A monster winter storm that could bring ice, blizzard conditions, and travel disruptions – and will stretch 2,600 miles from coast to coast – was moving eastward Tuesday.
Swaths of the country could see over a foot of snow in the coming days, and parts of Minnesota are expecting 15 to 25 inches of accumulation. The National Weather Service in Twin Cities called the winter storm “historic” and said significant snow accumulation is expected to last until Thursday.
“There is a high probability that Minneapolis will pick up 18 inches of snow or more from the storm,” AccuWeather meteorologist Matt Benz said.
Tuesday evening, Wyoming closed 100 miles of Interstate 80 due to blizzard conditions. The road, a major east-west corridor, will be closed for six to eight hours, the state department of transportation said on Twitter.
The massive cold front made its way through most of Montana by midday Tuesday, and residents in the Northern Plains were bracing for steep temperatures drops.
In Rapid City, South Dakota, the weather service warned residents Tuesday morning that temperatures would quickly drop from a high of 50 degrees to near zero degreesover the next 24 hours.
Roads were closed near Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana on Tuesday morning as snow fell and wind gusts reached nearly 40 miles per hour, according to the state department of transportation.
Record-breaking cold temperatures could also hit the West, the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center said. Those readings could extend from the West Coast to the northern Plains later this week. Flash freezes are possible in the northern Rockies, officials warned.
Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s winter weather.
WHAT IS THUNDERSNOW AND HOW DOES IT FORM? Explaining how a thunderstorm can produce snow
WHAT IS WIND CHILL? Understanding the wind chill index and how it’s calculated
- Wednesday: Heavy snow will spread eastward into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, according to the weather service.
- Thursday: Sleet and freezing rain are expected to reach parts of the Northeast including Buffalo, New York, where there could be significant impacts, according to AccuWeather. Parts of Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts could also see some of the storm’s effects.
The National Weather Service in Twin Cities, Minnesota warned that the “historic” three-day storm will bring blowing and drifting snow mainly from Wednesday to Thursday.
Two main rounds of snow are expected with a “lull” and lighter snow in between, according to the weather service.
The first round arrived Tuesday and is expected to end Wednesday morning, the weather service said. The second round will follow later Wednesday and last through much of Thursday.
The weather service warned that the worst conditions will be late Wednesday into Thursday and advised people not to travel.
A blizzard warning was issued in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota, stretching from Sioux Falls to just outside the Twin Cities. Snow accumulations from 15 to 25 inches are possible in some places throughout the week, and winds could gust up to 50 mph.
The blizzard warning also included two Iowa border counties: Lyon and Osceola.
A February record of 13.8 inches of snow from one storm could be broken in Minneapolis, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
The snowfall could rank among the all-time top storms for any month in the city’s recorded history, AccuWeather reported.
AccuWeather forecasters say there is the potential for Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport to be shut down for a time during the storm. At the very least, numerous flight delays and cancellations are likely at the major hub, the site reported Tuesday.
Winter storm warnings also extended throughout the northern Plains, in Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Snow accumulations could reach 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota.
WHAT DEFINES A BLIZZARD? Heavy snow and high winds expected to sweep across country.
WHAT IS AN ALBERTA CLIPPER? These storms move fast, just like the ships they’re named after
The storm isn’t done with Western states yet, however.
The western Sierra will see heavy snow through Thursday, the Reno Gazette-Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.
Meanwhile, South Lake Tahoe will receive about a foot of new snow.
- A blizzard warning was in effect through 5 p.m. on Tuesday in parts of northern Montana, with up to 10 inches of snow in the forecast.
- And in southern Wyoming, a blizzard warning was in effect from 2 p.m. Tuesday through 11 p.m. Wednesday, with up to 14 inches of snow possible in the area.
In parts of Michigan, a winter storm watch was in effect from Tuesday evening through Thursday morning, bringing a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow. The winter conditions could lead to tree damage and power outages, according to the National Weather Service in Detroit.
And in parts of New York, a winter weather advisory is in effect from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and up to 5 inches of snow are possible.