A giant winter storm is bringing severe weather to the central US on Tuesday, with dangerous blizzard conditions in the central and northern Plains, freezing weather in the Upper Midwest and strong storms with tornado risk expected along the Gulf Coast.
The storm, which circled the West over the weekend, is expected to strengthen as it pushes east on Tuesday, then stall in the central plains until Thursday, snarling travel amid snow and freezing rain. About 15 million people in a dozen states were under winter weather warnings or advisories Tuesday morning, with power outages a key concern.
Meanwhile, the southern end of the storm is expected to bring late-season tornadoes along with severe thunderstorms. About 25 million people from Texas to Mississippi are under threat of severe weather on Tuesday, also including damaging wind and large hail.
Here’s what different regions can expect in the coming days:
• Blizzard conditions are expected for parts of the central and northern Plains Tuesday and Wednesday, with snow at times expected to fall at rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour amid gusty winds of 40 mph.
• An “enhanced risk” for severe thunderstorms Tuesday extends from eastern Texas to northern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, with tornadoes, large hail and damaging straight-line winds possible.
• A tornado watch is in effect Tuesday morning for parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma until 11 a.m. CT.
• The greatest flash flooding threat will be Tuesday through Wednesday from the lower Mississippi Valley to the central Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachians.
• Freezing rain and sleet will be possible through Wednesday in the Upper Midwest.
The storm, which first hit the western US with much-needed snow and rain, resulted in winter storm warnings from the Canadian border to Mexico’s border with New Mexico.
In Denver, up to 5 inches of snow is expected Tuesday, with wind gusts of 50 mph possible.
Blizzard warnings were extended Tuesday from parts of Montana and Wyoming to northeastern Colorado, western Nebraska and South Dakota, where severe, life-threatening conditions are expected.
Snowfall by Wednesday morning could generally be 10 to 18 inches across the central and northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Some areas within the blizzard warning zones — particularly western South Dakota, eastern Wyoming and northwestern Nebraska — could get as much as 24 inches of snow, with winds strong enough to knock down tree limbs and cause power outages, the Forecast Center said. Weather.
“We’re not expecting a quick burst of snowfall here,” Brandon Wills, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyoming, said Monday night. The snow will “accumulate the highest point in the north handle of Nebraska – and it’s going to blow around like crazy because of the high winds we’re going to have as well,” he said.
Interstates in South Dakota could become impassable amid blizzard conditions, leading to road closures across the state, the South Dakota Department of Transportation warned Monday.
Ice storm warnings were issued for parts of eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and western Iowa. Up to two-tenths of an inch of ice could accumulate in some of those areas, forecasters said.
In Anchorage, Alaska, an “unprecedented amount of snowfall” led to four days of school closures, and on Monday the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University closed.
“The snowstorms that have hit Anchorage over the last week are historic in nature, bringing 30-45 inches of snow to our city,” Hans Rodvik, a spokesman for the Anchorage mayor’s office, said in a statement to CNN on Monday.
Meanwhile, the southern edge of the storm threatens to bring tornadoes.
A tornado watch is in effect Tuesday morning for parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma until 11 a.m. CT. The main threats are tornadoes, hail and wind gusts up to 70 mph.
A severe weather warning – level 3 out of 5 – was issued Tuesday for East Texas and the lower Mississippi River Valley, with the main threats including strong tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail. Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette, Louisiana, are part of the threatened area, as is Jackson, Mississippi.
A low risk zone – level 2 out of 5 – surrounded this area, stretching from eastern Texas and southern Oklahoma to southern Arkansas and much of the rest of Louisiana and central Mississippi. This includes Dallas and New Orleans.