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    Freezeup, Snow Bursts Midwest to Appalachians

    January 12, 2012; 1:05 PM ET
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    Be ready for this sort of thing from parts of the Midwest to the Appalachians into early Friday. Image appears courtesy of Ishin Ueyama of a crash scene on on I-77 in West Virginia, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012.

    As arctic air sweeps eastward from the Midwest to the Appalachians, the region will be hit by bursts of snow and a freezeup.

    Folks in the region who have been asking "where's winter" will have their answer before Friday. Folks in St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati got the reply already.

    The area from the Midwest to the Northeast will get two weeks' worth of winter in two days spanning today and Friday factoring in snow, wind, cold and icy travel.

    According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, "This has the makings of disaster on area highways, including I-70, I-75 and I-80."

    Anderson is referring to the layer of ice that will form under newly fallen snow making for dangerous travel conditions.

    After a mild-mannered start to the day Thursday around the central and eastern Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley, much colder air continued to race eastward during the evening and night. A sudden change to wintry conditions and slippery travel are heading for the cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Zanesville, Ohio, as well as Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

    To add to the dramatics of a strong arctic cold front, an upper-level disturbance swinging up from Tennessee will add some atmospheric fireworks.

    Some areas over the lower Ohio Valley were getting strong gusts of wind and snow showers that whitened the ground as the cold air arrived in the wake of rain.

    However, farther east and north in the Midwest and over much of the Appalachians, a period or two of heavy snow will hit, then gusty winds will drive the arctic air in. A thunderstorm may mark the passage of the strong cold front.

    The dramatic change will seem like it's not coming due to the East Coast storm holding the arctic air up temporarily.

    Around Chicago and Milwaukee during this afternoon and evening, winter will finally hit. It may seem like a blizzard for a time as the snow becomes dry and powdery, while being driven by strong winds and plunging temperatures.

    The worst conditions will hit the eastern end of the Ohio Valley and Appalachians later tonight into Friday morning. Call it a thump snow.

    This snow map shows the front end snow in northern New England and neighboring Canada, as well as the back end, delayed snow for the Midwest and central Appalachians. For a larger version of this snow map, visit the AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center.

    East of the Appalachians, odds favor rain (and a thunderstorm) ending in most places before the cold air arrives.

    According to Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "Usually in this situation in the major cities along I-95 roads will just dry off as the wind kicks in."

    It will get quite warm ahead of the arctic front along the coast.

    However, Abrams added that some icy spots could form north and west of the I-95 cities during the morning and midday Friday and motorists should be on guard.

    Whether or not you get a passing snow shower or or several inches of snow, there is the risk of a layer of ice forming rapidly underneath as temperatures crash.

    Wait, There's More!

    The cold air will settle in over the Midwest and Northeast over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend.

    As the cold air passes over the relatively warm, open waters of the Great Lakes, another significant lake-effect snow event will occur Friday.

    There is also the chance of a fast-moving storm from the Canada Prairies (an Alberta clipper) paying a visit with general snow for part of the Midwest Saturday then part of the mid-Atlantic on Sunday.

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