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Wash Post: Snow cover in the Lower 48 is at record levels as November starts

The season’s first snows have frosted the Rocky Mountains, the northern Plains, the Great Lakes and northern New England over the past week, resulting in the most extensive early-November snow cover in at least two decades.

On Wednesday morning, snow was on the ground in 17.9 percent of the Lower 48, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Locations from eastern Minnesota to western New York saw snow on Halloween — even enough to shovel in Minneapolis; Milwaukee; Muskegon, Mich.; and Buffalo. Areas downwind of Lakes Erie and Ontario were also blanketed early Wednesday, including Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, while several inches were anticipated along some of the west-facing slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.

Snow depth as of Wednesday. (NOAA NOHRSC)

Record-setting cold fuels early-season snow

The current abundance of snow was made possible by a powerful early-season outbreak of cold air. It brought a handful of record lows in the northern Plains on Halloween and in areas to the south and east of there on Wednesday morning.

Records threatened Wednesday morning. (

About 119 million Americans began Wednesday at or below freezing; the temperature averaged over the Lower 48 was 31.3 degrees — more than 10 degrees below average.

Numerous locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri flirted with or broke record lows Wednesday morning. This included a teeth-chattering 8 degrees in Mount LeConte, Tenn., in the Smoky Mountains — the location’s earliest single-digit low on record.