A brutal winter storm packing wind gusts of up to 80 mph was marching toward the nation’s interior Monday, threatening to pound a swath of the nation with snow measured in feet.
Almost 15 million people in more than a dozen states faced foul weather warnings or watches Monday. Blizzard or winter storm warnings were in effect for parts of Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska.
“This system will then stall across the central Plains into Thursday, producing several days of heavy snow and blowing snow, including blizzard conditions, and freezing rain extending into the Upper Midwest,” the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said in its advisory. “Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flooding will be possible in the South.”
Pockets of those states could see 2 feet of snow, the center said. The weather service in Colorado said the storm would arrive late Monday and last through Tuesday, likely bringing “whiteout conditions” and road closures.
By Monday night, snow had started to fall over the northern mountains in Colorado causing roadways to be icy and snow packed, the weather service in Colorado said.
“Heavy snow will likely accumulate to more than 1 foot in some areas, which combined with strong winds will produce nearly impossible travel,” the prediction center warned.
The storm was taking aim for the nation’s heartland after smashing parts of Southern California with more than 7 inches of rain and blasting the Golden State’s mountains with up to 5 feet of snow. More than 6,000 U.S. flights were delayed Sunday, and more than 4,500 had been delayed by Monday night, according to FlightAware.com.
AccuWeather forecasters say over a foot of snow, strong winds and blizzard conditions are expected in the northern Plains to start this week before potentially dumping substantial amounts of snow across a wider swath of the Midwest.
The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as “blowing and/or falling snow with winds of at least 35 mph, reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less” for at least three hours.
Two weeks of ‘bitterly’ cold temperatures across the country
The storm prediction center also warned that “bitterly” cold temperatures are likely to impact the lower 48 states leading up to and continuing from Dec. 20 and Dec. 26.
The northern Rocky Mountains and northern plains will possibly see temperatures in the negative teens with sub-zero temperatures reaching the Central Plains, according to the center.
Regions in the south and east, including the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic states, and the Northeast are predicted to have temperatures reach single digits and teens, the center said. Below-freezing temperatures are also expected in the Southern Plains, and Southeast.
Violent thunderstorms, worse are forecast for south-central US
States that won’t see snow won’t be in the clear as violent thunderstorms could bring hail, wind gusts of up to 80 mph, and even tornadoes, Accuweather warned. Across parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas a “significant risk” to lives and property is expected to unfold late Monday and Tuesday, AccuWeather said.
The dangerous system could then target cities from Springfield, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas, south to Houston and New Orleans. Some of the same cities and towns at risk for the severe thunderstorms were recently hit by a deadly tornado outbreak at the end of November.
“The drastic contrast of the warm, humid air ahead of the storm and the cold, dry air following the storm will create the right atmospheric conditions for an eruption of severe weather,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff.
The weather service said the south-central can also expect heavy snow and blizzard conditions and “a wintry mix” is likely in the north-central Plains and Upper Midwest on Tuesday.
As severe weather develops in the south-central, a tornado warning was issued in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma on Monday night, the weather service reported. It was the first tornado warning issued in the U.S. this month after the last warning on Nov. 30, according to AccuWeather.
HEAVY SNOW, RAIN: Powerful winter storm dumps snow in Sierra Nevada; flood watches triggered in California
PLAN AHEAD: Preparing yourself – and your home – for a blizzard
California slammed by heavy rain, snow
More than 5 feet of snow blasted parts of the Sierra Nevada, according to the weather service’s prediction center. Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties were swamped with more than 7 inches of rain, the weather service said.
In San Luis Obispo County, roads were flooded and strong winds with gusts up to 80 mph brought down power lines. Nearly 30,000 customers lost power for hours over the weekend, according to PG&E.
The weather service issued a special weather statement early Monday for Oxnard, 60 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, warning that 50 mph winds and half-inch hail was possible.
“Seek shelter in a sturdy structure,” the statement said.
DELAYED FLIGHT COULD BRING COMPENSATION: If your flight is delayed, you may be eligible for compensation from your airline
Contributing: The Associated Press