Another blizzard could clobber the central US before the new year

Maura Kelly

After residents across parts of the northern Plains endured a blizzard before the Christmas holiday, another robust storm may bring another round of heavy snowfall and in lieu of gusty winds before the end of the year.

A storm that may bring the first chance for more than 0.10 of an inch of rainfall to Southern California since early November will push through California Sunday night through Monday and track over the southern Rockies. This storm will be the second in a series of storms expected to set up an unsettled pattern over the West Coast into the end of the year.

On Tuesday, the storm is forecast to leave the Rocky Mountains and emerge over the Plains where it is projected to strengthen. By Tuesday afternoon, areas of heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to develop on the southern side of the storm and continue into Wednesday.

Any downpours can lead to flash flooding, mainly in low-lying and poor-drainage areas, including around Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas. In addition, some of the thunderstorms across the South Central states could be locally heavy and gusty.

To the north, enough cold air will be in place for heavy snow to develop from Nebraska and Kansas to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Several inches of snow can accumulate in just 24 hours.

In addition to heavy snow, as the storm strengthens, wind speeds will also increase. The combination of these two factors may ultimately lead to blizzard conditions in some areas.

Major highways may once again be shut down across the region during the height of the storm, including long stretches of interstates 29, 70, 80, 90 and 94. People that must travel should make sure to pack emergency supplies in case they become stuck on a road shut down by snow or an accident.

A blizzard is defined as a storm that brings sustained winds of 35 mph or greater and visibility less than one-quarter of a mile for three consecutive hours.

Given the relatively flat terrain and lack of trees in portions of the Plains and Upper Midwest, some forecasters have nicknamed this zone of the country as "Blizzard Alley" during the winter months. Prior to the Christmas holiday, the Red River Valley in the Dakotas and Minnesota observed blizzard conditions as a powerful storm swept through the area, causing significant disruptions.

Minnesota state troopers helping to recover vehicles that were stranded off Highway 12 in Swift County, Minnesota, during blizzard conditions on Dec. 23, 2020. (Twitter/@MSPPIO_NW)

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In addition to the potential blizzard conditions, the upcoming storm also has the potential to bring a swath of icy weather in the area between the rain and snow transition. Cities that may fall in this icy zone include Omaha, Nebraska, Des Moines, Iowa and even Madison, Wisconsin.

The storm will likely continue on across the Midwest Wednesday and into Thursday before widespread snow tapers off to lingering lake-effect snow showers. Upon departure from the Midwest, another round of potentially flooding rainfall will be possible across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States on New Years' Eve.

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