Winter came early for many Americans this week when an unseasonably early snowstorm, referred to by social media commentators as “Snowtember,” swept through Western United States.
Rather than depositing a light dusting, the snowstorm dumped a three-day average of over seven inches of snow on South Dakota, Monana and Wyoming. The Weather Channel estimated that up to 18 inches fell in the Bighorn Mountains of Northern Wyoming.
North Platte, Nebraska and Cody Wyoming both reported their earliest snowfall on record this week, and Boulder, Colorado also experienced the first snow of the season.
Several records were broken by a startling amount in Rabid City, South Dakota. The city also reported its earliest snowfall on record. The area received two inches of snow on Thursday, breaking the record for the previous earliest snowfall on record set by a dusting, less than an inch deep, on Sept. 13, 1970. This makes it the earliest snowfall since 1888.
On Thursday, the temperature never got above 37 degrees, which was 12 degrees colder than the “low maximum” set in 1950.
Meteorologist Jon Chamberlain with the National Weather Service in Rapid City told Argus Leader that the early September snowfall was “definitely unusual” for Rapid City, but not as much for the general Black Hills area. “It’s a little on the high side, though,” he said.
Alex Calderon, also a National Weather Service meteorologist, told NBC News a similar story. “September is a transition month [in the Black Hills]” he said, adding that early snow was fairly common.
However, the storm still came as a system shock to Calderon and his neighbors. “I was wearing shorts and sandals and mowing the lawn [on Monday]” He told NBC News. Only a few days later “we’re pulling out our winter clothes.”
The early snowfall may have caused a problem for unprepared roofs as well. Since snow and ice can seep into roofs as they melt, causing leaks and damage, repairing them before the first snowfall is important. Unfortunately, residents in the Midwest didn’t have much warning.
NBC News Meteorologist Bill Karins said that “Even though it is on the early side, snow in September is not unusual for many of the locations which saw it. What was unusual was how widespread it was. Snow was reported in six states over the past three days, including Nebraska.”
Temperatures should rise to the 70s and 80s this week. As for another early snowfall, Calderon said, “We don’t see anything on the horizon right now, but we can’t rule out that possibility.”