Winter Storm Europa Crossing the Rocky Mountains; Blizzard Conditions Likely in the Plains For Christmas Weekend
Winter Storm Europa is moving across the Rockies and will snarl Christmas holiday weekend travel with blizzard conditions, heavy snow, ice and potentially severe thunderstorms in parts of the Plains and Midwest. By early next week, snow, rain and freezing rain will arrive in the Northeast.
(MORE: Winter Storm Central)
Current Radar and Conditions
Blizzard warnings are in effect for much of North Dakota and western and central South Dakota. Winter storm warnings have been posted from the high country of California and the Great Basin, including the Salt Lake Valley, to the high country of Colorado, parts of the northern Plains and a portion of northern Minnesota. Winter storm watches stretch as far east as northern Wisconsin.
Winter Storm, Blizzard Alerts
Europa’s bullish southward plunge of the jet stream is now carving through the West.
That energy will plow across the Rockies, then pivot over the Plains states, intensifying an area of surface low pressure this weekend.
Snow, strong winds and some ice will affect locations along the path of this storm, likely causing travel delays for anyone taking to the roads and skies this holiday weekend in those regions.
First, we’ll step through the timeline, then touch on how much snow, wind and ice may occur.
Snow, heavy in spots, will fall from the northern Rockies to the Great Basin and higher elevations of the Desert Southwest and southern California.
Many lower elevations of the Great Basin are also likely to see snow with colder air pushing into the region.
Saturday night, snow is likely to push into parts of the northern Plains. Light freezing rain or sleet may impact a swath south of the main area of snow as far east as the upper Mississippi Valley.
The snow could be accompanied by increasing winds, leading to low visibility and poor travel conditions.
- FORECAST: Billings, Montana | Salt Lake City | Flagstaff, Arizona
Christmas Eve Forecast (Saturday)
(MORE: 10-Day Forecast Maps)
Heavy snow will fall in parts of the northern Plains and Rockies.
Blizzard conditions are likely in the northern Plains and High Plains, including parts of eastern Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and western South Dakota.
A mix of sleet or freezing rain could affect locations just south and east of the snow, from the northern Plains to the upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes.
The southern side of this storm system could also feature some thunderstorms, some of which may be severe in the central and southern Plains.
By Sunday night, some light freezing rain may begin in parts of western and central New York and northern Pennsylvania.
- FORECAST: Rapid City, South Dakota | Bismarck, North Dakota | Minneapolis
Christmas Day Forecast (Sunday)
Leftover snow is likely in parts of the northern Plains and northern Minnesota.
Strong winds may lead to considerable blowing and drifting snow in these areas, with lingering blizzard conditions possible early.
Some snow, sleet or freezing rain may hang on over parts of central and northern New York, northern Pennsylvania and northern New England.
- FORECAST: Fargo, North Dakota | Bangor, Maine
Snow, Ice, Wind Forecasts
Over a foot of snow will fall in the Sierra, Cascades and mountains of Utah and southern Colorado.
At least 6 inches of snow are also expected in the northern Rockies, Arizona’s Mogollon Rim and the mountains of southern California.
Over a foot of snow may accumulate in parts of North Dakota, northern and western South Dakota and perhaps far northwest Minnesota. Significant drifting is likely.
At least 6 inches of snow is a good bet in the High Plains of Montana and northern Wyoming.
Parts of the northern Plains and upper Midwest south and east of the snow area, as well as northern New England, could see 0.10 inches of ice accumulation, coating trees and untreated roads. In general, ice accumulations are not expected to reach the threshold to lead to tree damage or power outages.
Areas in the purple and pink contours have a higher chance at heavy snowfall.
Wind Forecast / Blizzard Potential
Whiteout conditions could potentially occur for a time Saturday over passes of the mountains of southern California.
Wind-driven snow may make travel over higher elevations of the Four Corners (southern Colorado, northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, Utah) treacherous Saturday into early Sunday.
High winds will pick up quickly in the northern Plains and High Plains Sunday, continuing into early Monday, with blizzard conditions likely in outlying areas, even in areas receiving lighter snowfall amounts.
Travel will likely become impossible in these areas Christmas Day, lingering into early Monday, with numerous roads, including major interstates, likely to be shut down.
The weight of snow, plus high winds, may lead to tree damage and power outages, which may last for several hours, if not longer, in some areas.
Forecast Gusts Sunday Night
The stronger forecast winds are depicted by the purple and red contours on the map above.
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