National News

Winter, Day 23: The latest storm will cover the Midwest in ice and snow

Posted January 12, 2018 7:59 a.m. EST

— The storm system that brought much-needed rain but deadly mudflows to southern California has swept through the Southern Plains and is now making a significant impact with rain, sleet and snow in the East.

As the system moved across Texas Wednesday, it brought winds near hurricane force, kicking up a major dust storm that sent dirt, debris and tumbleweeds flying.

Leslie Housen captured this video while driving through the dust storm in Midland, Texas.

These winds have now moved east with the storm. The National Weather Service has issued wind advisories and warnings for more than 8 million people across the Southeast. The wind threat includes many who are also under winter storm warnings to the north.

Winds at times could be damaging. The current forecast predicts wind speeds between 20 and 30 mph with higher gusts from Alabama to Maine.

A rapid plunge in temperatures

Another blast of cold air is moving in with this storm system. A significant concern is the sleet and freezing rain that will fall across the Midwest as the cold air rushes in and meets up with the moisture from the storm. After weeks of below-freezing temperatures, most of the East coast warmed to above average this week, with nearly two dozen high temperature records possibly set Friday afternoon.

Temperatures will drop 20 to 40 degrees within 24 hours as the cold front associated with the storm system passes. St. Louis woke up Friday to temperatures 40 degrees colder than Thursday morning. This rapid change to colder temperatures means many will see rain change to freezing rain, then sleet and finally snow.

Places such as Little Rock, Arkansas, have already experienced this change. Rain began Thursday night and switched early Friday to a wintry mix and now some lingering snow showers remain.

The city likely won't have the ice around long enough for widespread power outages, but some areas will receive around about a quarter of an inch of accumulation -- which is when power outages begin to occur.

Snow will fall last

Most of the areas that experience a wintry mix will also see that eventually change over to snow before the storm exits. Along the southern portion of the storm, a dusting to a few inches might accumulate, but the brunt of the snow will fall farther north. More than a foot of snow is expected in upstate New York.

Across Tennessee, residents from Memphis to Nashville can expect light accumulations of ice followed by another 2 to 3 inches of snow.

Indiana, notably Indianapolis, will see less accumulation -- probably only 1-2 inches of snow and sleet across the region.

From Kentucky to Ohio, the accumulations will be higher, with most areas seeing anywhere from 4 to 6 inches.

New York City and many of the other main metro areas in the Northeast will remain slightly above freezing, leaving most people in the cities wet and dodging the slosh in the gutters.

The National Weather Service also has issued flood watches from Kentucky to Maine, with over 30 million people under the threat of flooding from heavy rain and snow melt.

Ice jams + heavy rain = flood threat

Much of the Northeast still has snow on the ground and ice floating in the rivers after weeks of being in a deep freeze. The temperatures the past few days have been a nice reprieve from the cold, but it has lead to rapid snow melt. Today, 1-3 inches of rain could fall in these same places, increasing the flood threat in areas with poor drainage.

The weather service said the combination of melting snow and periods of rain will make rivers and streams rise, breaking up the ice but possibly causing ice jams to form.

Friday morning, places near Buffalo, New York -- which as seen its fair share of snow this season -- are getting the first bout of rain. Flooding has already been reported in some areas and it will only get worse until the rain turns to ice and then snow.

After the moisture moves out, the entire Northeast will once again see frigid temperatures, with the highs failing to reach even the freezing mark through the weekend.