KEARNEY, Neb. – Dangerous blizzard conditions due to a developing low pressure system are expected to hamper travel on major highways in the central United States for the millions of vacationers who hit the road or fly on Christmas Day.
A powerful storm that already caused problems in Southern California and the desert Southwest last week, fueled by an El Niño-charged southern jet stream, is now joining forces with another storm from the north -western Pacific to create a variety of impactful weather conditions.
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What’s up with the storm?
While those on the warm side of the storm in the Southern Plains and along the Gulf Coast will face torrential rain and an isolated threat of flash flooding, the rear of the storm will bring heavy snowfall as a cold air mass from Canada plunges into the north. parts of the United States
Blizzard warnings were issued across the Plains through Tuesday as the storm system began to take shape.
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Up to a half-foot of snow had already been measured Sunday west of Denver in the Colorado Rockies. Up to 8 inches were recorded in Burlington, Colorado, along the Kansas border.
Although only minor accumulations were reported around the Denver-Boulder area, it was likely a welcome sight with Santa on the way in a few hours.
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Where are blizzard warnings in effect?
Blizzard warnings were issued for more than half a million people in southeastern and south-central South Dakota and central and northeastern Nevada.rrequest.
Winter storm warnings, winter storm watches, and winter weather advisories are in effect for other parts of the region, extending from parts of Wyoming and Colorado northeastward to parts of western and northern Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
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What are the forecasts for Christmas Day and the week ahead?
The complex interaction between the low pressure system will continue through Christmas, with more rapid intensification of the low pressure system expected to occur over the western portion of the Midwest.
The low pressure system will intensify even more rapidly from Christmas night through Tuesday morning, introducing a significant threat of strong and gusty winds that will increase and extend across the north-central United States. With cold air surrounding this intensifying storm, it is possible for a blizzard to continue to intensify across the northern and central Plains, with Monday night into Tuesday morning the most likely time for severe weather conditions. Dangerous blizzards occur.
According to the National Weather Service, a snowstorm must meet the following criteria to become an official blizzard: sustained winds or frequent gusts up to at least 35 mph and considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to a quarter mile or less, both of which must persist for a period of three hours or more.
More than a foot of snow is expected to overlap with wind gusts up to 50 to 55 mph in areas under blizzard warnings, some of which will remain in effect until 6 a.m. PST Wednesday.
“So it’s going to be a major concern on portions of (Interstate) 80, I-29 and even near I-90,” said FOX weather meteorologist Craig Herrera.
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Freezing rain and sleet could create icy roads from Plains to Minnesota
Additionally, a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain will likely be a problem farther east and northeast, from the Northern Plains to Minnesota, from Christmas Day through Tuesday evening.
The best chances for ice accumulation appear to be concentrated along Interstate 29 in eastern Dakota and western Minnesota, where freezing rain is possible starting Christmas morning. The threat of freezing rain extends further west and north on Christmas Eve.
“The freezing line is a very thin line, so those of you who live in eastern Nebraska will experience rain and snow in the evening,” Herrera said.
By Tuesday, a band of freezing rain with potentially disruptive ice accumulation could extend from eastern Nebraska and western Iowa to eastern Dakota and west and north of Minnesota. This could disrupt travel in Fargo and Grand Forks in North Dakota, Sioux Falls in South Dakota and Sioux City in Iowa.
“We could have icing… which can also be very disruptive,” Herrera added. “Particularly bridges and overpasses (along) major highways like I-94, I-90, I-29 – those will be areas to watch out for if you’re heading home after the holidays.”
What is the timing of this huge storm?
Here is a series of maps highlighting when this massive storm will occur across the central United States over the next few days.
It is already underway in some areas and will continue to impact travel in parts of the Plains and Midwest through Wednesday morning.
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