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Massive winter storm to blast more than 30 states with snow, rain or wind

One of the largest storms of the winter so far will bring impacts from snow, rain and wind for over more than 2 million square miles of the central and eastern United States from Monday to Tuesday.

By Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather.com
Forecasters day more than 2 million square miles spread across 30 states will be affected by one of the largest storms of the winter so far by early next week. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Forecasters day more than 2 million square miles spread across 30 states will be affected by one of the largest storms of the winter so far by early next week. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

A massive and potent winter storm storm will sprawl over much of the eastern half of the nation early next week, encompassing more than 30 states, forecasters warned Saturday.

Meanwhile, another potentially disruptive Pacific storm, which now seems likely to hit during the second weekend of January, could evolve into one of the most intense snowstorms in recent years from parts of the Plains to the Midwest.

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The first storm, which has been on AccuWeather meteorologists' radar for over a week, will gain strength and size as it rolls from the southwestern United States to the Great Lakes region from Sunday night to Tuesday. As it does, major travel disruptions will expand as the storm produces a vast area of snow, drenching rain, strong winds and even violent thunderstorms.

The storm is expected to reach its peak from Monday to Tuesday.

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Due to its far-reaching impacts, significant travel delays are likely on the highways. Flight delays and cancellations are likely at the major hubs and smaller regional airports from portions of the southern Plains to the Midwest, South and Northeast. Ripple-effect flight delays and cancellations due to deicing operations, ground stops and displaced crew and aircraft can occur throughout the U.S.

After the storm negotiates the interior West, a long swath of 3-12 inches of snow will extend for about 1,500 miles from the mountains of the Southwest to the upper Great Lakes region during the first couple of days of the week. As the storm's snow shield expands to the northeast, it will cover vast stretches of interstates 25, 40, 70, 80, 35, 29, 55 and 94. Motorists venturing along these highways may have to contend with snow, slush and blowing and drifting snow for hundreds of miles.

The heaviest snow, with 6-12 inches and an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 20 inches, will extend from central Kansas to northern Michigan. Portions of the Chicago and Kansas City, Mo., metro areas will be within part of this heavy snow and highly disruptive travel zone. Other major Midwest cities likely to be within the thick of the heavy snow include Topeka, Kan., Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa, Madison, Wis., Rockford, Ill., Milwaukee and Grand Rapids, Mich.

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As the storm strengthens within this zone, winds will increase and average 20-40 mph with gusts from 40-60 mph and locally stronger. Blowing and drifting snow will become a problem in open areas. There is the potential for localized blizzard conditions, where the snow remains or becomes dry and powdery over portions of the central and southern Plains and the Great Lakes region.

Near and just south and east of the storm track, cold air at the onset and the immediate wake may result in heavy wet snow that changes to drenching rain and then back to snow. This is most likely from portions of central Missouri to central Illinois, northern Indiana, northwestern Ohio and the southeastern part of the Lower Michigan Peninsula. The metro areas of St. Louis and Detroit may fall within this weather battle zone where cold air and warm air exchange hands.

Farther to the south and east, over much of the middle and lower Mississippi Valley and the Ohio Valley, much of the storm's legacy will be drenching rain, increasing winds and even thunderstorms. Enough rain may fall with and without thunder, leading to localized flash flooding.

In portions of the Northeast, where heavy snow from the storm this weekend is on the ground, surging warm air, heavy rain and strong snow-eating winds will lead to a rapid runoff from Tuesday to Wednesday. Small streams and rivers will be on the rise with the potential for a serious flash flood event.

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In the South Central and Southeast states, the rain will benefit drought-stricken areas. However, the risk of flash flooding and the potential for severe thunderstorms in portions of the I-10 to I-20 corridors will also exist from Monday to Tuesday.

AccuWeather meteorologists, meanwhile, continue to monitor the stormy pattern well behind the storm for early next week.

Early indications are that Arctic air will surge southward from the Northwest to the North Central states as a new storm rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. This new storm, slated to hit the middle of the nation during the second weekend of January, could evolve into one of the most intense snowstorms in recent years from parts of the Plains to the Midwest. Depending on the storm's track and strength, travel-stopping and dangerous blizzard conditions may once again unfold over multiple states from Texas to Michigan next weekend.

This image of the North Atlantic (right), North America (center) and the northern Pacific Ocean (left) was captured on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, and shows a long line of storms (bright colors). (AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue Satellite).

Updates on the storm for the start of the week and next weekend will be available on AccuWeather's Network, APP, website and many of AccuWeather's local radio, television and newspaper affiliates.

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