Groundhog Day storm to spread snow, ice across 2,000-mile swath of U.S.

By Renee Duff,

Jan. 31 -- AccuWeather meteorologists are tracking the makings of a far-reaching, disruptive winter storm which is forecast to spread a plowable snow and significant icing from the central and southern Rockies to parts of the Northeast this week.

Denver, Dallas and Detroit are among the major metro areas expected to face wintry consequences and potential travel trouble, forecasters say.


Winter and spring will be duking it out across the middle of the nation right around the time Punxsutawney Phil makes his highly anticipated forecast on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day. The clash of seasons will commence as a fresh wave of Arctic air dives southward into the northern Plains and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico surges northward.

An expansive area of snow and ice, extending along an approximate 2,000-mile-long swath of the country, is expected to break out as early as Tuesday night from portions of Colorado and New Mexico to Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. By Wednesday night, the wintry hazards are forecast to expand farther south and east into Texas, Arkansas and part of the lower Ohio Valley.


"Depending on the exact track of the storm, an extended zone of icing may develop from central Texas extending through the Ohio Valley. Areas like Dallas, Little Rock, and Indianapolis could be under a significant ice threat around the middle of this week," AccuWeather Meteorologist Joe Bauer said.

"Any areas that receive significant icing from this storm can experience downed trees and power lines," Bauer said, adding that the scope of the storm over such a large area can amplify logistical disruptions.

For some areas in this corridor, the period of icing could last 12-24 hours or more.

Travel will become extremely difficult and dangerous especially where freezing rain is the primary type of icy precipitation. Freezing rain creates a glaze of ice on untreated roads and sidewalks, and can cling to trees and power lines and lead to power outages.

Just to the north and west of the icy corridor will be a zone of accumulating, plowable snowfall.

The heaviest snow is likely to fall across the central and southern Rockies where the AccuWeather Local StormMax&trade of 36 inches is most likely to occur. But forecasters caution that even outside of the mountains, enough snow to cause slippery roadways and disruptions to daily routines will encompass a broad area.


"A swath of heavy snow accumulating in excess of 1-inch per hour could extend from portions of eastern Kansas through central Illinois, northern Indiana, southeast Michigan, and northwest Ohio, where totals of over 6 inches can occur," Bauer said.

Even portions of western Texas, such as Amarillo and Midland, and Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, may not be spared from the storm's wintry side as ongoing mild weather is replaced by a harsh chill.

Temperatures can plummet 20 to 30 degrees over 24 hours across the South Central states, according to Bauer.

The preceding warmth in this part of the country will allow for any snow to initially melt on contact with roads and sidewalks. However, as the snow continues to fall and temperatures plummet, conditions can turn icy in a hurry.

The rush of cold air southward may be potent enough for some snow and ice to reach as far south as the Big Bend of Texas late Wednesday into Thursday.

The broad nature of the storm is expected to lead to significant delays for travelers both on the road and in the air. Airline passengers with arrival and departure flights or connections in Denver, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis should be prepared to face weather-related delays around the middle of the week.


In 2011, a storm on Groundhog Day brought immense snow and travel problems to Chicago. The Windy City may be right on the edge of significant snow accumulations with this storm, according to forecasters.

As the storm shifts toward the Eastern Seaboard late in the week, weather-related travel woes can directly affect some of the larger Northeast hubs. Unlike the latest bomb cyclone that dumped feet of snow, the upcoming storm is expected to bring a mixed bag of precipitation to the region.

AccuWeather meteorologists stress that even small changes in the track of the storm can have large implications on precipitation types and whether a location lies within the corridor of rain, steady snow, significant icing, or nuisance flurries and light snow. In addition, a push of dry air behind the storm could plunge farther south than currently anticipated, leading to lower snowfall amounts on the northern and western edges of precipitation.

Forecasters say impacts from the storm will not just be of the wintry variety and that there could be a concern for severe weather as well. To the south and east of the corridor of icy mix, soaking rain and thunderstorms are likely.


"Heavy rain from eastern Texas through the Tennessee Valley and portions of the Southeast can lead to flash flooding and localized severe weather," Bauer said.

AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to monitor the latest trends with the storm and provide more details on exact timing, snowfall amounts and areas at risk for a dangerous ice storm in the coming days.

Scenes from the season's snow and ice

Rainfall and warmer weather brings a low fog to a snowy Central Park near the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace in New York City on February 3, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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