Blizzard warnings issued after US had least snowy Christmas in decades

Near-record warmth was recorded in the Midwest as the upper Plains prepared for a major blizzard and ice storm.
File photo of a major snow storm striking Pierre, South Dakota.
Posted at 7:20 AM, Dec 26, 2023

For the first time in over two decades, less than 20% of the U.S. was covered by snow on Christmas, according to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC). 

The NOHRSC uses daily ground-based, airborne and satellite snow observations from electronic sources for its data. The data has been collected daily since 2003. Just 17.6% of the U.S. was covered by snow on Christmas, according to forecasters. 

On the same date in 2022, 53% of the U.S. had snow cover. According to the government's data, 2003 had the least snow cover in the U.S., with 21.2% of land blanketed by snow. The snowiest Christmas happened in 2009, with over 60% of the ground covered. 

But more of the U.S. could be blanketed by snow in the days following Christmas. 

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The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings in five states for Tuesday. The National Weather Service predicted that western South Dakota, western Nebraska, far eastern Wyoming, and northeastern Colorado would experience the most snow, with up to 8 inches expected. Winds were also supposed to top 55 mph in the region. 

Even more concerning, portions of the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota were under an ice storm warning. Ice accumulations of 1/4 to 1/2 an inch were possible in the region, leading to potentially significant tree damage and power outages, the National Weather Service said. 

East of the storm system, near-record warmth will remain in place for several more days. 

Rochester, Minnesota, had its warmest Christmas since records began in 1886. Rochester hit 53, shattering the previous record by 3 degrees. Green Bay, Wisconsin, also had its warmest Christmas on record, hitting 54 on Monday.