Winter storm bringing travel difficulties across central US
An enormous winter storm will mark the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 by producing accumulating and travel-halting snowfall in at least 18 states from the southwestern United States to the Midwest and even parts of Canada during the holiday weekend, AccuWeather meteorologists say.
More than 800 flights had been canceled on Saturday morning ahead of the storm at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Nearly 300 flights had been canceled at Chicago Midway Airport as well.
Travel along vast stretches of interstates 29, 35, 39, 70, 80, 90 and 96 in the Central states can be difficult and dangerous at the height of the winter storm through Saturday night.
Several roads and highways became difficult to travel on by Saturday afternoon. Crews responded to a crash on I-380 in Iowa as snow started to come down quickly.
In Kansas, a driver rear-ended a KDOT plow on I-135 while it was clearing snow. The driver of the car was transported by EMS with non-life threatening injuries. Icy roads continued to be an issue in Kansas, causing several slideoffs and crashes near Emporia. A KDOT materials spreader slid into a semi, shutting down the onramp for a period of time. No injuries were reported for that crash.
Snow covered and slippery conditions began to expand east toward I-55 in Illinois as snowfall picked up Saturday afternoon.
Multiple lanes closed in Kenosha County, Wisconsin on I-94 southbound as heavy snowfall impacted the area.
People who become stranded in open areas of the snow and ice storm will be at risk for hypothermia and frostbite if not properly dressed for the cold air that sweeps in during and immediately after the storm. In some parts of the central Plains that receive snow, temperatures are forecast to plummet to well below zero Fahrenheit Saturday night.
As of early Saturday morning, winter storm warnings have been issued for portions of nine states from the Four Corners region to the central Plains. Chicago, Milwaukee, Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, are among the Central U.S. cities that have been included in a winter storm warning.
National Weather Service winter storm warnings appear in blue, while gale warnings on Lake Michigan are indicated as purple as of Saturday morning, Jan. 1, 2022.
Due to the cross-continent storm's timing coinciding with the New Year's holiday, major travel disruptions are anticipated. Flight delays and cancellations are likely to increase substantially as aircraft and crews are grounded or displaced by the storm.
"This will be a massive storm in terms of the areal coverage of 3-8 inches of snow in the central United States that includes Chicago and many other hubs," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. Locally higher amounts are forecast from the Rockies to the Great Lakes.
In addition to Chicago, the major cities of Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; and Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan; are in the zone where moderate to heavy snow is expected to fall during part of the New Year's weekend.
After unloading 3-6 inches of rain on Los Angeles and heavy snow in the mountains of Southern California during Wednesday night and Thursday, the storm will moved swiftly along with heavy snow for parts of the Colorado Rockies from Friday to early Saturday. A general 6-12 inches of snow fell on the mountains in Colorado with locally higher amounts as of early Saturday. Enough snow to shovel and plow has occurred around Denver from the storm which is forecast to taper off at midday on Saturday. Prior to this storm, the Mile High City had received less than an inch of snow as of Dec. 30, compared to an average of nearly 19 inches for this point of the season. A total of about 6 inches of snow is forecast around the Denver metro area with locally higher amounts by the time the storm departs later Saturday afternoon.
Gusty winds ahead of the storm contributed to the fast-moving wildfire in the Boulder, Colorado, area on Thursday. The heavy blanket of snow has brought an end to the wildfire risk in the region as of Saturday.
Farther to the east, around Topeka, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, the storm began as a bit of ice, but quickly transitioned to snow. Temperatures had plummeted from near 60 on Friday afternoon and were already in the teens and lower 20s at daybreak Saturday morning. By the early afternoon hours, temperatures had slipped lower and into the lower teens and upper single digits. The conditions will create a sheet of ice beneath the snow and cause the snow to adhere to untreated surfaces. Temperatures may struggle to rise much on Saturday afternoon in parts of northern Kansas, most of Nebraska and Iowa and northern Missouri with highs in the single digits and teens forecasters say.
Some areas from the central and southern Plains to the Midwest and northern tier of the Northeast will have to deal with a zone of freezing rain, sleet or a rapid freeze-up that leaves surfaces covered in a glaze of ice.
Even in areas where rain simply ends and roads dry off prior to the arrival of cold air, the temperature plunge alone from October-like warmth to January's frigid cold could be quite a shock to those living in the Plains states. After a warm day with highs in the 70s F on Saturday in Dallas, temperatures are forecast to fall quickly into the 40s and 50s late in the day and then down to near 20 Saturday night.
The combination of wind and cold, dry air will result in AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures that can range from below zero to the single digits over the central and southern Plains in the wake of the storm. In some cases, it will feel 60, 70 and even 80 degrees colder on New Year's Day or on Sunday compared to conditions experienced in much of December.
A major snowfall of 12 inches or more is predicted by AccuWeather from part of Iowa to northwestern Illinois spanning Saturday to Saturday night, where snowfall rates may exceed 2 inches per hour. Gusty winds in this zone may lead to blizzard conditions and nearly impossible travel for a time.
Snow overspread Chicago at midday and several inches of snow are forecast to fall from Saturday afternoon into Saturday night. Chicago finally snapped its streak of days with non-measurable snow on Tuesday when 1.5 inches fell at O'Hare Airport.
Depending on the exact track of the storm and area of heaviest snowfall, Chicagoland could quickly start building its seasonal snowfall total. A general 4-8 inches of snow is forecast to fall on New Year's Day, but there is the potential for more in some locations should Lake Michigan add extra moisture to the storm in the region. By the end of December, Chicago typically receives an average of about 9 inches of snow.
Even though Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio, will likely miss out on the bulk of the snow from the storm with rain forecast during most of the event on New Year's Day, enough cold air can sweep in fast enough for a quick freeze up, along with intermittent snow and slippery conditions from late Saturday night to early Sunday. Farther to the north over the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, snow may pile up at the rate of 1-2 inches per hour from Friday night to New Year's Day, leading to difficult travel conditions.
Mostly rain is forecast to fall from the storm from the central Appalachians to much of the Northeast, but in portions of northern and western New York state and northern Maine, snow or an icy mix can occur as cold air rushes in on the backside Saturday night into early Sunday.
Across the border, a foot (25 cm) of snow with locally higher amounts will fall on the southern portions of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec from Saturday to early Sunday. Enough snow to shovel and plow is foreseen in Toronto and Montreal.
The same potent winter storm will also be responsible for flooding rainfall and a major outbreak of severe weather that includes tornadoes from parts of Texas to the Ohio and Tennessee valleys from Saturday to Saturday night. Severe thunderstorms are also likely on Sunday from northern Florida to North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.
For the latest weather news check back on AccuWeather.com. Watch the AccuWeather Network on DIRECTV, Frontier, Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo, and Verizon Fios. AccuWeather Now is now available on your preferred streaming platform.Report a Typo
Top StoriesMore Stories