'Potentially historic' storm expected to bring heavy snow and plummeting temperatures

Alex Woodward
An American woman battles through a snow storm in 2013: Getty

The central US is bracing for heavy snow and strong winds, as record-setting low temperatures will plummet from autumn-like weather into a winter freeze within a 24-hour period.

Parts of 10 states in the central and southwestern US are under freeze watches or advisories, and as much as two feet of snow could fall across North Dakota within the next few days, according to the National Weather Service, which is calling the two-fold weather event a “significant” and “potentially historic” storm.

Double-digit drops will produce record-low temperatures, plunging from highs of 85 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas to below freezing conditions overnight. The Denver area is bracing for a more than 50-degree drop from 80 degrees to below 30.

Low temperatures will extend from the northern Rockies to parts of Texas by Friday.

The forecast through to Saturday also could bring blizzard-like conditions with wind gusts of up to 50 mph.

That wind forecast could lead to “extreme and critical fire weather” conditions across an already-vulnerable stretch of California, which has been prone to wildfires as volatile weather events continue to threaten the region.

The two-part storm will target the Northern Rockies and Northern High Plains, as colder air moves into those regions behind the cold front.

By Thursday night and into Friday morning, another significant area of low pressure is forecast to develop in the Upper Midwest, reaching Minnesota. By Friday night, the system is expected to produce more than six inches of snow across the Northern Plains, and up to 2 feet of snow in North Dakota.

The National Weather Service expects road and air travel disruptions through the storm, which could lead to dangerously icy roads and falling trees.

The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Centre also warned that the conditions are likely to bring heavy rains and thunderstorms, with a slight risk of excessive rainfall and a slight risk for severe thunderstorms forecast across eastern Kansas and southwestern Missouri.

On the East Coast, an area of low pressure is expected to deepen on Friday and move slowly with heavy rainfall and gusty winds across southern parts of New England.

The Weather Prediction Center also warned of one to five inches of rain on Friday night, largely around eastern Massachusetts, while heavy showers are expected much further south in Florida.

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