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Posted at 03:55 PM ET, 12/19/2012

Blizzard pummeling eastern Rockies and western Plains eyes Upper Midwest


Forecast track and timing of storm (National Weather Service)
A major winter storm in the eastern Rockies into the Plains will shift towards the Great Lakes tonight and Thursday, producing heavy snowfall, strong winds and dangerously low visibilities.

Blizzard warnings currently extend from eastern Colorado into central Wisconsin. WJLA meteorologist Ryan Miller this morning tweeted nearly 5 million people were under blizzard warnings.

At the moment, the snow is mostly concentrated in eastern Colorado and Nebraska. Denver, while outside the blizzard warning zone, has light snow falling. With winds gusting to 30 mph and a temperature of 18 degrees, the wind chill factor is zero.

Links: Webcam from Denver | Photo from Denver International Airport

Parts of I-70 in eastern Colorado have been closed due to heavy snowfall, strong winds, and visibilities near zero.

The axis of heavy snowfall will gradually shift into Iowa and then south central and central Wisconsin tonight, continuing through Thursday.


Map showing watches and warnings in effect (National Weather Service)

Some of the worst conditions will run from Omaha to Des Moines and then Madison. Around 6-18 inches of snow is possible in this region (highest totals to the east, and lowest to the west, generally) along with winds gusting to 30-40 mph. This dangerous combination could produce whiteout conditions. Thundersnow is also a possibility.

Writes the National Weather Service office (in Milwaukee) covering south central Wisconsin:

Heavy snow and severe blowing snow will result in near zeo visibility and whiteout conditions at times, and extremely hazardous travel conditions across southern Wisconsin. The heavy snow and blowing will likely cause road closures in rural areas. The heavy wet snow and strong winds will also cause scattered power outages.


Snowfall accumulation forecast from NAM model through Friday morning. (WeatherBell.com)

Chicago and Milwaukee will initially be on the warm side of the storm, resulting in rain into Thursday afternoon. However, once the cold front blasts through those respective cities, temperatures will crash, winds will rage and a period of snow is likely late Thursday afternoon into the evening. Two to six inches of snow is possible in these cities (higher amounts likely in Milwaukee) with very low visibilities.

Expect significant travel delays and/or cancellations if you’re flying through Chicago late Thursday into early Friday.

This storm will end the record longest snowless streaks in Chicago and several other cities in the Plains and Midwest.

By Friday, the worst of the storm will have move into southeast Canada and extreme northern New England, while its associated cold front races towards the East Coast bringing a rush of cooler air to the I-95 corridor and mountain snow showers.

By  |  03:55 PM ET, 12/19/2012

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