Tracking a winter storm that brings snow, cold air

Published: Feb. 2, 2020 at 1:23 AM MST
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The SkyView Weather team has been tracking a strong cold front and a wave of energy that brings a big drop in temperatures along with some moderate to heavy snow for portions of the viewing area. Forecast computer models have not been our friends the last few days, but recently the numbers are looking more consistent for some significant snow in portions of the area.

Before we dive into the forecast, not everyone will be impacted. In fact, there will be a sharp cut-off between the heavy snow and flurries. The heavier snow will be to the west while little to no snow is expected to the east of the Black Hills. Let’s dive in!

Snow will begin to move in as early as noon in the Northern Big Horns in Sheridan County. This snow will be light but is expected to increase in intensity and coverage in the early afternoon after 3 p.m. By 8 p.m., most of the northeast Wyoming, southeast Montana, the Black Hills, and portions of the western South Dakota plains will see snowflakes flying. The snow will be wet to start, but after 10 p.m. or so, the snow will become powdery as drier air moves in late Sunday night into Monday morning. Snow intensity will be moderate for most, but in the Big Horns and Black Hills, the snowfall rates could be heavy at times; especially with upslope enhancement allowing for additional snow in the northern portions of both the mountains and hills.

Snow will continue through Monday, though intensity will diminish greatly by noon of Monday. The snow is expected to finally taper off by early Tuesday morning. Given how light the snow is expected to be Monday afternoon, this will be the prime time to get to work clearing off the parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks. Many in the western counties will need to use a snow blower, but most in the area could probably get by with a snow shovel. If you have any heart or lung problems; take your time and take frequent breaks if needed. To the eastern counties, a broom may suffice.

Travel will be significantly impacted with the timing of this storm. Roads will start off wet as the snow will initially melt in most spots. This is even worse for travelers because this will refreeze as temperatures continue to drop overnight Sunday. Add the wet snow that will collect on the water to help refreeze the melted snow and a nice glaze of ice will be on the roads. To make matters even worse, the powdery snow expected to move in just before the Monday morning commute will make it even harder to control as it will provide even less friction between the road and your tires. Lows Sunday night into Monday morning will be in the teens to low 20s, so industrial salt treatment will be somewhat effective, but not as good as sand/gravel. It is heavily advised to avoid traveling Sunday afternoon through Monday morning if at all possible. If you are going to a Super Bowl party, bring an extra pair of clothes and a winter preparedness kit. For the latest road conditions, please visit


For total snow accumulations, we expect the highest amounts to be in the Northern Big Horns as one to two feet of snow is expected in the highest elevations. Sheridan will receive 9”-12” with locally higher amounts possible; especially west of town. Southern Campbell County will also receive high amounts of snow with Wright receiving between 8”-11” of snow. Gillette will receive between 4”-7” with higher amounts possible to the south of town. The Northern Hills from Sundance to Lead and Deadwood to Deerfield; amounts between 6”-9” are likely. Locally higher amounts are possible especially in the higher elevations. The Central and Southern Hills will receive between 4”-7” with locally higher amounts possible. Rapid City will see between 2”-4” with locally higher amounts possible particularly to the south and west of town. The sharp cut-off of snow accumulations will be roughly 30 miles to the east of the Rapid City with amounts not even at a half of an inch. For other locations, please see the forecast map at the end of this article.

This is the beginning of an active winter pattern that will affect the region for much of the month of February. The first half of the month looks to be the most active with temperatures below average in addition to above average precipitation. The systems that will be involved with this active pattern don’t look to be extremely impactful, but they will bring multiple rounds of light snow. This is an important reminder to have the winter preparedness kit in the vehicle at all times and to include at least an extra pair of clothes, a shovel and food in the event that you didn’t check the SkyView weather app.

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