Major winter storms are forecast to impact a large portion of the U.S. on Tuesday, bringing snow, freezing rain and hazardous travel conditions to the Southwest and a region stretching from the Plains to the Northeast.
The National Weather Service (NWS) currently has winter weather warnings and advisories in effect for dozens of states, while airlines have canceled more than 150 flights and are issuing waivers ahead of what is expected to become a messy day for travelers.
“Multiple systems across the country are producing impactful precipitation and will continue to do so over the next few days,” the NWS said in an advisory Tuesday morning.
Forecasters say heavy snow is likely across higher elevations of the Central Plains and Midwest through the end of today, while the northern Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will see smaller totals. Accumulating ice and freezing rain also will be possible in the Central Appalachians.
“The highest accumulations will likely occur in the higher terrain of eastern West Virginia, western Virginia, western Maryland and southwest Pennsylvania; travel may quickly become hazardous,” the NWS advisory warned.
The NWS says at least 4 inches of snow is expected across most of an area stretching from central Kansas to Chicago and southern Michigan. But parts of southeast Nebraska and western Iowa got more than three times that much by Tuesday morning.
“This is historic snow,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Taylor Nicolaisen, who is based near Omaha, Nebraska, told the Associated Press.
There were early closures of several coronavirus testing sites on Monday in Nebraska and Iowa. Nicolaisen added that up to 15 inches was likely between York, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa and that it has been at least 15 years since that area received more than a foot of snow in a single storm.
In northern Illinois, snowfall began around sunset Monday and by early Tuesday more than 3 inches was reported in places. Meteorologist Bett Borchardt forecast snowfall up to 8 inches or more before it ends Tuesday evening.
The last comparable snowfall hit the area in November 2018, when 8.4 inches fell.
Chicago on Monday started warning residents that hazardous conditions were likely during Tuesday morning commutes and some power outages are possible. City officials have dispatched about 280 salt spreaders to clear main streets and have created warming centers in libraries and park facilities.
In the South, a tornado touched down in an Alabama city north of Birmingham, leaving one person dead after a tree fell on a home. The tornado hit the Fultondale area of Jefferson County late Monday night, and other homes were damaged along with businesses.
Over the weekend, more than a foot of snow also fell in Southern California’s mountains.
Until recently, California had been experiencing significantly dry weather accompanied by wildfires. A band of clouds suggested more rain could fall Tuesday in areas north and south of San Francisco Bay, bringing the threat of possible flash floods and landslides in areas scarred by the fires.
Sacramento-area National Weather Service forecasters predict an abundance of snow in the Sierra Nevada this week that will make travel difficult.
A storm buried northern Arizona in snow on Monday while sending flurries to the outskirts of Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“Scattered to widespread snow is falling across parts of Arizona, Utah and parts of the Southwest as a low-pressure system tracks through the Great Basin,” the NWS said Tuesday. The higher elevations will likely have heavy snow with this system, possibly yielding a foot or more of accumulations. Travel through this part of the country may be hazardous.”
Winter weather warnings and advisories remain in effect Tuesday for all states west of Colorado, except Montana and Wyoming.
And most of Nevada was bracing for another series of powerful winter storms that could bring several feet of snow to the mountains above Lake Tahoe by Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.