Unseasonal, record-shattering cold and snow engulf central and eastern U.S.


An unusually cold front swept through the central and eastern U.S. Tuesday, April 20, 2021, bringing chilly conditions and snow all the way to Mid-South. By Wednesday morning, April 21, scores of record cold temperatures were set. The cold is expected to settle in across the eastern half of the country, with a number of record low temperatures possible Thursday, April 22, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

At least 80 million Americans were under freeze or frost alerts from the NWS as a wintry blast engulfed much of the central region Tuesday, bringing unseasonably cool temperatures and snow.

"The record-breaking cold has settled in this morning across the central US, stretching from near Mexico to southern Canada as cross-polar flow drops in Arctic levels of frost/freeze temps in the late spring season," wrote BAMWX meteorologist Kirk Hinz. 

Record cold temperatures were set by Wednesday morning. Oklahoma City saw -1.1 °C (30 °F), beating the previous daily record of 1.1 °C (34 °F) set in 1966. It was also the latest in the season that Oklahoma has recorded such a reading– the average low this time of the year is 10 °C (51 °F).

Kansas City dropped to 1.1 °C (34 °F), which was shy of a record but still below average. Dallas also shivered through below freezing levels, breaking the previous record of 3.9 °C (39 °F) set in 1918.

Little Rock registered 2.2 °C (36 °F), smashing the past record of 3.9 °C (39°F) in 1983. Chicago dropped to 1.1 °C (34 °F), while Sioux City fell to -2.7 °C (27 °F) and Sioux Falls -7 °C (19 °F).

The wintry blast also brought late-season snow, which first blanketed the Rockies and High Plains on Monday night. In Boulder, Colorado, around 20 to 28 cm (8 to 11 inches) of snow fell across the city overall.

In Denver, up to 41 cm (16 inches) of snow fell in the mountains north and west of the city. In Rapid City, up to 0.3 m (1 foot) of snow piled up in the Black Hills.

A broad 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) fell across much of Nebraska, while around 30 cm (12 inches) was recorded in Hays. Kansas City registered its biggest snow late in the season with 9 cm (3.5 inches) of snow.

Areas to the east in Illinois and Indiana registered 5 to 13 cm (2 to 5 inches), while up to 18 cm (7 inches) fell in Toledo. In Cleveland, the lake-effect phenomenon boosted snowfall totals, with a number of areas recording 15 cm (6 inches) of snow.

Indianapolis was covered by roughly 5 cm (2 inches) of snow– the most it has recorded this late in the season. Meanwhile, Paducah, Kentucky, witnessed its latest snowfall ever recorded. In Louisville, record-breaking snow of 5 cm (2 inches) was also observed 

Pittsburgh saw snow in a two-hour period on Wednesday that was more than during the past two months. In Upstate New York and northern New England, snow and cold were also felt. Snow was seen as far south as West Virginia and Western Maryland.

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Chilly conditions are expected to linger, with record lows possible Thursday, warned the NWS. Widespread freeze warnings are currently in place. More winter weather is forecast over northern New England through Friday, April 23, while another round of snow will hit Mountain West.

"Additional record cold pushes east into Thursday morning as well before things start to moderate into the weekend," said Hinz.

Featured image credit: Harley Magden


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