Back-to-back storms to blast Plains to Upper Midwest with heavy snow through Sunday
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 20, 2019, 4:00:32 PM EST
As the punches from Old Man Winter keep coming, two storms will unload heavy snow from the southern High Plains to the Upper Midwest through Sunday.
The frequency and magnitude of the storms so far have pushed seasonal snowfall to well above average with more snowy weeks of the season to go.
Expect more school and flight delays and cancellations.
Motorists are urged to allow extra time for their travels as portions of the major highways such as Interstate 29, I-35, I-39, 70, I-80, I-90 and I-94. Travel within the heaviest snow swath may grind to a halt for a time.
First storm to slice northward over central US through midweek
The first storm began over the High Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado during Monday night before overspreading Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, eastern South Dakota and southern Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Snow will continue to spread northeastward through the middle of the week.
On Wednesday, snow will move into much of Minnesota, Wisconsin, eastern North Dakota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
"The heaviest snowfall, on the order of 6-10 inches total accumulation, will be centered on southern Minnesota with moderate to heavy snow from central Kansas to the shores of Lake Superior," according to AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteoroligist Richard Schraeger.
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Farther southeast, across the northern and central parts of Indiana and Ohio and the southern part of Michigan, a wintry mix of snow and ice is in store for early Wednesday morning. Even a thin coating of ice can lead to dangerous conditions on the roads.
Wednesday morning will be the worst part of the commute in Chicago. Spotty snow will riddle the Detroit area during the morning and midday Wednesday. Snow is forecast to persist through the Wednesday evening drive home around Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Ohio Valley, drenching rain will renew flash and urban flooding and aggravate the river flooding situation.
A few strong to locally severe thunderstorms are in store from southeastern Louisiana through Mississippi and western Alabama into Wednesday afternoon.
Second storm may produce blizzard conditions this weekend
The same storm set to bring feet of snow to parts of Arizona and significant snow to the rest of the Southwest late this week will swing onto the Plains this weekend.
The weekend storm, like the midweek storm, will track toward the Great Lakes.
"At this time, areas from northwestern Kansas to central Nebraska, northwestern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan have the potential to receive a general 6-12 inches of snow with locally higher amounts," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
However, a shift in the storm track may occur depending on the storm's exact path as it dips into the Southwest states.
The big difference with the weekend storm versus the midweek storm is that the weekend storm may be significantly stronger with gusty winds.
"The weekend storm is likely to produce blizzard conditions within and surrounding the heavy snow swath," Schraeger said.
Blizzard conditions may occur, even though precipitation in some parts of the southern Plains may start as rain or ice.
Cities at risk for blizzard conditions include Goodland, Kansas; Grand Island, Nebraska; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The storm is likely to bring all or mostly rain to Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.
Des Moines, Iowa, has received close to 20 inches of snow so far this month. Already, the city has received over 40 inches of snow since early November. The average annual snowfall is 35 inches.
Snowfall is also well above average for Omaha, Nebraska, this season. The average annual snowfall is 26.5 inches of snow, compared to about 41 inches already as of Wednesday morning.
Where there is a significant amount of snow on the ground from prior storms and rain falls with the second storm, the risk of urban flooding will be significant.
In the storm's warm sector, from northeastern Texas to perhaps southern Illinois and Indiana, there will be the risk of severe thunderstorms.
The details on the magnitude of the severe weather and the nature of the storms will unfold over the next few days.
At this time, there is the potential for a few isolated tornadoes, along with strong wind gusts and flooding.
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