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Americans brace for monster winter blizzard

January 31, 2011


The Rockies got an early blast from an ice storm that glazed the Denver metropolitan area on Monday, snarling traffic and forcing delays at Denver International Airport, followed by snowfall and plunging temperatures.

Denver’s high for Tuesday was forecast at 1 degree below zero Fahrenheit, with a low of minus 17 degrees and wind-chill values at 30 below predicted for overnight Tuesday.

But the nation’s midsection was expected to bear the brunt of the latest winter storm.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning and hazardous weather outlook for the Chicago area, calling for frigid temperatures, wind gusts as high as 50 miles per hour and heavy snow on Tuesday.

The storm could be the biggest since a 1967 blizzard paralyzed the city, Chicago officials said.

Click more to see the forecast for your area.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued a state disaster declaration on Monday ahead of the storm, and at least two other states, Oklahoma and Missouri, declared emergencies in advance.

In Kansas, where icy roads were blamed for one traffic death on Monday and numerous other accidents, the governor said state offices would be closed on Tuesday due to weather.

Officials were making similar preparations as far East as Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Office of Personnel Management urged federal employees to consider working from home on Tuesday and Wednesday.

United and Continental Airlines were allowing travelers affected by the weather in the Midwest and Northeast to change flights without fees from January 31 through February 3.

The weather system was expected to bring ice storms Monday night through early Wednesday to a region stretching from the Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas across the Midwest and Ohio Valley and into New York, according to weather.com.

Snow and fierce winds were forecast to hit the southern Plains on Monday night and push northward into the Great Lakes on Tuesday.

In the South, severe thunderstorms with damaging wind gusts will race eastward from eastern Texas to Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, according to weather.com.

“When everything is said and done, the storm may well impact a third of the population of the United States; approximately 100 million people,” meteorologist Tim Ballisty wrote on weather.com.

Officials urged residents to stock up on food and medicine in advance of the storm in Chicago, which faced the possibility of flooding from 25-foot waves expected on Lake Michigan.

What: A significant winter storm will emerge from the Rockies and blast parts of the Plains and Midwest with heavy snow and strong winds creating blizzard conditions at times. When: Monday Evening (January 31) through midday Wednesday (February 2). Peak impacts felt Tuesday. Cities Potentially Impacted (not all will experience blizzard conditions): Denver | Amarillo | Oklahoma City | Wichita | Kansas City | St. Louis | Tulsa | Chicago | Milwaukee | Detroit Impacts: Heavy snow will be accompanied by high winds making for life-threatening conditions if not properly prepared. Travel will become impossible at times on local roadways and interstates. Snow drifts will range between 4 and 8 feet in some locations. Visibility will be reduced considerably during the height of the snow and wind.



What: Overrunning moisture will meet up with a shallow subfreezing layer at the surface and create a long duration crippling ice storm. When: Monday Night (January 31) through early Wednesday (February 2). Peak impacts felt Tuesday. Cities Potentially Impacted: Fort Smith | St. Louis| St. Louis | Champaign | Terre Haute | Indianapolis | Columbus | Pittsburgh | New York Impacts: Incredible ice accumulation with some towns/cities experiencing as much as an inch of ice. This is destructive and crippling amount of ice which will knock out power to potentially hundreds of thousands of customers for days if not weeks. Ice Amounts Explainer: Nuisance to Crippling

What: South of where wintry precipitation will fall, severe thunderstorms will break out starting in central Texas and moving east during the day into Mississippi and Alabama. When: Tuesday (beginning during the predawn hours) Cities Potentially Impacted: San Antonio | Houston | Jackson, MS | New Orleans | Baton Rouge | Mobile | Memphis| Houston | Jackson, MS | New Orleans | Baton Rouge | Mobile | Memphis Impacts: Severe thunderstorms will sweep across the outlined region (see graphic) on Tuesday. The main threat from these storms will be damaging winds (greater than 60 mph) although large hail and a few tornadoes can not be ruled out.


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