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Dangerous blizzard to unload a foot of snow from Colorado to Michigan

By By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWather senior meteorologist
February 03, 2016, 12:36:38 AM EST

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A snowstorm will evolve into a dangerous blizzard and threaten to shut down travel as it tracks northeastward across the middle of the nation through Tuesday, Groundhog Day.

The storm will put down 6-12 inches of snow along a 1,600-mile swath in the U.S. from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Higher amounts are likely in portions of the central Plains to the Upper Midwest.

Some locations in the mountains of Colorado have already received a foot or more of snow from the storm. Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado, received 23 inches of snow in 24 hours as of Monday morning.


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Blowing and drifting snow will be a trademark of the storm along much of its path. However, the worst conditions, including an all-out blizzard, are most likely in the swath from near the Colorado and Kansas border through southern and eastern Nebraska, northern and western Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, central Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Snow and/or strong winds with the storm will last about 24 hours in many areas.


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This is the type of storm that has the potential to shut down major highways, including parts of interstates 25, 29, 35, 40, 70, 80, 90 and 94. Snow of varying intensity combined with strong winds will cause extensive blowing and drifting with poor visibility.

Those who venture out on the roads could get stranded as the snow piles up and temperatures fall. The combination of wind, snow and other conditions will result in AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures plunging into the single digits and below zero degrees Fahrenheit in some cases.

"Moderate to heavy snow will fall with the storm, so it will be difficult for crews to keep roads open," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Becky Elliot. "If you are able, plan on working from home, or if you absolutely have to travel, give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination."

In the hardest-hit areas, some secondary roads and streets could be blocked for days following the storm.

The storm has had a history of producing gusts to 70 mph in parts of New Mexico.

At the height of the storm, winds can gust past 50 mph with the potential for power outages from portions of the southern Plains to the Upper Midwest.

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AccuWeather winter weather center

Even where sleet and rain mix in with the snow, from south-central Kansas to the northern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, travel can be difficult and very slippery.

The storm has already prompted hundreds of flight cancellations at Denver International Airport on Monday. Additional flight cancellations and delays are likely to spread from Denver to other hubs in the middle of the nation, including Minneapolis, Omaha, Nebraska, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, through Tuesday night.

Even though most of the snow will stay north and west of Chicago, enough wind and rain can occur and cause some airline disruptions at O'Hare International Airport, as well as General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wind and rain could cause delays around Detroit.

Denver could receive its biggest snowfall of the season so far from the long-duration storm early this week. The biggest single-storm snowfall this season was 7.7 inches on Dec. 15. So far during January, only 4.4 inches of snow has fallen.

The storm will bring a wide range of weather, including the risk of violent thunderstorms in the storm's warm sector, over the lower Mississippi Valley and Deep South on Groundhog Day.

Winds and snow will diminish from southwest to northeast across the middle of the nation spanning late Tuesday to Wednesday.


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