A powerful winter storm will bring heavy snow, some ice and potentially blizzard conditions to parts of the Plains this weekend, potentially snarling post-Christmas holiday travel.
This significant system has been named Winter Storm Gage by The Weather Channel.
Once the system pivots out of the Southwest, low pressure is expected to intensify in the Plains this weekend.
The air mass ahead of the storm will remain very warm for late December, so some areas that are used to seeing snow this time of year may end up seeing predominantly rain.
However, some cold air will be pulled in behind the intensifying storm, so wind-driven snow and some freezing rain is expected in other areas from the Northern Plains to northern New England.
So, this storm may resemble one you might expect in November or March, rather than late December.
This storm system is currently bringing rain and mountain snow to parts of the southern Rockies. Rain, snow and ice are spreading into parts of the western and northern Plains.
A number of winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service from eastern Arizona into the Upper Midwest.
In general, the worst conditions are expected where winter storm warnings are in effect. Strong wind gusts, blowing and drifting snow and icy conditions may make travel impossible, especially in the northern Plains.
Mixed precipitation could make roads slick from southeastern Colorado to southeastern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, where winter weather advisories are in effect.
–Saturday: Low pressure will cross through the Central Plains while intensifying. Heavy snow will pound areas from the central High Plains into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Some freezing rain is possible in parts of northern Michigan, Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Iowa, though that may change to rain from south to north.
Increasing wind may lead to blizzard conditions from the eastern Dakotas into western Minnesota.
Strong thunderstorms are expected to develop from the Southern Plains into the lower Mississippi Valley late Saturday afternoon into Saturday night, with isolated severe thunderstorms possible. The primary risks include damaging winds and a couple of tornadoes.
–Sunday into Monday: Snow will linger while winds may actually increase in the Northern Plains, with precipitation eventually changing to snow across much of the upper Mississippi Valley. Areas of lingering light snow and gusty winds may last in parts of the Great Lakes Monday and Tuesday.
A few severe thunderstorms could develop Sunday afternoon and evening in parts of Mississippi, Alabama, southern Tennessee and the Florida Panhandle. Strong wind gusts and an isolated tornado are the primary threats.
Rain, Snow Forecast
Parts of the Northern Plains from the eastern Dakotas to western and northern Minnesota have the best chance of seeing heavy snow, with at least 8 inches of snow likely. Over a foot of snow is possible in this general area.
Strong winds could lead to blizzard conditions this weekend, perhaps lasting into at least early Monday in the Plains. You need to make alternate plans if you have travel plans this weekend in this area. Road closures, including stretches of interstate highways, are probable in this zone of heaviest snow.
Some ice accumulation is possible from central Nebraska into northern Wisconsin that may lead to hazardous roads, particularly overpasses, and may trigger some power outages. However, this forecast is particularly tricky in that precipitation in at least portions of this area may change to rain, then back to snow.
By Sunday, precipitation should spread into the East. Warmer air on southerly winds should keep precipitation mainly in the form of rain for most in the Northeast Sunday and Sunday night, with the exception of northern New York and northern New England, where stubborn cold air may allow areas of freezing rain, sleet and snow to persist.
Monday, colder air and the potential of an area of low pressure forming off the New England seaboard should allow precipitation to change to snow in parts of upstate New York into central and northern New England.
Some snow may linger in the interior Northeast into New Year’s Eve (Tuesday), with rain showers in southern New England.
Rain, Snow Forecast
The majority of computer forecast models suggest the Interstate 95 Boston-to-Washington, D.C., corridor should see predominantly rain, rather than ice or snow.
Parts of northern and central New England and northern New York may pick up moderate to locally heavy snow accumulations. Some ice accumulation in northern New England may lead to slippery roads and potentially some power outages, in spots.
Check back with us at weather.com for updates to this forecast.
Winter Storm Gage began as a low pressure system that swept southward along the West Coast, becoming problematic on Boxing Day in southern California.
Portions of interstates 5, 8 and 15 in southern California were closed due to heavy snow, standing vehicles for hours in the higher elevations of those interstates.
Strong winds downed trees in Lynwood, California, in the Los Angeles metro area, early Thursday morning.
More than a foot of snow has fallen in Flagstaff, Arizona, as of Thursday.
Here are some of the top snowfall totals by state as of midday Friday.
Arizona: 14.1 inches at Flagstaff
California: 36 inches (estimated) at Mountain High Resort
Colorado: 6 inches near Lake City
New Mexico: 4.9 inches near Black Lake
Utah: 4 inches near Monticello