The following are the top 5 weather events from Western and North Central Nebraska for 2013, in order of occurrence, as voted on by the staff at the National Weather Service in North Platte.
The February 10th Blizzard
An upper level low pressure system tracked from south central Nebraska near dawn February 10th, into southwestern Minnesota by sunset. This resulted in a wide swath of heavy snowfall across much of western and north central Nebraska.

Blizzard conditions were widespread on Sunday, February 10th, with snowfall amounts ranging from 4 to 10 inches from the Interstate 80 corridor northeast into north central Nebraska.

Very strong northerly winds buffeted the area, with a peak wind speed of 56 MPH at Thedford, 54 MPH at Broken Bow, 53 MPH at Ainsworth, and 51 MPH at North Platte. These strong winds began in the early morning hours in western areas and spread into northeastern areas through the day and evening hours. The combination of snow and strong winds, produced considerable blowing and drifting snow along with low visibilities of a quarter mile or less. Poor road conditions were also observed on February 10th.

February 10th Total Snowfall

Spring Storm Produces a Double Punch (April 8-10)
A spring storm moved out of the four corners region on April 8th producing a wide range of weather and impacts through April 10th. Severe thunderstorms initially produced wind damage and power outages that were quickly followed by a winter storm.

On April 8th the system tapped into a rich moisture source that led to strong fueled storms across southwest Nebraska. In the evening, severe thunderstorms developed and produced three quarter inch to nickel sized hail that covered the ground at Imperial and Mason City.  As the thunderstorms over far southwestern Nebraska moved east into southeast Hayes and Frontier counties, they bowed out, producing straight-line winds up to 80 MPH. The strong winds lasted for nearly 30 minutes producing widespread wind damage over 50 square miles in central and northeast Frontier County. The high winds led to damage at 12 farmsteads including, roof damage, numerous windows blown out, over 60 center pivot irrigation systems overturned, large tree limbs down, and livestock killed. The McCook Public Power District reported 173 consumers lost power during the storm as the damaging winds snapped 40 power poles.

The storm’s impact lingered for another two days as colder air and strong winds arrived Monday night. Hazardous wintry weather developed as rain changed to freezing rain, sleet and then heavy snow. Strong winds at 25 to 35 mph caused low visibilities and drifting snow that initially led to road closures in the Nebraska Panhandle. With time, the closures expanded east to include Interstate 80 east to North Platte. Freezing rain produced one quarter to three quarters of an inch of ice, which was greatest in the O’Neill area. Later, the freezing rain was followed by sleet, then snow. The greatest snowfall occurred across portions of northern Nebraska including, a foot or more portions of Sheridan and Cherry counties. At Gordon, 18 inches of snow was reported.

Beyond storm damage, there was good news following the storm in the form of precipitation. The precipitation brought some needed relief to the exceptional drought conditions which were prevalent across western and north central Nebraska over the winter months. Precipitation totals from the event ranged from just over a half inch at Imperial to 2.50 inches near Ericson. In some locations, it was the first decent shot of precipitation since July 2012.

Early April Total Precipitation

Ainsworth Downburst of July 8th
A frontal boundary, stalled across northern Nebraska, combined with an approaching upper level disturbance, producing strong to severe thunderstorms across portions of north central Nebraska on the evening of July 8th. Thunderstorms developed over eastern Cherry County and quickly became severe as they moved into northern Brown County. Thunderstorm wind gusts ranging from 80 to 100 MPH occurred to the west, southwest, and in portions of Ainsworth. Damaging winds from the storm destroyed a machine shed, a cattle feeding shed and produced severe damage to a dry fertilizer plant and a barn west of Ainsworth. The storm then moved into Ainsworth where it uprooted and produced significant damage to trees, as well as damaging power lines. Total damage from the storm was estimated at around a million dollars.

Destoryed Barn SW of Ainsorth

Tree Damage near Ainsworth

Record Flooding Along the South Platte and Platte Rivers (September)
Historical rains fell across the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains September 9-15th, 2013. These rains, which totaled over the yearly average, fell at rates of over 2 inches per hour causing drastic flash flooding and river flooding. Where the heaviest amounts were measured, total values through the seven days amounted up to 17 inches. These extreme amounts were more localized, however a large part of the area received greater than 8 inches in these seven days.

Although these rains did not fall across Nebraska, they did fall almost entirely in the South Platte River Basin. Therefore these extreme amounts of water were routed downstream through the South Platte and Platte River systems across western and central Nebraska through the following weeks.

Across Colorado, the extreme amounts of water caused historic flooding along the South Platte River and its tributaries. Many towns and land along the river were inundated with water which caused great amounts of damage to infrastructure, farmland, and personal property.

The flood waters began to move through the South Platte River into Nebraska on Tuesday, September 17th, with significant rises beginning across Deuel County on the 18th. Rises continued downstream through the following week, as the river gage at Roscoe, in central Keith County, rose above flood stage the 19th, and at the river gage at North Platte in the early morning hours of the 21st. The flood waters then entered into the main stem of the Platte River just east of North Platte and continued downstream. Flooding occurred along the Platte River across eastern Lincoln County, with the river gage at Brady rising above flood stage the afternoon of the 21st. Rises of up to a foot an hour were observed as the flood waters moved through the river channel. Flooding continued along all portions of these two rivers for roughly a week, while elevated flows continued through the first part of October due the great amounts of water moving through the river system. When the river flows were at their peak at each location, record gage heights were measured. At Roscoe, the South Platte River crested at 12.2 feet on September 20th, which broke the record of 11.3 feet set previously June 6, 1995. At North Platte, the South Platte River rose to 14.4 feet on September 23rd, breaking the previous record of 14.0 feet, set on June 3, 1935. At Brady, the Platte River crested at 9.8 feet on September 23rd. The previous record was 9.6 feet, set on May 14th, 1973.

Because the people of Nebraska had warning at least 5 days in advance of these high river flows, there were great amounts of preparations done to fight the incoming water and very little damage was incurred by these flood waters.

Before Flooding

During Flooding

Drought Conditions Improve in 2013

At the start of 2013 Western and North Central Nebraska was dealing with exceptional drought conditions from the lack of rainfall during most of 2012. Through the first 3-4 months of the year, rainfall for the most part continued to be below normal. During this time period many locations approached or reached a record low for any 365 day period. During the last few days of April, North Platte shattered the record with only 7.23 inches in the running 365 day total, breaking the old record of 7.87 inches set on June 9, 1932. Valentine was less than an inch away from its running 365 day total precipitation record at the end of February with 9.45 inches.
Rainfall for the rest of the year was much closer to normal and in some places above normal allowing for improving drought conditions. The biggest improvements occurred across far northern Nebraska where the drought conditions have improved to abnormally dry or no drought conditions. Portions of central Nebraska have improved to moderate drought. West Central and Southwest Nebraska were less fortunate, with drought conditions improvements only to severe and extreme categories. Rainfall was still below normal for much of the year, however rainfall was far better than 2012. From May 2012 through December 2012 only 6.60 inches of rainfall was recorded at Imperial, compared to 10.86 during May 2013 to December 2013.

U.S. Drought Monitor - January 1, 2013

U.S. Drought Monitor - April 2, 2013

U.S. Drought Monitor - May 7, 2013

U.S. Drought Monitor - July 2, 2013

U.S. Drought Monitor - September 3, 2013

U.S. Drought Monitor - December 24, 2013

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Page composition
by Matt Masek, Chris Buttler,
Jessica Brooks, Teresa Keck
& Kenny Roberg



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