The Nebraska Panhandle was hit by two feet of snow over the weekend, caused by a collision of cold air from the Rocky Mountains and moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
The Panhandle was among the hardest-hit areas in the region, receiving more snow than southeast Wyoming and parts of South Dakota, said Shawn Liebl, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The snowstorm began Saturday afternoon and ended Sunday afternoon, he said.
Some of the Panhandle snowfall totals included 20 to 24 inches between Chadron and Harrison, 11 inches at Chadron, 10 inches west of Scottsbluff and 5 inches in Kimball.
Spring snowstorms are not unheard of in western Nebraska, and the weekend shot was courtesy of a large cold-air system that moved out of the Rockies and strong south winds bringing in warm, moist air from the Gulf, Liebl said.
Southeast Wyoming received 5 to 8 inches, Liebl said, and Interstate 80 between Laramie and Cheyenne was closed Saturday night into Sunday morning because of the heavy snow.
Elsewhere, severe weather in the Omaha metro area quickly came and went Sunday afternoon, with storms bringing high winds and pounding rain.
Gusts of up to 58 mph were recorded in the city. Winds up to 64 mph were recorded in northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa on Sunday afternoon, causing trees to fall in Nebraska’s Thurston County.
In addition to 60 mph winds, half-inch hail fell briefly in Little Sioux, Iowa, around 2 p.m.
The National Weather Service Office in Valley, Nebraska, issued a tornado watch for counties in western Iowa and a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of southeast Nebraska, southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri for Sunday evening. But storms left the area through the night and the watch was lifted.
In central Iowa, a tornado caused considerable damage in Lake City, the Associated Press reported.
Frank Boksa with the Des Moines office of the National Weather Service said the tornado hit Sunday night. Authorities reported structural damage and uprooted trees. After examining the scene, an NWS crew judged the tornado to have an EF1 rating. It's the second-weakest tornado rating, but with peaks winds of 100 mph, the Lake City twister was obviously dangerous.
Lake City is situated southwest of Fort Dodge.
The Des Moines Register reported that spotters confirmed a tornado in Carroll County moving north toward Lake City just before 7:15 p.m. According to the weather service, the tornado caused damage that spanned two blocks.
Calhoun County resident Austin Jacobs, who lives on a farm just west of Lake City, said damage included downed telephone poles and roofs blown off houses. He also said the roof of Southern Cal High School detached during the storm.
Jacobs said about 150 people were inside the high school for a senior awards ceremony, but they were able to evacuate and no one was injured.
Gov. Terry Branstad has declared a disaster emergency in Calhoun County and will head to the area to assess tornado damage and cleanup efforts. The declaration will let state resources be used to help in recovery efforts and makes some households eligible for a program that helps pay for repairs.
In the Omaha area, temperatures were expected to rise Tuesday and Wednesday, with mostly sunny skies. Highs Tuesday were expected to be in the 60s. Wednesday’s highs should be in the low 70s, the weather service said.
Thunderstorms are expected to return Wednesday night, forecasters said. There is a chance for thunderstorms through the weekend, when a warming trend takes effect with highs in the upper 70s by Saturday.
Today in the Omaha area will be cool, cloudy and windy, forecasters say, with high temperatures generally in the 50s.
Conditions should improve Tuesday and Wednesday, with mostly sunny skies and highs Tuesday in the 60s and highs Wednesday in the lower 70s, said the National Weather Service office in Valley, Nebraska.
Thunderstorms will return Wednesday night, forecasters said, and there is a chance for thunderstorms through the weekend, when a warming trend takes effect with highs in the upper 70s by Saturday.
The weather service’s latest Omaha-area forecast:
Today — Cloudy with a high near 58 and west winds gusting to 33 mph.
Tonight — Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear with a low around 40 and wind gusts around 28 mph.
Tuesday — Sunny with a high near 67.
Tuesday night — Mostly clear with a low around 49.
Wednesday — Mostly sunny with a high near 71 and south-southeast winds gusting to around 25 mph.
Wednesday night — Showers and thunderstorms likely (70 percent) with a low around 55.
Thursday — A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms and a high near 68.
Thursday night — A chance of showers and thunderstorms with a low around 55.
Friday — A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms and a high near 75.
Friday night — A chance of showers and thunderstorms and a low around 60.
Saturday — A chance of showers and thunderstorms and a high near 78.
Saturday night — A chance of showers and thunderstorms with a low around 64.
Sunday — Breezy and a chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 78.