Temperatures plunge as storm buries parts of Rockies, Upper Midwest in more than foot of snow

Heavy snow blanketed parts of the Upper Midwest with more than a foot of snow on Tuesday, leaving residents there and in the Rockies waking up to frigid temperatures that plunged as much as 50 degrees overnight.

The rest of the Midwest and the East are expecting a dose of the icy weather later this week thanks to a powerful storm that hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds over the weekend.

A look at the storm and its effects:



More than 2 feet of snow blanked parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and more was on the way before the front was expected to exit on Wednesday. Northern Wisconsin also got as much as 18 inches of snow, and parts of central Minnesota more than 16.

The onset of winter wasn't enough to convince Joe Meath to flee Minnesota — even though he won nearly $12 million in a state lottery game two months ago. Meath was busy with his small snowplow business, taking care of his customers in his worn Chevy truck with nearly 300,000 miles on it.

"I don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't doing this today," Meath told KMSP-TV.

Schools canceled classes across the region, including at Northern Michigan University. Multimedia journalism student Mikenzie Frost said she was headed out the door to figure skating practice early Tuesday when she got a text from the school saying it was closed. So, she shifted plans.

"Going to buy a shovel because we don't have one," Frost said. "We're probably the only people in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) that don't have one."

At least one school found opportunity in the early storm. St. Cloud Cathedral, a seventh- through 12th-grade parochial school in Minnesota, shut its doors when the storm hit Monday but had students log into online classes to complete coursework from home. Cathedral was following other schools nationally who have experimented with online learning to avoid needing make-up days.

"I'll be honest," Principal Lynn Grewing laughed Tuesday. "There has been some grumbling."



In Billings, Montana, where temperatures in the high 60s fell into the single digits, Patsy Kimmel said she'd been warned before arriving to visit family and celebrate her 70th birthday.

"Yesterday I was wearing sandals and a short-sleeve shirt, and today I'm wearing a coat and scarf and turtleneck and sweatshirt and gloves," said Kimmel.

The blast of frigid air sent temperatures plunging as far south as the Texas Panhandle, where balmy 70-degree weather fell into the teens overnight. In Oklahoma City, Monday's high of 80 degrees hit a low of 30 degrees Tuesday morning — a drop of 50 degrees.

And in the Dakotas, single-digit temperatures came with wind chills that made it feel like 20 below in some places. But that was good news for Action Mechanical Inc. of Rapid City, South Dakota, which was doing a booming heating and ventilation business.

"Bang! We get this arctic blast, and it just opens the floodgates," said John Hammond Jr., a department head. "We're behind right now as we're sitting here talking."

In Colorado, temperatures fell into the teens and prompted officials to move a Veteran's Day ceremony indoors in Denver.



With only a few inches of snow, ranchers in the Dakotas were upbeat about the weather, mindful of intense storms in October 2013 that killed at least 43,000 cattle that hadn't yet developed heavy protective winter coats.

"We've had enough cool weather (this year) that they're haired up like bears," said South Dakota Stockgrowers Association President Bob Fortune, who ranches near Belvidere. "They can take winter now."

Wyoming rancher Ogden Driskill wasn't as confident. He said conditions in his northeastern corner of the state turned cold so abruptly that cattle hadn't yet developed that thick coat. But he said the cold was more of a risk to calves who might sicken than to mature cattle, which were in good condition from a year's good forage.



Meteorologists are adamant that the weather isn't because of the polar vortex, a giant upper air pattern that normally pens in cold air in the Arctic in the winter, but instead pushed in by an entirely different weather phenomenon more related to the remnants of a powerful typhoon.

"The polar vortex itself has not moved south. It's still in the Arctic where it always is," said National Weather Service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan, adding that federal forecasters are calling this a cold snap or cold front.

Still, forecasters warn that the cold will linger. Some regions will go from record warm to record cold in just two days, with temperatures dropping 15 to 20 degrees below normal on the East Coast Friday and Saturday. And freezing temperatures will likely dip as far south as Atlanta on Friday, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground.



Roads were difficult in northern Michigan. Minnesota reported at least four people killed in accidents on icy roads from the storm, but Tuesday was calmer after the nearly 500 crashes reported on Monday.

Operations were returning to normal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with only about 19 flights canceled Tuesday — a day after nearly 200 were scrubbed.


Associated Press writers contributing to this report include Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minn.; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Matt Brown in Billings, Mont.; Kevin Burbach and Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, N.D.; David Runk in Detroit; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; and Erin Gartner in Chicago.