.
The outlook from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center favors colder-than-normal temperatures across much of the eastern half of the country through the 6-to-10-day period.