A wild spring storm is walloping parts of the Central United States with extreme temperatures, heavy snow, blizzard conditions and high winds.

It’s already caused mayhem from the Rockies to the Midwest. Thundersnow has been common, and snow totals keep climbing — already up to 18 inches in spots. High winds, over 70 mph in some areas, have rocked the Plains, sending dust plumes flying.

On the storm’s south side, sweltering heat has set records while, on its northern flank, temperatures are more typical of midwinter. The temperature contrasts over relatively small distances have been extraordinary.

The storm’s intensity has flirted with historic levels as its central pressure bottomed out around 982 millibars late Wednesday over Kansas. That’s pretty close to a record low for this time of year, indicating an exceptionally strong storm.

Huge temperature contrasts

Spring in the United States can be as crazy as it gets when it comes to roller coaster weather. The big contrasts help breed giant storms like this one. The ongoing powerful storm system is feeding off unusually chilly air to the north of its center.

On the southern side, it’s been the opposite.

As snow was beginning to paste parts of the Plains and Midwest, record high temperatures were occurring across parts of the Southern Plains and into the Mid-South. Widespread readings well into the 80s, even 90s and 100s in Texas were common Wednesday.

Del Rio in South Texas broke a daily and monthly record with an astounding 107 degree high temperature. This beat the old March record of 106 degrees set in 1984 there, and it demolished the old daily record of 102 degrees.

A sample of other record highs Wednesday includes 87 degrees in Joplin, Mo.; 88 degrees in Pensacola Fla.; and in Fayetteville, Ark., it got to 85 degrees.

The Weather Prediction Center reported that the low temperature in the country was 6 degrees in the mountains of California. When compared against the 107 in Del Rio, it gives a 101 degree temperature range for the day.

A blizzard with tons of thundersnow

Whiteout conditions and scattered wind damage have been common to the north of the storm center since Wednesday. The blizzard was peaking Thursday.

In South Dakota, public officials are advising residents not to travel.

They indicate a majority of roads and highways are closed across the state as blizzard conditions continue into Thursday night. Among others, the South Dakota Highway Patrol has been documenting the widespread whiteout conditions and treacherous travel across the state.

In addition to greatly lowered visibility and heavy snow, thundersnow has erupted in this region.

There was even a severe thunderstorm dropping hail in the blizzard warning west of Minneapolis early Thursday. Several reports of hail to one inch in diameter came in, from places with snow on the ground at the same time.

Although the storm intensity has peaked and it will begin to wind itself down over the next day, additional snowfall of a foot or more is likely in the eastern Dakotas and into western Minnesota. A larger region surrounding that can still expect at least several more inches along with relentless wind.

Growing snowfall totals

The focus of the heaviest snow has so far been across parts of the central to northern Plains and upper Midwest. Much of the state of South Dakota has seen at least eight to 12 inches of snow so far.


Snowfall totals through late morning on Thursday. (National Weather Service)

To the west in Denver, 2.5 inches was reported officially but much of the city saw more, with reports of up to 10 inches between there and Cheyenne, Wyo.

Widespread totals of five to 10 inches are also common into parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, including at least eight inches in Minneapolis where this has become the third top 10 April snowstorm in recent years.

Per reports to the National Weather Service, below are the highest snow totals by state thus far:

  • South Dakota: Dupree and Mud Butte, 18 inches
  • Wyoming: Alta, 18 inches
  • Wisconsin: Osseo, 10.5 inches
  • Colorado: Fort Garland, 10 inches
  • Nebraska: Harrison, 10 inches
  • Minnesota: Lakeville, 9.8 inches
  • North Dakota: Havana, 4 inches
  • Iowa: Dorchester, 3 inches
  • Michigan: Saint Johns, 2.5 inches
  • Kansas: Oakley, 1.5 inches

Numbers will continue to grow into early Friday and some records are likely.


Commuters brave the elements in downtown during rush hour in Minneapolis this week. (Jenn Ackerman for The Washington Post)

Big winds and a lot of dust

The worst of the winds were centered over parts of the southern Rockies and High Plains Wednesday.

Over half a dozen locations in the New Mexico plains saw gusts above 70 mph. One observation near Clovis, N.M., showed a gust to a building-rocking 77 mph.

Across the border, in west Texas into the panhandle also saw a number of gusts above 65 mph, including a 70 mph report from Anton to the northwest of Lubbock. Peak gusts of around 60 mph were also common into western Kansas and eastern Colorado.

In mountainous elevations, a gust to 107 mph was recorded in Colorado as were numerous others approaching or surpassing 80 mph.

These winds came along with tons of dust. In some satellite images a long trail coming off the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico can be easily seen. Numerous other areas of lofted dust were ongoing as well.

As this dust was ingested into the storm system, it appears to have made it as far north as parts of Minnesota, where pictures of dusty snow have come across the wire.