- A major winter storm is shaping up this weekend in the nation’s mid-section.
- Heavy snow and strong winds may produce blizzard conditions in the Northern Plains.
- Some freezing rain may lead to icy roads, as well.
- Heavy snow will also pummel the mountains of the Southwest.
- Some snow and ice will also spread to the Northeast, but should be confined to northern New England.
A major winter storm will bring heavy snow, some ice and potentially blizzard conditions to parts of the Plains this weekend, potentially snarling post-Christmas holiday travel.
This storm system is currently bringing rain and heavy mountain snow to Southern California, southern Nevada and much of Arizona.
Portions of interstates 5, 8 and 15 in southern California were closed due to heavy snow on Thursday, standing vehicles for hours in the higher elevations of those interstates.
Strong winds downed trees in Lynwood, California, in the Los Angeles metro area, early Thursday morning.
More than a foot of snow has fallen in Flagstaff, Arizona, as of early Thursday.
Once the system pivots out of the Southwest, low pressure is expected to intensify in the Plains this weekend.
The air mass ahead of the storm will remain very warm for late December, so some areas that are used to seeing snow this time of year may end up seeing predominantly rain.
However, some cold air will be pulled in behind the intensifying storm, so wind-driven snow and some freezing rain is expected in other areas from the Northern Plains to northern New England.
So, this storm may resemble one you might expect in November or March, rather than late December.
A number of winter storm watches, warnings and winter weather advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service from Southern California into the Plains states.
In general, the worst conditions are expected where winter storm warnings are in effect. Strong wind gusts, blowing and drifting snow and icy conditions may make travel impossible, especially in the northern Plains.
The bulk of rain and higher-elevation snow is moving into Arizona, southern Utah, New Mexico and southern Colorado where it will continue through Friday. Some lingering snow is possible in these higher elevations into Saturday, before the storm’s precipitation finally moves away.
Heavy snow will continue above 2,000 feet in southern California into the overnight hours going into Friday.
Parts of Arizona’s Mogollon Rim and the mountains of New Mexico and southern Colorado should easily pick up over 6 inches of snow through Saturday.
This may lead to significant travel difficulty through the passes of Southern California and along Interstate 40 in northern Arizona and Interstate 25 north of Albuquerque.
Plains/Midwest Snow and Ice
Here is a general timeline for the storm in the Plains and Midwest:
–Friday: The low pressure system will move northeastward through the Southwest. Snow will continue across the Four Corners region, while expanding into western Nebraska, southeastern Wyoming and western Kansas. Rain spreads into the central and southern Plains during the day. A few thunderstorms are possible in parts of Texas or Oklahoma. Friday night, snow expands into the Northern Plains, possibly as far north as central Minnesota. Freezing rain is possible from parts of northern Kansas into central Nebraska, southeast South Dakota, northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.
–Saturday: The low pressure system will cross through the Central Plains while intensifying. Heavy snow will pound areas from the central High Plains into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Some freezing rain is possible in parts of northern Michigan, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, though that may change to rain from south to north.
Increasing wind may lead to blizzard conditions from the eastern Dakotas into western Minnesota.
–Sunday and Monday: Snow will linger while winds may actually increase in the Northern Plains, with precipitation eventually changing to snow across much of the upper Mississippi Valley. Areas of lingering light snow and gusty winds may last in the western Great Lakes Monday.
Parts of the Northern Plains from the eastern Dakotas to western and northern Minnesota have the best chance of seeing heavy snow, with at least 6 inches of snow likely. Over a foot of snow is at least possible in this general area.
Strong winds could lead to blizzard conditions this weekend, perhaps lasting into at least early Monday in the Plains. You need to make alternate plans if you have travel plans this weekend in this area. Road closures, including stretches of interstate highways, are probable in this zone of heaviest snow.
Some ice accumulation is possible from central Nebraska into central Wisconsin that may lead to hazardous roads, particularly overpasses and may trigger some power outages, at least for a time. However, this forecast is particularly tricky in that precipitation in at least parts of this may change to rain, then back to snow.
By Sunday, precipitation should spread into the East. Warmer air on southerly winds should keep precipitation mainly in the form of rain for most in the Northeast Sunday and Sunday night, with the exception of upstate New York and northern New England, where stubborn cold air may allow areas of freezing rain, sleet and snow to persist.
Monday, colder air and the potential of at least weak low pressure forming off the New England seaboard should allow precipitation to change to snow in parts of central and upstate New York into New England. Some snow may linger in the interior Northeast into New Year’s Eve (Tuesday).
The majority of computer forecast models suggest the Interstate 95 Boston-to-Washington, D.C., corridor should see predominantly rain, rather than ice or snow.
Parts of northern New England and upstate New York may pick up moderate snow accumulations, and some ice accumulations in northern New England may lead to slippery roads and potentially some power outages, in spots.