Winter storm watches were in effect Tuesday from Peoria, Illinois, to Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, as two storms prepare to merge and unleash one of the biggest snowfalls of the season to the region.
The dynamic storm has shifted its track farther to the southeast, causing the area’s heaviest snow to pivot. Detroit is among the areas in the new bull’s-eye.
Back on Nov. 11 and 12, a storm brought 9.2 inches of snow to Detroit Metro Airport. The storm Tuesday night might not quite add up to that amount, but snowfall totals close to 6 inches or perhaps a bit more are expected.
Chicago was removed from the winter storm watch area as a result of the projected storm path, but the Windy City has lakeshore flood warnings posted instead. Winter weather advisories stretch farther south and west to northern Missouri, including northern suburbs of St. Louis.
“Two storms will join forces to form one large storm in such a way that the corridor where 6-12 inches of snow can fall has shifted south of Chicago but may be centered on Detroit; Champaign, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and close to Toledo, Ohio,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.
“An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches is forecast, but that is likely across the southern parts of Quebec,” Pydynowski stated.
Some areas in the path of the storm’s heaviest snow are running behind the seasonal average. Sixty to 70% of the average snowfall this winter has been measured in Champaign, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Toledo, Ohio, prior to this storm. Detroit has been close to average thus far, but this storm should put the city ahead of the average mark of 32 inches as of Feb. 25.
Travel will become slippery as the snow falls along the Interstate 70, 80 and 90 corridors in the Midwest.
A separation in less than 40 miles made all the difference in road conditions across Nebraska as snow spread across portions of the state early Tuesday. One spot along I-80 near Elm Creek was completely bare as snow and wind whipped through and created treacherous conditions near Willow Island on Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Hastings.
Images showing two different stretches of interstate taken at the same time less than 40 miles apart on Tuesday morning, Feb. 25, 2020, showed how quickly road conditions can deteriorate for motorists traveling through Nebraska. (NWS / Nebraska Department of Transportation)
Chicago is still in the running for enough snow to make roads slippery, as are the cities of Rockford, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Because of the southeastward shift in the swath of snow, St. Louis will pick up a light to moderate accumulation, as will Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana; Cleveland, Akron, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri.
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Despite the southeastward shift in the snow, related to the push of drier and colder air across the north, snow is unlikely to accumulate over the immediate Ohio Valley, except toward the Pittsburgh area.
Precipitation will begin as rain across central and eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York, and it will stay wet for a while until the two storms join forces and pull in enough cold air for rain to transition to snow. The changeover to wintry weather will occur late Wednesday to Wednesday night.
Little to no snow is anticipated from the storm in Des Moines, Iowa; Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin; and Traverse City, Michigan.
As the storm lifts northeastward into Canada, strong winds around the intensifying storm will pull much colder air across the region from Wednesday night to Friday.
People who encountered wet or slushy conditions on their travels during the day Wednesday may have trouble for the drive home Wednesday evening or the morning drive Thursday.
“Temperatures will drop rapidly behind the storm to cause untreated wet and slushy areas to freeze Wednesday night,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said.
Winds could be strong enough to result in sporadic power outages. Blowing and drifting of the snow on the ground can keep property owners and road crews busy. Roads and sidewalks that were shoveled during or shortly after the storm concluded may become snow-covered once again.
As colder air filters over the largely unfrozen Great Lakes, bands of lake-effect snow and snow squalls will develop as the storm begins to pull away. Only 9% of the Great Lakes are covered in ice this year, compared to 56% total ice extent on Feb. 25 last year, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory National Ice Center.
Within the lake-effect, the visibility can plummet to near zero at times with a locally heavy accumulation on top of the snow from the storm and renewed slippery travel.
Some school districts may be closed for one to two days as a result of this storm and business disruptions are possible.
Areas right along and south of the Ohio River may not have too long to wait for snow as a weak storm may produce a light to moderate accumulation from Thursday night to early Saturday.
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