The Strange Places Where Snow Has and Hasn't Fallen This Season

Jonathan Erdman
Published: November 5, 2019

Autumn snowfall so far in the U.S. has been rather strange – either unusually early, unusually heavy, or a tad late.

Snow by the end of October is par for the course in the Rockies, Cascades, Northern Plains and northern Great Lakes.

(MORE: When the First Snow of the Season Typically Falls)

But some of these areas have had not just a few flakes, but one of their snowiest starts to the season in any year.

Snow has also fallen as far south as the Texas Panhandle and in parts of the Plains where it's more typical in December. Some of these locations have even out-snowed Alaska's largest cities.

In contrast, much of the Northeast is still waiting for its first accumulating snow, a wait that isn't all that unusual in early November.

Snow Fatigue Already?

Some in the Rockies, northern Plains and upper Midwest may already have snow fatigue.

Most recently, Madison, Wisconsin, had a stretch of 8 of 10 days with at least a trace of snow from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6, leading to their snowiest start to a season on record (12.6 inches).

It typically takes another six weeks for the capital city of the Badger State to accumulate a foot of seasonal snow (Dec. 18). And they accomplished this feat 13 days earlier than the previous earliest 1-foot-seasonal accumulation record, there, Nov. 19, 1921.

Kansas City picked up its earliest 1-inch snowfall in 22 years from that same storm system on Oct. 30-31.

In mid-October, a Northern Plains blizzard became the heaviest three-day October snowstorm on record in Bismarck, North Dakota, dumped up to 30 inches of snow in parts of the Peace Garden State and knocked out power in southern Manitoba for days.

Even the typically snowy northern Rockies have been exceptional this fall.

Boosted by three separate snowstorms in late September, early October and late October, Great Falls, Montana, picked up 36.5 inches of snow so far this season. This was easily their record snowiest start to the season through Nov. 4, over a foot snowier than fall 1925 to date (22.8 inches).

Southern Snow

The map on the top of this piece isn't a misprint; snow fell as far south as the Texas Panhandle in October.

Amarillo, Texas, picked up 5.5 inches of snow one week before Halloween, their heaviest October snowstorm in 101 years. The snow was even accompanied by thunder and lightning.

In an average season, Amarillo doesn't pick up that much snow until two days before Christmas.

Lubbock, Texas, about 100 miles farther south than Amarillo, even picked up a dusting of snow from that same storm on Oct. 24. It was their third earliest fall snow on record.

While not enough to accumulate, light snow fell in both Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Oct. 30. This was only the sixth time on record in Tulsa and seventh time on record in Fayetteville this happened in October.

Still Waiting

Most of the East is still waiting for its first flakes of the season.

This isn't unusual along the Interstate 95 corridor, where the first measurable snow typically happens by late November in downtown Boston and mid-December in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

But there are a few more typically snowy northern locales that still haven't picked up their inaugural dusting.

Estimated snow so far this season, from late summer through Nov. 4, 2019.

That includes Caribou, Maine, just 10 miles from the border of New Brunswick, Canada, which typically picks up its first accumulating snow by October 23.

Caribou rang in November with an all-time monthly record high before dawn, followed by a strong cold front and a shower of snow pellets later in the day.

For those who can't wait, the first significant, widespread blanket of snow is expected in the interior Northeast late this week.

Snow is even strangely lacking in Alaska.

A measly 0.2 inch of snow has been recorded this fall at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage through Nov. 4. While that's just over 9 inches below the season's pace, there have been several recent seasons that started snowless through Nov. 4, including 2013, 2009, 2003 and 2002.

The weather pattern producing both the excessively early snow and lack of snow has been pronounced since autumn officially arrived in late September.

(MORE: November Temperature Outlook)

Temperature departures from average from Sept. 25 - Nov. 3, 2019, in degrees Celsius. Areas most colder than average are shown in darker blue and purple contours. Those most warmer than average are shown in yellow and orange contours.
(NOAA/ESRL Physical Research Division)

Cold air has camped out over the West and Plains, while warmer-than-average air has been in place through much of the East and Alaska.

The persistent cold air may shift toward the central and eastern U.S. as we head toward mid-November, expanding the range of territory where snowflakes could fall.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.