The Strange Places It's Still Snowing in Late May

Linda Lam
Published: May 22, 2019

An unusual sight for late May has appeared in several areas of the U.S.: snow.

While May snow is common in some of the higher elevations of the West, the recent weather pattern has allowed snow to accumulate in rarer areas for this time of year.

That unusual upper-level weather pattern set up in mid-May and featured a persistent southward dip in the jet stream over the western U.S. as well as the northern Plains and upper Midwest.

(MORE: When Spring's Last Snow Typically Occurs

This setup has allowed colder-than-average temperatures to plunge in these areas. At times, the cold air has combined with disturbances moving through the regions, resulting in very-late-season snowfall.

As a result, snow has been observed from the higher elevations of California to the western Dakotas over the past few days, as well as in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.

This weather pattern will continue to bring snow to parts of the West over the next few days.

Here are a few areas that have seen uncommon late-May snow.

Minnesota and Wisconsin

On Sunday, snow was observed in portions of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. This included the Duluth, Minnesota, area, which measured 2.4 inches.

Snow in Duluth this weekend pushed the city's monthly snowfall total to 13.3 inches. Duluth already set a new record for snowiest May earlier this month.

North Dakota

Snow accumulated in parts of western North Dakota this past weekend, with up to 6.5 inches in Rhame and an estimated 4.5 inches in Dickinson.

South Dakota, Nebraska

Rain changed to snow Monday night in downtown Rapid City, with snow reported in the higher elevations nearby. The National Weather Service office in Rapid City reported 1.2 inches of snow on Monday and 4.4 inches for the month. The average May snowfall in the Rapid City area is 1.1 inches.

Hill City, South Dakota, saw an estimated 5 inches of snowfall as of early Tuesday. Snow was captured on Mount Rushmore on Tuesday.

6.8 inches of snow fell In western Nebraska near Harrisburg, with light snow in areas farther north and east, including near Chadron.

Wyoming

While snow in Wyoming may not seem unusual even in May, Cheyenne, Wyoming, came close to setting a new late-season snowfall record.

The official observation in Cheyenne reported 8.5 inches of snow Monday into Tuesday which approached the current two-day snowfall record for the May 20 through June 30 period of 8.7 inches set on June 11-12, 1947.

Up to a foot of snow was measured in the Cheyenne area through Tuesday.

Central Wyoming also saw heavy snow early this week.

Colorado

The same system that brought severe weather and flooding to parts of the central U.S. also brought snow. Denver International Airport reported 3 inches of snow on Monday and totals of 3 to 7 inches were widespread from Denver to Boulder, where 5.1 inches fell.

Boulder are generally saw 3 to 5 inches of snowfall early this week. The average last measurable snowfall here is April 27 and the latest measurable snowfall was on June 3, 1951.

The heavy, wet snow weighed down some branches. Thousands of Coloradans were affected by localized power outages, as reported by the Boulder Daily Camera.

Snow also fell in areas south of Denver.

Colorado Springs set a daily snowfall record on Monday with 2.9 inches of snow. The average snowfall in May for Colorado Springs is just 0.7 inches.

Over a foot of snow was reported north of Colorado Springs as of early Tuesday. Black Forest, Colorado, which is just northeast of Colorado Springs, saw 19.5 inches.

Heavy snow was also reported in central Colorado.

New Mexico

On Monday, portions of northern New Mexico saw snow, including Gallup and Farmington. More than six inches accumulated in some of the higher elevations north and east of Santa Fe.

Arizona

Snow was observed in the Flagstaff, Arizona, area on Monday, with 0.9 inches reported through midnight and more snow is possible in the area midweek. The average snowfall in May in Flagstaff is 0.7 inches.

California

Although snow in the Sierra is not unusual, snow in the higher elevations of southern California is more unexpected.

Early this week, Big Bear Lake in southern California reported an inch of snow at lake level and 3 to 5 inches around the foothills. According to the National Weather Service, this ties for the 10th heaviest snowfall total there in May. Just last May 1.5 inches of snow was reported at Big Bear Lake.

Snow was also observed at Wrightwood Fire Station and Mountain High Resort in the San Gabriel Mountains earlier this week.

Farther north in the Sierra, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort reported 5 inches Sunday into early Monday. Soda Springs Ski Resort measured a foot of snow over the weekend.


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