OMAHA (DTN) -- A major winter storm this weekend, expected to deliver as much as 2 feet of snow and create snow drifts 6 to 10 feet high in some areas of the Southern Plains, could cause major transportation delays and stress for livestock.
For several days weather models have shown there was a risk of a major storm and possibly a blizzard for this weekend and early next week. By early Saturday morning, the National Weather Service increased the risk for severe storms in the Southern Plains, and weather bulletins indicated a blizzard was expected to develop in parts of the hard red winter wheat belt later Saturday.
NWS said strong winds, heavy snow and icing were possible for the storm moving from the southern Rockies and Plains to the upper Mississippi Valley during the weekend and early next week. Heavy snow is expected for New Mexico and portions of west Texas and the Texas Panhandle Saturday night. The storm was expected to shift east/northeast on Sunday.
"Snowfall intensity will increase across much of New Mexico and northern Texas and may yield 18 to 24 inches forecast. Strong winds will also accompany the snow as the low rapidly deepens. Blizzard conditions will be possible for this region," said one of the bulletins.
While extra moisture is favorable for the hard red winter wheat crop, there were concerns for livestock areas in the Southern Plains, such as Amarillo and Lubbock that could see 10 inches or more of snow. The NWS Lubbock office warned of the dangers of the storm, saying snowdrifts could reach as high as 5 to 10 feet, thanks to high winds of 25 to 40 miles per hour and possible gusts of 60 mph.
Other areas of the Southern Plains also expected a mix of challenging weather.
"A transition zone of multiple precipitation types, including freezing rain and accumulating ice, is expected from central Texas into eastern Kansas on Saturday night and Sunday," stated NWS.
FLOODING CONCERNS IN SOUTHEAST U.S.
Meanwhile, the southeastern U.S. has been dealing with heavy rainfall and thunderstorms leading to concerns about flooding. Some of the areas with flood warnings included parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. (To see the rain totals from 8 a.m. Dec. 23 through to 8 a.m. Dec. 26, see http://1.usa.gov/…)
"Locations across the Tennessee valley and southeast will see a lull in precipitation through the weekend; meanwhile colder air moving southward from Canada into the Central Plains will meet with an advancing upper level storm system moving east from the southwest U.S. This will set the stage for heavy rain to develop from northeast Texas, through eastern Oklahoma into Missouri," said the NWS Saturday morning. The service said this is "where it will expand and persist in the same vicinity over the next couple of days."
The forecast is for rainfall to total 5 to 10 inches, with a maximum of well over a foot possible, leading to serious flash flooding concerns there.
WINTER STORM IN UPPER MIDWEST
The High Plains into the upper Midwest has also been seeing winter storm advisories and warnings Christmas Day and Saturday. The storm dropped 6 to 10 inches of snow already in some places in South Dakota as the storm began to dissipate there and move east by early Saturday afternoon. "The heaviest swath is anticipated to occur from southern Minnesota to northern Michigan where accumulations will range from 10 to 15-plus inches," said NWS.
Increasing winds Saturday were expected to blow snow and lower visibility even in areas where the snowfall has diminished, leading to hazardous conditions for transportation.
To see some of the NWS graphics on expected storm path and precipitation amounts, see DTN's Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/… or check out NWS at http://www.weather.gov/… for the latest weather bulletins.
Elaine Shein can be reached at Elaine.firstname.lastname@example.org
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