American (GFS) model simulation of snow in parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast on Saturday morning.

A sloppy storm system trekking through the northern Plains is bringing a blast of wintry weather to the nation’s midsection — from snow to ice to rain and even freezing fog. The storm will reorganize and ride through interior New England this weekend, producing rain from the Mid-Atlantic to coastal sections of the Northeast but snow in the mountains. It’s the start of an active weather pattern for the Northeast that could last for several weeks.

The storm has already produced high-impact weather in the central United States.

A full-fledged ice storm glazed much of the Ozark plateau, in some places more than half an inch thick. That’s enough to topple trees and yank down power lines. Hardest hit were northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri south of Interstate 44, particularly in the higher elevations near the Interstate 49 corridor.

Meanwhile, several tractor-trailers jackknifed in Kansas on Wednesday amid snow and reduced visibility. Wichita troopers responded to 50 crashes and 44 vehicle slide-offs before noon, including one collision with a state trooper vehicle while the officer was working a previous crash. The officer was taken to a hospital.

“I almost went in the ditch” Carlissa Hanes of Ellinwood, Kan., wrote on Facebook, describing the roadways as “horrible.”

Snow also reached into Nebraska and the upper Midwest. While the main strip of precipitation stretched from Chicago to Louisiana on Thursday morning, a small band of heavy snow showers formed beneath the cold-core center in central Nebraska.

Behind the system, fog has been an issue. Dense fog advisories blanketed a nearly 1,300-mile stretch contiguously from Corpus Christi, Tex., to St. Cloud, Minn., the moist air reaching saturation as surface temperatures dropped to the dew point. In some locales, there was freezing fog — in which supercooled water droplets suspended in a foggy shroud freeze upon contact with items on the ground, depositing a treacherous glaze.

Now that system is continuing east, remaining relatively well behaved until it approaches the East Coast.

In Chicago, a light accumulation of snow is possible but spread over several days and may mix with rain at times. The National Weather Service in the Windy City described the “long duration of light to occasionally moderate precipitation … through Saturday.”

Light snow began in Chicago just after midnight Thursday and continued through the morning.

West of town, with more cold air in place, accumulations could be more notable, especially in northern Illinois and Wisconsin. Up to four inches or a little more are possible there.


The National Weather Service's forecast for snow through Saturday. (NWS)

Between Friday night and Saturday, the primary low-pressure zone — which will be centered somewhere near Lake Michigan — will begin transferring some of its energy to a new storm center trying to organize farther east. But the new center, deepening over land in the Chesapeake Bay area, won’t fully win out.

Instead, an elongated west-to-east zone of low pressure will span between Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast, with an apex of local minimum pressure on either side. The dumbbell-like structure is known as a “double-barreled low” and typically features rain in the lower elevations thanks to a flow of air from the south and east (off the ocean).


The European model depicts an anticipated energy transfer from the Great Lakes system to a new fledgling low center over the Mid-Atlantic, wrapped up within a “double-barreled low” that will move northeast this weekend. (Weatherbell)

On Friday night into Saturday, the system will whip a line of hefty downpours through the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic before swinging into coastal sections of the Northeast on Saturday evening into Sunday morning. An isolated rumble of thunder is possible in southern areas.


The American GFS model's timing for precipitation this weekend. (Weatherbell)

In the mountains of the western Mid-Atlantic and New England, however, snow is possible. In fact, some areas in ski country could wind up with close to six inches (or locally more). A plowable snowfall is predicted from the high elevations of West Virginia through central and northern New York state, as well as parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The snow will probably fall on and off Saturday through Monday.


The American GFS model's forecast for anticipated snowfall through late Sunday. Simulated amounts appear reasonable for northern New England but perhaps should be trimmed an inch or two in western New York state. (Weatherbell)

Thereafter, milder than average conditions look to continue in the east, but signs point to additional storm systems sweeping through the Lower 48 as we approach February.