Another big storm is heading toward the nation’s heartland soon, dumping lots of snow in portions of the Midwest and Mountain Prairie regions, in addition to stirring up blustery winds. It’ll be unpleasant for truckers and people dreaming of an early spring break getaway. Even snowbirds who have been “working for the weekend” may want to find a warm spot indoors.
As of this afternoon (Friday, February 22), the storm is spinning near the Four Corners region, at the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Flagstaff, Arizona, just north of Phoenix, had a daily record 35.9 inches of snow on Thursday. A lot of this snow will head through New Mexico and southern Colorado tonight, and the storm will get stronger as it heads northeastward on Saturday.
Several cities that could end up in the direct path of the storm have seen more than their share of snow this season. Omaha, Nebraska has already recorded 17.7 inches this month. Average snowfall for December through February is 19.3 inches, a total that has been nearly doubled, as the city has received 36.8 inches since December 1. The forecast is for three to seven inches of snow on Saturday.
Des Moines, Iowa typically sees around 26 inches for the same three-month period, but will likely exceed that amount this month as a few inches of snow are expected on Saturday. The city’s February total is already up to 22.5 inches. Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s February total of 33.8 inches, so far, surpasses it’s December through February average by three inches.
Heavy snow will move into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Saturday night as it fades across the areas previously mentioned, but not before several inches of snow pile up in many other spots across the Midwest, with isolated pockets of around 12 inches possible. Some it could be heavy, wet snow at that.
To make matters worse, a narrow but extensive swath of sleet and freezing rain could make some roads icy and dangerous from western Oklahoma to near Marquette, Michigan. Ice accumulations could reach a quarter-inch thick in some towns.
The snow and ice would cause enough disruptions as a pair, but winds will add a third layer of risk and could cause substantial damage. Gusts are expected to increase Saturday afternoon, reaching 40 to 55 mph in many areas, and lasting into Sunday. This will create bitterly cold wind chills, in addition to blizzard conditions that may lead to any or all of the following issues:
• Whiteout conditions with little/no visibility
• Downed tree limbs and power lines
• Loss of electricity
• Road closures
The National Weather Service has already issued a slew of alerts ahead of the storm, and will continue updating them prior to and during the storm. Carriers should avoid sending drivers through these areas, if possible. But if this isn’t feasible, drivers can check chain laws here for the latest updates on winter driving.
The threats of snow, ice and strong winds shift to the Northeast on Sunday, mainly from central Pennsylvania to Maine, mixing with or changing to sleet and rain in many communities. One silver lining: this slushy mess will likely stay away from major metropolitan areas along the I-95 corridor. However, winds through the interior Northeast could reach 60 to 75 mph, causing major damage in place including, but not limited to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Syracuse and Watertown in New York; Erie, State College and Williamsport in Pennsylvania; and Cleveland, Ohio.
Other Notable Weather This Weekend
Heavy snow will cover roads across central and eastern Oregon this weekend. Look for 10 to 20 inches in the Cascades, affecting travel on portions of I-84. Lower elevations of eastern Oregon could see up to six inches. A few feet of snow could accumulate across central Idaho from Saturday evening into next week.
Severe thunderstorms, extremely heavy rain and flooding will be ongoing threats across the Southeast. Drivers should plan on possible delays along the I-20, I-24, I-40, and I-65 corridors due to high water and potential roadblocks.