Blizzard Unfolding Over the Western Plains

December 19, 2011; 6:22 AM ET
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A blizzard will continue to unfold across the Southwest and western Plains through Tuesday, severely impacting early holiday travel.

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What Will Cause the Winter Weather?

A storm system that brought a significant amount of snow to Southwestern mountain chains the last few days will push east over New Mexico today and continue to tap into moisture, allowing for rain and snow to become more widespread and heavier today.

At first, snow was falling heaviest in the mountains of New Mexico and southern Colorado, mainly above 6,000 feet.

Farther south and east, rain has changed over to snow across southeastern Colorado and portions of eastern New Mexico. Heavier rain will take shape across portions of West Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas before changing over to snow. As cold air mixes in, rain will change to heavy snow by this afternoon from Amarillo, Texas, through Guymon, Okla., and Dodge City, Kan.

Farther to the south, strong thunderstorms could affect cities from Dallas to Houston this afternoon and evening.

How Much Snow Will Fall?

As far as snowfall accumulations go, the higher elevations of the southern Colorado Rockies through the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico could receive 6-12 inches of new snowfall before all is said and done.

Farther east, in some of the more populated zones, a swath of 6-12 inches will be the rule from southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico through the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles into a large chunk of southwestern Kansas. Cities such as Guymon, Dodge City, and Dalhart lie in this zone.

A narrow area in the aforementioned zone could see over a foot of snow, and locally 18 inches. Snow will come down heavy with rates up to 2 inches an hour while winds gust past 40 mph at times, creating blizzard conditions in some communities.

Farther south, snowfall amounts will taper off quickly as you get into milder air. Even so, Amarillo will get in on the accumulating snow, picking up between 3 and 6 inches of accumulation.

Rain changing to snow will start to translate northeastward into Monday night, bringing accumulations to Kansas City, Topeka and Manhattan...Kansas that is! Through tonight, these cities will receive a general 1-3 inches of snow.

Tough to Impossible Travel Expected

According to Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "As snow spills out over the southern High Plains through Monday, snow is likely to fall and accumulate in part of I-40 stretching across the northern Texas Panhandle and Route 54 reaching northeastward into southern Kansas."

Travel impacts are being felt across southern and eastern portions of Colorado with snow and high winds spreading. This map from Colorado Dot shows roadway conditions. Purple denotes areas experiencing high winds, the light blue color denotes high winds and snow and the dark blue denotes high winds with snow and icy spots.

Not only will the snow make for slippery travel, but brisk winds will develop across the central and southern Plains.

Significant blowing and drifting of the snow is expected across this region with northeast winds gusting to between 40 and 50 mph! Detours, delays and road closures are all possible through early this week.

For more information on travel weather across the country, read our travel troubles story written by Meteorologist Meghan Evans.

Wild weather will shift farther east Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing snow and ice chances from Chicago to Detroit through northern New England.

AccuWeather.com Meteorologists Bill Deger and Meghan Evans contributed to the content of this story.

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