Area braces for first blast of winter

Jim Shuck walks his dogs Hank and Spike along West Charles Street in Morrill Monday morning. Shuck was out for a morning walk, then hoped to hit the golf course while the weather remained nice.

SCOTTSBLUFF — A fast-moving storm will be rolling through the area starting Wednesday evening, reminding the public that winter is just around the corner.

According to the forecast from the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Cheyenne, Wednesday’s high should be near 63 degrees with a 20% chance of showers in the afternoon. Winds will also be picking up with gusts to 30 mph.

That changes Wednesday evening as rain is forecast before 10 p.m., followed by rain and snow until 1 a.m. and then snow and blustery winds. Chance of precipitation is 90% and the overnight low will dip to about 22 degrees.

NWS Meteorologist Brandon Wills said the storm’s timing is not unusual. In 2018, the area’s first snowfall was on Oct. 10 and on Oct. 2 in 2017.

“We’re going to have what’s called a flash freeze,” Wills said. “We’ll have really warm conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday and the temperatures will nosedive by Wednesday night. Overnight lows will dip down below 20 degrees in some spots.”

Wills said there could be some treacherous conditions as rain freezes before the snowfall starts late Wednesday night and into early Thursday.

Thursday’s forecast calls for a 60% chance of snow showers, mainly after noon with patchy blowing snow between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Daytime highs should only reach about 28 degrees.

Frigid conditions continue Thursday night with snow showers likely before midnight. It will continue to be mostly cloudy and lows should drop to around 12 degrees.

“Because of the extreme decrease in temperatures after this storm system moves through, we’re looking at possible record low temperatures on Friday morning for a lot of cities,” Wills said. “Temperatures could be five to maybe 10 degrees colder than previous records.”

Although the storm will be over by Friday, cold temperatures will hang around with a forecast high of 36 and an overnight low of 19.

“The good thing is that we’ll only have a couple days of really cold temperatures,” Wills said. “Temperatures will rebound into the 50s for afternoon highs by the weekend.”

Once NWS has its latest weather models, it will start issuing alerts on potential snowfall amounts. Estimates so far indicate that eastern Wyoming, the northern Nebraska Panhandle and southwestern South Dakota will bear the brunt of the storm with up to 6 inches of snowfall.

“We recommend people have an emergency car kit ready to go,” Wills said. “And make sure your vehicle is ready for winter because conditions will change fast.”

Municipalities are also preparing for the approaching storm. Gering Director of Public Works Pat Heath said he’s meeting with the street department to make sure all the city equipment is ready to go and there’s sufficient salt and chemicals to keep the roads ice free.

Mark Bohl, director of public works for Scottsbluff, said they’re also fully stocked with the needed chemicals to handle any ice hazards on city streets.

“We’ve been watching this storm as it progresses,” Bohl said. “We’re not sure what to expect but we should have some colder temperatures. In the event the roads get slick, the trucks are ready to cover the problem areas.”

Bohl said Scottsbluff stockpiles de-icing chemicals during the summer, along with making necessary repairs to the trucks and snow plows in preparation for winter.

“This will be our first test of the season,” Bohl said. “People need to adjust their driving habits and take it slower. This would also be a good time for people to get their sprinkler systems drained and backflow devices covered.”

Heath, on a personal note, said, “I’m turning my heater on.”

jpurvis@starherald.com

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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