A major winter storm will unfold over the northern part of the United States this week, bringing a mixed bag of precipitation that will be “extremely disruptive,” forecasters said.The storm was taking shape in the West by Tuesday morning. More than 30 million people were under winter weather alerts in a nearly continuous stretch from the coast of California all the way to the coast of Maine.
Snow was beginning out West, with some falling at low elevations of 1,000 and even as low as 500 feet in Northern and Central California. The extreme weather threat then shifts toward the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains, where more than 13 million people were under a winter storm warning and one to two feet of snow was expected in the mountains.
The heavy snow and strong winds that develop over the Northern Rockies on Tuesday will spread south and east, according to an advisory from the National Weather Service. The weather system is expected to extend into the Plains by the evening, packing heavy snow, strong winds and freezing rain. The weather services warned of possible disruptions to power lines as a result.
The Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and parts of the Northeast are expected to get a taste of the wintry mix on Wednesday, when weather conditions are expected to worsen. Wind gusts greater than 30 miles per hour could cause blizzard conditions over portions of the Midwest, forecasters said.
More than eight inches of snow is likely in areas from South Dakota east through southern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and in parts of Michigan.
The Weather Service office in Billings, Mont., said that plenty of snow and high temperatures around 3 degrees Fahrenheit were expected on Wednesday. “Might be a good day to stay home,” the forecasters said. “Definitely not a day for travel or outdoor activities.”
Similar blustery conditions were also predicted for Salt Lake City on Tuesday, where the Weather Service office advised local residents to stay home or change their commute time. “Venture out only if you need to and stay safe,” they said.
“It’s not often we see the winter storm severity index in the ‘extreme’ category,” the Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, S.D., said. The state’s department of public safety urged residents to prepare before the weather worsened.
“Time is running out to get prepared for this expected major storm coming,” officials said. “Keep travel plans flexible and have enough supplies, including prescription medications, on hand at home.”
While the storm was expected to wallop the Rockies and Midwest, it was also forecast to bring snow to a portion of the Northeast later in the week. A winter storm watch was in effect for parts of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Heavier snow totals of up to a foot were likely for higher elevations, like the Adirondacks and the Green and White Mountains, the Weather Service said. Lighter accumulations of up to four inches were predicted for the lower elevations across upstate New York and central New England.
Areas along the East Coast appear to be left out of the weather equation this time, as they have been much of this winter. New York City and other major cities along the Interstate 95 corridor are experiencing some of their least snowy seasons in the past 50 years.