Season’s first blizzard starts journey in the Plains

Posted on: 8:49 pm, December 19, 2012, by

Snow coats Highway 33 West in West Virginia as Hurricane Sandy batters the eastern seaboard, and a cold weather system blankets most of the high elevations in West Virginia on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. As the systems meet, blizzard conditions are in effect across multiple counties in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

(CNN) — People traveling early for Christmas in the center of the country will be dashing through the snow and the rain and the wind.

The first major storm of the season has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for a huge swath of the Midwest stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, including virtually all of Iowa. The declaration warns of snow accumulations of up to 12 inches, complemented by 25- to 35-mph winds that will occasionally gust to 45 to 50 mph.

“Whiteout conditions are likely and travel could become impossible” Wednesday night and into Thursday, the service’s Omaha, Nebraska, office warned.

“Far southeast Nebraska and extreme southwest Iowa could see rain or a wintry mix for several hours yet this evening, so blizzard conditions may not develop over that area until mid-evening or later,” the service said.

The storm will race into western Illinois, the weather service said. Rain will quickly change over to snow as the storm advances northeast, with the heaviest snow occurring overnight.

“Snow drifts several feet deep will be possible given the strong winds,” the blizzard warning states.

Wrapping around the blizzard warning on the north, south and east is a winter storm warning, which will be no picnic either. The winds won’t be quite as strong, but residents should expect a strong dose of rain, sleet and snow, with a few hail-packing thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.

A winter weather advisory is in effect for the Indiana-Ohio-Michigan tri-state area, as well as central Missouri and Kansas.

Cheyenne Wells, in east-central Colorado, reported a 67 mph wind gust with zero visibility just after 2 pm MT, CNN meteorologist Sean Morris said.

The “intense cyclone” will crawl across the Great Lakes region Thursday and slog into northern New England by Friday evening, the National Weather Service predicted.

Dodging the heavy precipitation but not the high winds is an area from west Texas and eastern New Mexico through the Oklahoma Panhandle and into southwest Kansas. Much of the Southwest and Mississippi Valley is extremely dry, and the high winds have kicked up blinding dust near Lubbock, Texas.

Source: CNN