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Major winter storm aiming at Midwest

Thick ice, heavy snow possible from Colorado to Michigan

(Photo: Illinois DOT)

After parts of the Northeast got walloped by heavy snow and blizzard conditions over the weekend, it will be the Midwest’s turn in a few days.

A storm system is projected to track into the southern Plains by late Tuesday and then intensify across the Midwest and Great Lakes on Wednesday and Thursday. With widespread arctic air draped across the north-central U.S., the dynamics are coming together for a potentially significant event producing heavy snow, whiteouts and possibly thick ice accumulations.

Based on the latest model guidance Monday morning, the favored areas for ice would be in a zone from the southern Plains through the southern Midwest and eastern Great Lakes. The National Weather Service has already issued winter storm watches stretching more than 1,000 miles from Colorado to Michigan, anticipating ice and/or snow. More places may be added.

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In general, snow totals will reach 6 to 12 inches for many places, with some locations possibly getting buried by as much as 18 inches. Some areas will see less snow but up to one-quarter inch of ice. Who gets more snow than ice, or vice versa, as well as amounts will depend on the exact path of the storm. Computer model guidance should be able to better pinpoint these uncertainties by later Monday or early Tuesday.

Major cities in the potential impact zone include Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; most of Illinois, including Chicago; much of Indiana, including Indianapolis; Detroit; as well as Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

Significant delays in freight flows on the roads and in the air are likely due to limited visibility and possible road and airport closures. Also, look for disruptions in loading and unloading at intermodal ramps, in addition to possible power outages.

Major interstates in the potential storm patch include I-35, I-40, I-44, I-55, I-69, I-70, I-72, I-80 and I-90. The longest stretch of highway with the most impacts will probably be I-70.

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Late Thursday into Friday, the storm may drop freezing rain and heavy snow into the interior Northeast, from upstate New York to northern New England — places not hit by the Saturday storm.

Major lane of concern

• Interstate 70 from Denver to Columbus.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.