Snow buries parts of Rockies, Upper Midwest

AP Photo/The Coloradoan

AP Photo/The Coloradoan

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:

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SNOW, SNOW… AND MORE SNOW

More than a foot of snow fell in northern Wisconsin, while Michigan's Upper Peninsula was buried under more than 14 inches of powder with at least another foot expected before the storm moves out Wednesday.

A much as 15 inches of snow has buried parts of Minnesota, and more snow is expected, but it wasn't enough to convince Joe Meath to spend some of his recent $12 million lottery winnings to head someplace warm. He's busy with his small snowplow business and a Chevy truck with nearly 300,000 miles.

“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.”

Other students weren't so lucky. Classrooms were closed at St. Cloud Cathedral, a seventh- through 12th-grade private school in Minnesota, but students had to log into the school's online portal to complete classwork from home.

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

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AND THEN THE COLD

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. Temperatures could bottom out around negative 20 degrees in the eastern part of the state overnight.

“Yesterday I was warning sandals and a short-sleeve shirt, and today I'm wearing a coat and scarf and turtle neck and sweatshirt and gloves,” said Kimmel, who is from Montana but hadn't visited during the winter in 30 years.

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, where single-digit temperatures — already about 30 degrees below normal — came with frigid wind chills, dipping as low as into the negative 20s in Dickinson, North Dakota.

But that's good news for Action Mechanical Inc., where the heating and ventilating department is booming in Rapid City, South Dakota.

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

In Colorado, temperatures fell into the teens — and are expected to stay there through Thursday — prompting officials to move a Veteran's Day ceremony indoors in Denver.

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BUT THE CATTLE ARE READY

Ranchers in the Dakotas were surprisingly upbeat with only a few inches of snow in the forecast, after intense storms in October 2013 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.”

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DON'T BLAME THE POLAR VORTEX

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 entirement 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 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.

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STAY HOME

Roads in parts of northern Michigan were in “very poor condition,” with 2 to 3 inches of snow falling an hour on Tuesday morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Justin Titus said. But there were no delays reported Tuesday at Sawyer International Airport in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport saw the brunt of the cancellations and delays Monday, with about 175 cancellations, while about 19 had been cancelled Tuesday, according to the airport.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, the State Patrol said at least two people were killed in accidents on icy roads, and troopers handled 475 crashes and more than 700 spinouts statewide by Monday evening.

In Chicago, residents savored breezy but mild weather with temperatures near 60 before unseasonably cold and wet weather moved in Wednesday afternoon.

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