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Heavy snowfall, blizzard to affect the West and northern Plains for Christmas


A strong winter storm is expected to hit the US West and northern Plains over the coming weekend. Heavy snowfall, sleet and freezing rains will likely cause traffic disruptions and delays across the affected regions.

The winter storm, named Europa by weather.com, will be triggered by a southward plunge of the jet stream and the associated surface low pressure system currently on its way from the Pacific Ocean. The system will cross the Rockies and intensify the already existing field of low pressure northeastward across the Plains and upper Midwest.

The snowfall will start to affect the Mountain West on December 23, 2016. Heavy snow is in store for the Sierra Nevada while the lower part of California will experience locally heavy rainfall. The Cascades, Siskiyous, northern Great Basin and the northern Rockies can also expect snowfall.

More than 30.5 cm (1 foot) of snow has been forecast for the Sierra Nevada, Siskiyous, the southern Cascades, and mountainous region of Utah and southern Colorado while the northern Rockies, Mogollon Rim in Arizona, and mountainous regions of southern California will see at least 15 cm (6 inches) of snow. Lower regions of Boise, Salt Lake City, and Flagstaff can also expect several inches.

Pressure system over the US, December 22, 2016

Pressure system over the US, December 22, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NWS

Pressure system over the US, December 23, 2016

Pressure system over the US, December 23, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NWS

Pressure system over the US, December 24, 2016

Pressure system over the US, December 22, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NWS

The storm will spread into the Plains on December 24, and sleet and/or freezing rains could affect the regions to the upper Mississippi Valley. The system will also bring strong winds which could cause low visibility and impact traveling across the affected area.

On December 25, the snowfall accompanied by strong winds will hit the northern Plains. The northern Plains and High Plains, along with the regions of eastern Montana, Wyoming, the western Dakotas, and western Nebraska will likely experience blizzard while a mixture of sleet or freezing rain is possible from the northern Plains to the upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes. Severe thunderstorms are possible in the central and southern Plains, and even the central or upper New York may see lighter, freezing rains by the night of December 25 (local time).

More than 30.5 cm (1 foot) of snowfall is expected across parts of North Dakota, northern and western South Dakota, and northern Minnesota while at least 15 cm (6 inches) is forecast for Montana and northern Wyoming.

By December 26, snowfall, freezing rain, and sleet are also possible in the northern Great Lakes, northern New England and upstate New York.

Some affected areas may also experience blowing and drifting snow and blizzard conditions.

Featured image: Pressure system over the US, December 23, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NWS


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  1. Hey, it is winter now. What did you expect? Winter comes with snow, precipitation of all sorts, etc. Hope you all have sweaters and the appropriate gear that were once so common at this time of the year. Merry Christmas and, for those who don’t see this time of the year as a religious holiday, Happy Holidays. Brrr.

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