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Late-week ice storm may threaten dangerous travel, power outages in central US

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 11, 2017, 1:25:41 PM EST


    You will be redirected momentarily to the latest story on the upcoming ice storm.

    Just enough cold air may return with moisture to bring the risk of ice along a 1,000-mile swath of the central United States from Friday to Saturday.

    A shallow layer of cold air will exist in the part of the atmosphere closest to the ground across the corridor at risk. The cold air will replace a surge of mild air with some rain at midweek.

    Static NC US 1/11


    While the actual scope of the storm may vary, conditions will be favorable for a swath of freezing rain spreading from the southern Plains to part of the Midwest as the week draws to a close, according to AccuWeather Storm Warning Meteorologist Alex Avalos.

    "The storm is still several days away, but perhaps the greatest risk for a buildup of ice extends from part of the Texas Panhandle through central Missouri," Avalos said.

    In this zone, there is potential for 0.25 to 0.75 of an inch of ice, which is enough to weigh down tree limbs and raise the risk of power outages, in some communities.

    Even a thin glaze of ice in the area from eastern New Mexico to western Ohio could turn roads and sidewalks into a skating rink.

    Static cen US ice storm Fri/Sat


    The ice will pose a significant risk for both local commuters and long-distance travelers.

    How much ice accrues and falls versus plain rain, sleet and snow will depend on the track of the storm and the amount of cold verses warm air in place.

    People traveling to or living in the cities of Amarillo, Texas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Springfield and Peoria, Illinois; and Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana; may want to monitor storm as the week progresses.

    The potential for icy travel includes part of the Interstate 35 corridor, as well as portions of I-40 and I-70 in the Plains states.

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    Freezing rain occurs when falling snow melts high in the atmosphere as it encounters warm air but freezes as it comes in contact with cold ground.

    Farther north and west, from northeastern New Mexico to Iowa and northern Illinois, cold air may be extensive enough for sleet and snow to occur. However, the air may become too dry too fast for much precipitation to fall.

    There is also the chance that a period or two of ice and snow extends into the Northeast this weekend into early next week.

    static ice NE weekend 1/11


    From central Texas to the Ohio Valley, the air will likely be too warm for any ice or snow. Instead, rain is in the offing, with significant moisture present to provide fuel for heavy amounts.

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