Spring snow sounds like an oxymoron but in Nebraska, it’s a reality. Even when the unexpected happens, Nebraskans work hard to make the best of it. In 2020, for example, winter appeared again like a lingering guest you were happy to see out the door. Just as Nebraskans had placed their winter clothes in storage, a winter storm rolled through, breaking records in both Lincoln and Grand Island.
There were traffic hazards but there were also helpful neighbors and creative kiddos creating fun front lawn displays. Although April is supposed to bring warm weather and a burst of flowers and active wildlife, sometimes it’s not quite what you had in mind. Below, you learn about the biggest snowstorm to ever hit Nebraska in April.
The Biggest April Snowstorm in Nebraska History
Several notable snowstorms struck Nebraska during April. The first happened on April 14, 1949, when 12 inches of snow piled onto the ground in both the eastern and central parts of the state. These snowstorms didn’t show up erratically. They were preceded by an intense winter season that started on November 18th, when a blizzard ravaged the state, leaving stranded livestock and school closures in its wake.
Travelers had nowhere to go with hotels filling to maximum capacity. There was a brief period in December when temperatures warmed but right around Christmas, another storm came in with a vengeance. Then again, there was another storm in the first week of January. Winds reached speeds up to 60 miles per hour! During the last two weeks of January, snow and freezing rain blanketed the state. It was a tumultuous time but even as March rolled around, another storm created more damage, dropping 20 inches around North Platte.
Trains derailed and rivers flooded. Then, April 14th ushered in the last of these ravaging storms, with 12 inches of snow landing in both the eastern and central regions of Nebraska. The other two well-known storms that hit Nebraska struck in 1873 and 1888. In 1873, it was April 13th when high winds and snowfall appeared.
The temperature was moderate but, in the afternoon, there was rain that became sleet and later shifted into heavy snowfall. In 1888, it was a bit different. Subzero temperatures were in play and the notable storm occurred three months prior, in January. Nebraska has certainly had its fair share of wintery weather during months that are supposed to reflect the vibrancy of spring.
Typical Weather in Nebraska in April
To measure snowfall, there have to be at least 0.1 inches of snow that gather on the ground. Data collected between 1991 and 2020 points to averages throughout different parts of the state. Eastern Nebraska, for example, there are averages for four cities. In Columbus, the average snowfall is 1.1 inches.
In Lincoln, it’s 1.2 inches; in Norfolk, it’s 2.3 inches; and in Omaha, it’s 1 inch. South-central Nebraska, the averages range from 0.6 inches in Harlan County Lake to 3.6 inches in North Platte. In north-central Nebraska, snowfall in O’Neill is usually 1.7 inches, and in Valentine, it’s 5.6 inches. Western Nebraska’s average April snowfall is between 3.9 inches and 5.6 inches.
How Late-Season Storms Impact Wildlife
Nebraska has seen some late-season storms during which wildlife wasn’t impacted but late-season storms have the potential to interrupt the state’s ecosystems. In 2019, a blizzard ripped through and the state experienced flooding but despite these catastrophic events, wildlife fared well.
This perspective is objective, considering all the animals throughout the state but the adverse weather did leave some casualties in its wake. Semi-aquatic animals like beavers and muskrats likely drowned due to the flooding and several deer died post-blizzard as well. Climate change is expected to change entire ecosystems, posing a great challenge in the coming years for all wildlife.
The Earliest Snowfall in Nebraska
On average, the first measurable snowfall occurs in November throughout Nebraska. However, snow has fallen as early as September in the state. On September 29, 1985, for instance, 0.8 inches fell, making it the earliest snowfall in Omaha. There have been multiple instances of early snowfall in October in Lincoln. October 10th was a popular date over the years with early snowfall — the winter seasons of 1904, 1987, and 2009 all started a bit early.
In 1904, there were 0.5 recorded inches; in 1987, there were 0.3 inches; and in 2009 there were 1.2 inches of snowfall. Usually, when two or more inches pile up on the ground, it’s already December in Nebraska. Ultimately, climate change is affecting not just the frequency and intensity of storms, but it’s also changing precipitation patterns and winter seasons. Conservationists are working tirelessly to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems while they make efforts to sustain both communities and economies to ensure a more stable future.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Nicholas Stankus/Shutterstock.com
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