A massive winter storm brought severe weather to the central U.S. on Tuesday, with dangerous blizzard conditions in the central and northern Plains, icy conditions in the upper Midwest and severe storms with tornado risk expected along the Gulf Coast.
The storm that swept the west over the weekend is expected to strengthen as it pushes east on Tuesday before stalling in the central Plains until Thursday, traveling roaring through heavy snow and freezing rain. About 15 million people in a dozen states were under winter weather warnings or advisories Tuesday morning, with power outages a major concern.
Meanwhile, the storm’s southern tip is expected to bring late-season tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. About 25 million people were threatened by severe weather Tuesday from Texas to Mississippi, which also included damaging winds and large hail.
Here’s what to expect in different regions over the next few days:
• Blizzard conditions are expected for parts of the central and northern Plains Tuesday and Wednesday, with snowfall expected to drop by 1 to 2 inches per hour at times with winds of up to 40 mph.
• An “increased risk” of severe storms Tuesday stretched from eastern Texas to northern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, with possible tornadoes, large hail and damaging straight-line winds.
• A tornado watch was in effect Tuesday morning for parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma until 11 a.m. Central Time.
• The greatest flash flood threat will be Tuesday through Wednesday from the lower Mississippi Valley into the central Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachians.
• Freezing rain and sleet will continue into the upper Midwest through Wednesday.
The storm hit the western United States first, bringing much-needed snow and rain, leading to winter storm warnings from the Canadian border to the Mexico-New Mexico border.
In Denver, up to 5 inches of snow is expected Tuesday, with wind gusts of up to 50 mph possible.
On Tuesday, blizzard warnings extended from parts of Montana and Wyoming into northeastern Colorado, western Nebraska and South Dakota, where severe, life-threatening weather is expected.
In the central and northern Plains and upper Midwest, 10 to 18 inches of snow is typical Wednesday morning. Some areas within the blizzard warning area — notably western South Dakota, eastern Wyoming and northwestern Nebraska — could see as much as 24 inches of snow, the Weather Center said, with winds strong enough to blow tree branches and cause power failure.
“We don’t expect snow here anytime soon,” Brandon Wells, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyoming, said late Monday. Max levels – and since we’re also going to have strong winds, the snow is going to be flying around like crazy.”
The South Dakota Department of Transportation warned Monday that interstates in South Dakota could become impassable under snowstorm conditions, leading to road closures across the state.
Ice storm warnings were issued for parts of eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and western Iowa. Some of those areas could accumulate up to two-tenths of an inch of ice, forecasters said.
In Anchorage, Alaska, “unprecedented snowfall” closed schools for four days and closed the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University on Monday.
“The snowstorm that hit Anchorage last week was historic, bringing 30-45 inches of snow to our city,” Anchorage Mayor’s Office spokesman Hans Rodwick told CNN on Monday. said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the storm’s southern tip has the potential to bring tornadoes.
A tornado warning was in effect Tuesday morning for parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma until 11 a.m. central time. The main threats are tornadoes, hail and wind gusts up to 70 mph.
A severe weather risk warning (category 3 or 5) was issued Tuesday for eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi River Valley, with major threats including severe tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail. Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette, Louisiana are part of the threatened area, as is Jackson, Mississippi.
A mild risk area — a level 2 out of 5 — encloses the region, stretching from eastern Texas and southern Oklahoma to southern Arkansas and much of central Louisiana and Mississippi . These include Dallas and New Orleans.
Tuesday also brought a slight risk of excessive rainfall to parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, with 2 to 4 inches of rain and flash flooding possible, the Weather Center said.
The threat of severe weather Wednesday is centered on the Gulf Coast, with tornadoes and damaging winds possible in southern Louisiana, Mississippi, southwestern Alabama and parts of the western Florida Panhandle, the Storm Prediction Center said.