Winter Storm Takes Aim on the Plains, Upper Midwest with Snow and Gusty Winds

Linda Lam
Published: March 20, 2020

A winter storm will spread snow and wind from the Plains into the upper Midwest as winter transitions to spring.

The storm has been named Winter Storm Pearl by The Weather Channel.

An area of low pressure that brought much-needed snow to California's Sierra Nevada has finally pushed eastward and is now swinging through the Plains and upper Midwest.

(MORE: Spring Is About to Begin, But Many Cities Typically Have More Snow Ahead

Happening Now

Near-blizzard conditions are locally occurring in northeastern Colorado and in the Nebraska Panhandle.

The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings for parts of the central High Plains. This means travel could become dangerous or impossible in these areas through dawn Friday.

Interstate 70 was closed Thursday afternoon in eastern Colorado and extreme western Kansas due to dangerous conditions. Interstate 80 was also closed in the Nebraska Panhandle.

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories are in effect in other areas, from parts of the Upper Peninsula Michigan, far northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Iowa into portions of southeastern South Dakota, Nebraska, southeastern Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.


Winter Alerts

Although this is a rather fast-moving storm, it has produced impressive snow totals in the Rocky Mountain foothills just west of Denver. Totals as of late Thursday afternoon included 22 inches near Nederland, 18.5 inches near Jamestown and 15 inches near Genesee.

Wind gusts over 50 mph have also been recorded in the High Plains of Colorado.

Heavy snow is ongoing from the higher terrain of Colorado to the Great Lakes. Rain is changing to snow elsewhere in the Midwest.


Current Radar

Much of the snow has fallen in the form of large, wet snowflakes, leading to snowfall rates as high as 1 to 2 inches per hour.

Wind and snow contributed to hundreds of flight cancellations at Denver International Airport, including more than 80% of Southwest's flights for Thursday.

“The cancellations are 100 percent caused by the storm,” Southwest spokesperson Ro Hawthorne told the Boulder Daily Camera.

This system brought feet of much-needed to snow to the Sierra Nevada. As of early Thursday, Flagstaff, Arizona, picked up 7 inches of snow.

Wintry Forecast

Into Early Friday

Snow will gradually come to an end from the central Rockies and central Plains eastward to the Great Lakes. Some light to moderate snow will continue in the Upper Great Lakes. Winds will gradually decrease overnight.

Cold air won't be able to turn rain over to snow in much of the Northeast on Friday, and a few thunderstorms will be possible instead.


Friday Morning's Forecast

How Much Snow

The heaviest snow accumulations outside of the Rockies are most possible in the High Plains of southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska.

In most other areas of the Northern Plains and upper Midwest, light to moderate accumulations are expected, with the exception of areas that may have lake-enhanced snow around Lake Superior.

(MAPS: Weekly Planner


Snowfall Forecast

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.