A blast of unusually wintry April weather is barreling from the Rockies to the Northeast. Accumulating snow has blanketed Denver, while Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y., expect up to several inches of snow between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.
Where it’s not snowing, it’s turning abnormally cold. The National Weather Service has issued frost and freeze watches and warnings for 87 million Americans from Texas to Virginia. By Thursday morning, temperatures will be at least 10 degrees below average from eastern Montana to North Florida.
But those who do not care for this February-like weather in April will not have to wait long for a reprieve. Many of these areas are on set to hit 80 degrees and spring- or summerlike warmth next week.
A major pattern change will bring a virtual seasonal reversal to the eastern half of the country, with the chilly air mass set to be scoured out by insurgences of Gulf of Mexico heat and humidity.
The pattern shift could bring the chance of flooding for some and the risk of severe thunderstorm and tornado activity for others.
Next week’s warming will not come before wintry weather’s last gasp, which was already pummeling parts of the High Plains and the Rockies. Jamestown, Colo., in the mountains west of Boulder, picked up 15.3 inches. Boulder wound up with nine inches, while downtown Denver reported 4.8 inches. Fort Collins measured 6.4 inches.
Seven inches of snow fell in Hays, Kan., near Interstate 70 west of Salina. Topeka got more than four inches, and snow was exiting Kansas City during the morning hours Tuesday, where temperatures were a little too high for accumulation.
It was also snowing in Chicago late Wednesday morning, but little accumulation was anticipated before the main axis of precipitation moves east into Indiana and Ohio.
Indianapolis, Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo are all in line for accumulating snow between Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Indianapolis is expecting one to two inches of snow Tuesday night while two to four inches is possible in Toledo, Ohio, where a winter weather advisory is in effect.
In Cleveland, which is also under a winter weather advisory for three to five inches Wednesday, so much snow this late in the season is rare.
Just about half an inch of snow is expected Wednesday in Detroit.
The snow will continue through western Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and northern Vermont as the cold front slides east on Wednesday. Buffalo is under a winter weather advisory for three to six inches.
At the same time, a line of thunderstorms, some strong, will build south along the front, probably affecting areas along the Interstate 95 corridor from New York City through the Mid-Atlantic. That’s where the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has drawn a level 1 out of 5 marginal risk of severe weather. New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula could be most affected, with the storms maturing as they head farther east.
As the front roars across the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to New York, temperatures may plummet from the 60s to near 50 degrees.
Behind the front, temperatures about 15 to 25 degrees below average will move from North Texas to the Ohio Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. A number of low-temperature records could be set Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service tweeted that 87 million Americans are under frost or freeze watches and warnings from Texas to Virginia, with the heart of the cold focused in the Plains and the Midwest on Wednesday and toward the Tennessee and Ohio valleys on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, nearly 100 million Americans may see temperatures at or below freezing from the Rockies through the Midwest to the Northeast.
By Friday, after parts of the interior Northeast and Mid-Atlantic endure freezing temperatures to start the day, the core of the cold will slide off the East Coast.
Oklahoma City, which was expected to see a high in the 40s on Tuesday, could be basking in mid-80s by early next week. Dallas was planning for lows in the 30s on Tuesday night, but it is expecting lows in the 60s and highs in the 80s in a few days.
Atlanta could see highs approach 80 by Monday, with temperatures nearing 70 in the nation’s capital; the warmth will be more moderate on the East Coast.
The outlook from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting above-average temperatures across the southern tier of the U.S. and along the Eastern Seaboard to round out April and kick off May.
In the West, below-average temperatures may stick around most of next week.
The potential for severe thunderstorm and tornado activity may rise. Texas, particularly regions surrounding the Interstate 35 corridor including Dallas, could have strong to severe thunderstorms Friday afternoon. A few of them could rotate and become tornadic.
Those storms probably will sweep southeast toward the Gulf Coast with an attendant severe risk on Saturday before rain and a few storms arrive in the Southeast by Sunday.
The mid-April pattern brought rainfall and flooding in parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. More than 10 inches has fallen this month at New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport. The next week could favor heavy rain, flooding saturated soils.
Attention then turns to the next big jet stream disturbance, which should eject east out of the Rockies early next week. That could brew severe weather in the central or southeastern United States, with the risk of tornadoes.