Midwestern US: Wind-swept snow, treacherous travel to focus from Ohio to Kentucky into Saturday night

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 20, 2019, 2:49:17 AM EST

For the latest information on the storm's impacts as it sweeps from the Midwest to the Northeast, please visit this news story.

Despite rain starting the weekend across the Ohio Valley, plummeting temperatures will return snow, treacherous travel and frigid conditions through Saturday night.

Motorists will be at risk for getting stuck on the highways, and airline passengers may spend hours at airports due to mounting airline delays and flight cancellations. Unnecessary travel should be avoided during the storm, due to the risk of being stranded in your vehicle in plummeting temperatures.

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The severity of the storm, wind and cold air that follow may force schools to close that are not already closed on Monday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Timing the storm

While one band of snow spread from southern Minnesota to southern Michigan and northern Ohio, a second area developed over eastern Oklahoma. As this snow spread eastward, it accumulated several inches in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

As the storm tracks northeastward, rain will continue to changeover to snow across the Ohio Valley through Saturday night.

"Residents in Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, should not let their guard down with the weekend starting with rain," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. "Roads will turn from wet to slushy and very slippery in a matter of a few hours as the rain changes to snow and temperatures plummet."

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Motorists planning to travel on stretches of interstates 24, 55, 64, 65, 71 and 75 are urged to use extreme caution and be alert for the slick conditions.

Increasingly gusty winds through Saturday night will whip the snow around, dramatically reducing visibility.

Snow amounts expected from the storm

Snow amounts of 3-6 inches are expected across the lower Ohio River Valley, while the storm can end with 1-3 inches in southern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky.

Unlike the storm last weekend, the majority of the snow is bypassing St. Louis.

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While the snow will wind down in Chicago after delivering 6-10 inches, around 6 inches can pile up around Detroit into Saturday evening.

Heavier snow can unfold across northeastern Ohio, pushing amounts to around a foot in Cleveland.

Strong wind and ice to add to hazards, cause power outages

Strong winds during the height of the storm through Sunday will cause extensive blowing and drifting snow, blizzard conditions and broken tree limbs.

Near and just south of the heavy snow area, a substantial amount of sleet and freezing rain occurred just north of Interstate 70 in Ohio and Indiana. The ice has weighed down power lines northeast of Indianapolis.

The increasing winds during the latter part of the storm may cause an exponential increase in the number of power outages during Saturday night and Sunday, threatening to leave people without power as Arctic air takes hold.

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Dangerous freeze-up looms in wake of storm

The rapid temperature drop during and in the wake of the storm will cause wet and slushy areas to freeze.

Prompt snow removal is recommended to prevent a thick layer of ice from forming, which would be difficult to remove after temperatures fall into the teens and lower.

AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will dip to dangerous levels during and after the storm.

Download the free AccuWeather app to see how much snow and cold air is coming to your area.

Join host Regina Miller as she examines Forensic Meteorology and the reconstruction of weather events for legal testimonies. Steve Wistar, AccuWeather’s Forensic Meteorologist and Certified Consulting Meteorologist recalls prominent legal cases where winter weather played a key role in the verdicts.

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