It may have been a balmy Mother's Day in much of America, but it was a return to winter in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
An unusual spring snowstorm dumped more than a foot of heavy snow on the Rockies Sunday and Monday, sending gardeners hurrying to protect newly installed plants and causing road closures, accidents, and winter storm warnings from the National Weather Service.
On Monday, the NWS was still warning of severe thunderstorms as the storm moves east across the Midwest and Plains states, and possible tornadoes or "damaging hail" in places.
Boulder, Colo., received almost 7 inches of snow from the storm, plus an additional 1.9 inches of moisture, easily breaking the previous record for May 12. While so much snow so late in May is rare, it's not unheard of in a state where residents regularly declare that if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes. The record snowfall for Boulder in May is 26.7 inches, set in 1931.
"May snow certainly isn't unheard of here in Colorado, even down in the Denver metro area," David Barjenbruch, weather service meteorologist in Boulder, told the Associated Press. "If we see the total accumulations that we are anticipating from this storm, we are certainly going to see a top 10 May snow event for the Denver metro area," he added.
In the Colorado mountains, where spring snow is more typical, many areas got more than a foot of snow, and mountainous parts of Wyoming received up to two feet. Most ski areas are now closed, but at Colorado's Arapahoe Basin – often open into June or even July – locals were celebrating the late snowfall, capping a winter in which the mountain has received a total of 419 inches of snow through May 12, and 17 inches just in the past three days.
The ski area on Monday posted photos of powder skiing and rapidly falling snow, and implied that this may be a year when it's again open until July 4.
The May snowfall comes on top of a heavy snow winter in most of Colorado, which should help fill reservoirs and alleviate the drought that has persisted in the state for the past two years. Current snowpack updates have six of the eight river basins in the state at above 100 percent of median snowpack for the date – welcome news for many areas that were struggling with persistently dry conditions.