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Heavy snow plasters Texas, Louisiana as storm sweeps through South

The potent system brought snowflakes as far south as Houston

Video posted to social media on Jan. 10 showed white flakes and blankets of snow in parts of Texas. (Video: Storyful)

Parts of Texas and Louisiana are breaking out the snow shovels as an out-of-bounds snowstorm charges across the South, plastering many spots with nearly a foot of snow while bringing slick travel, low visibility and power outages.

Plows were dispatched across a number of locales as the overachieving snowstorm trekked through the Lone Star State, dropping a rare snowfall in places like Austin, Fort Worth and Waco. Snowflakes were even sighted as far south as Houston’s Intercontinental Airport, which hasn’t recorded more than an inch of snow total in the past decade.

The snow set a number of records, in some places proving the heaviest in two generations.

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Up to half a foot of snow fell in Louisiana, a crisp shroud of white blanketing remnant tree damage well inland left behind by Hurricane Laura last August.

More than 150,000 people were without electricity in East Texas and Louisiana courtesy of the heavy wet snow, which weighed down power lines. Travel appeared largely uninterrupted on Interstates 20, 35, 45 and 49, probably due to a pandemic-related reduction in traffic. A number of road closures were reported in Shreveport, La., along with outages affecting traffic lights and several downed trees.

Heavy snow still falling in the South

On Monday morning, the system was still lumbering through the South, the workweek kicking off with strips of heavy snow in Mississippi and Alabama. Tennessee was also seeing bands of light to moderate snowfall lift north.

Winter storm warnings were in effect for eastern Louisiana and western Mississippi, including Jackson and Vicksburg. Precipitation was winding down there southwest to northeast shortly after sunrise Monday. Jackson had reported 1.2 inches of snow by 8 a.m. CT, the heaviest snowfall there since Dec. 8, 2017. About 3.5 inches had fallen in Vicksburg.

Video from the city showed a heavy burst of snow showering palm trees with a confetti of flakes.

Even Hackleburg, a town in northwest Alabama, had managed an inch of snow out of the system. Moderate to heavy snow was still coming down, however, and likely to last through about lunchtime Monday.

As the system draws north and east, a trace of snow was forecast in the northwestern part of Georgia in the Appalachian foothills north of Atlanta. A half inch to an inch of snow was predicted in Middle Tennessee and eastward toward the Cumberland Plateau.

The system will bring rain to the Carolinas on Monday night before slipping offshore into the Atlantic.

Once in a generation snow totals for some

The high-altitude energy first responsible for brewing the snowstorm moved ashore in the Pacific Northwest on Friday, diving south over the Four Corners region before intensifying a developing storm system in southern New Mexico. Denver and Albuquerque both picked up a few inches of snow Saturday before the system strengthened over the west Texas Trans-Pecos, the storm spreading arcs of heavy snow through most of Central Texas.

Lubbock, Tex., wound up with roughly half a foot of snow, with up to 7.6 inches reported on the north side of town at Preston Smith International Airport. That’s heavier than anything the city saw in 2018 or 2019. Amounts were even heavier in the heart of the snow band to the south, where nine inches was measured in Lamesa, Tex.

In Abilene, the official total was 5.3 inches, marking the heaviest snow total since April 1996. It’s the second time in two weeks the city has received a shot of accumulating snowfall.

“We had our New Year’s Eve snow, and that was anywhere from two to seven inches across our area,” said Adam Wiley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Angelo. “It’s pretty rare to get snow like this so close down here, so everyone is pretty excited.”

Snowfall amounts were greater than what many meteorologists were predicting and computer models were simulating. Temperatures in place ahead of the storm were marginal for snowfall, but the storm generated its own cold air through evaporation and by drawing down chillier air from high altitudes, which changed rain to snow faster than forecast.

“I remember some of the models were hinting at a [change from rain to snow] around 6, 7 o’clock in the morning, but I think we ended up switching over at 3, 4, 5 o’clock,” said Wiley. “This was really a dynamic system that really cooled us off pretty quick.”

Waco, Tex., had accumulated 4.4 inches, marking its heaviest snowfall since 1982. Woodway, a suburb on the south side of Waco, reported 4.8 inches, with 5.0 stacking up north of Waco in the town of West.

The 4.5 inches that fell in College Station, Tex., on Sunday marked its fourth snowiest calendar day on record.

A brief period of light snow was even observed northwest of Houston, where the airport noted northerly winds, temperatures dipping to 37 degrees, and “light snow, rain, and fog/mist” around 6 p.m. Sunday.

The South’s recent snowfall is a tease to many in the Northeast, where millions of residents have been starved of snow by a lackluster winter to date. Stephenville, Tex., between Abilene and Dallas, has measured eight inches of snow so far this winter, more than the past two winters in Washington, D.C., combined. The nine inches that fell in Mosheim, just west of Waco, easily exceeds this winter’s snowfall in Philadelphia, and is comparable to amounts in New York and Providence.