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Another blizzard heading to Great Plains, Midwest this weekend: severe storms for the South

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After a snowstorm blanketed the Midwest with blizzard conditions at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, another major storm is heading toward the region tonight. The storm will also affect states in the Great Plains of the Mountain Prairie region.

The storm dumped huge amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada range in eastern California Thursday, along with heavy rain just to the west in the Sacramento and Yosemite Valleys. Evan LaGuardia, a meteorologist with the Reno, Nevada office, tells FreightWaves that more than four feet of snow fell at the summit of the Mammoth Mountain ski area in California (elevation 11,000 feet). Mount Rose, near Lake Tahoe, Nevada received 20 inches.

The jet stream is pushing the storm eastward, and winds swirling around the low pressure system will pick up in speed, possibly reaching blizzard force in some areas. The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS), part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), defines a blizzard as producing sustained wind or frequent gusts of 35 mph or stronger, accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to less than a quarter of a mile for at least three hours.

Pockets of rain, freezing rain, and sleet will occur at the onset of the storm Friday evening, making some roads icy with a tenth to a quarter of an inch of accumulation. Ice build-up could bring down tree branches that may end up blocking routes or knocking out power. These areas of mixed precipitation will change to all snow on Saturday, and overall the snowfall will crank up in intensity on Saturday.

The heaviest snow – 10 to 16 inches – is forecast to fall in areas along and north of the I-80 corridor from northern Nebraska into southern South Dakota and from northern Iowa into southern Minnesota, as well as east of a line from Great Falls, Montana to Buffalo, Wyoming. Winds gusts could reach 35 to 40 mph, so blowing snow will cause whiteouts and reduce visibility at times. Carriers will have to either wait or send drivers south of I-80 to avoid these treacherous areas.

Winter Storm Warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service for portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Look for updates on this interactive map.

The same system will produce severe thunderstorms across parts of the Southeast and Southwest regions from late Friday afternoon through Friday night. The storms will move from eastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas into Arkansas and northern Louisiana. The best chances for severe weather will be in the Arklatex region, at the intersection of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

The storms will not likely cause major disruptions in the supply chain, but drivers will run into periods of torrential rain which will reduce visibility, and sudden strong wind gusts will make driving difficult along I-20, I-30, I-35, and I-40, especially for anyone deadheading or hauling light loads. Winds could blow debris onto roads and knock out electricity. Also, watch out for pockets of hail as well as isolated tornadoes that could be strong.

So far the National Weather Service hasn’t issued any Severe Thunderstorm Watches across these areas, but this could change later today. Stay ahead of the storms using this interactive web site.

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.