Winter Storm Kayla to bring heavy snow, blizzard conditions to Rockies, Plains, upper Midwest
Blizzard watches are now in effect for parts of four states in advance of Winter Storm Kayla which will bring heavy snow and strong winds to parts of the Plains and Midwest to start the week, leading to major travel disruption. Kayla will initially bring snow and gusty winds from the mountains of Southern California into the Rockies Sunday into Monday.
The blizzard watches include eastern Nebraska, southeast South Dakota, northern, central, and western Iowa and southern Minnesota, including Omaha, Nebraska, Des Moines, Iowa and Rochester, Minnesota. A larger swath of states from the Southwest into the western Great Lakes has been placed under winter storm warnings, watches and advisories by the National Weather Service.
Click through images of #Blizzard2016 Winter Storm Jonas:
A southward plunge in the jet stream this weekend will trigger the development of low pressure east of the Rockies by later Monday. With the low pressure system forecast to rapidly intensify, wrapping moisture into cold air to its north, a swath of heavy snow and strong winds is forecast to develop north and northwest of the track of the surface low. This storm comes five years after the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011 hammered much of the Plains and Midwest. However, the areas with the greatest potential for seeing the most snow from Kayla will likely be north and west of the heaviest axis of snow in the 2011 snowstorm.
Impacts: How Much Snow, Wind?
At this point, parts of the central and southern Rockies, central Plains, Upper Midwest and northern Great Lakes have the greatest probability to see the most significant snow from Kayla.
However, there is still some uncertainty regarding the exact placement of the snow swath from the Rockies to the northern Great Lakes, which will depend on the exact track of the low pressure system associated with Kayla.
Small adjustments of the snow swath north or south could mean significant changes in the snowfall forecasts for millions in the Midwest. The southern side of the snow swath is particularly uncertain. Some cities, including Chicago and Kansas City, may see little to no snowfall at all as forecast guidance has trended farther north with the axis of heaviest snow.
For now, here is our latest snowfall outlook:
Highest chance of at least 6 to 12 inches of snow: Southern California mountains, southern Utah, Arizona's Mogollon Rim, Colorado's Plains and Rockies, Sangre de Cristos of New Mexico, western and northern Kansas, southern and eastern Nebraska, western, central, northern Iowa, southeastern Minnesota, most of Wisconsin except southeast corner, northern Michigan including the Upper Peninsula.
Some cities with highest chance of at least 6 inches of snow: Flagstaff | Denver | Omaha | Des Moines | Green Bay
Due to the intensifying low, another story will be the development of strong winds. Sustained winds may reach 25 to 40 mph with gusts over 50 mph, with the highest confidence of this happening over parts of eastern Colorado, western Kansas, Nebraska, western and central Iowa and southern Minnesota Tuesday into Tuesday night, perhaps lingering into Wednesday. The combination of snow and wind may result in blizzard or near-blizzard conditions, at times, in these areas.
Expect travel to become increasingly difficult, if not impossible in the Rockies and High Plains Monday, and in areas from the Missouri Valley to the Upper Mississippi Valley Tuesday and Tuesday night.
Roads, including stretches of Interstates 29, 35, 70, 80, and 90, may be forced to close for some time in areas with blizzard conditions specified above.
Expect flight delays and cancellations into and out of the following major airports:
Denver Int'l Airport: Monday, possibly early Tuesday
Minneapolis/St. Paul Int'l Airport: Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night, possibly into early Wednesday, particularly if snowfall forecast trends heavier
Chicago O'Hare & Midway: Even of light or no snow falls, low clouds and wind may lead to delays Tuesday afternoon into early Wednesday
If that wasn't enough, a severe weather outbreak may occur on the warm side of Winter Storm Kayla over parts of the South and Ohio Valley. More information on the thunderstorm threat is at the link below.
Winter Storm Kayla Timing
The potent area of low pressure aloft associated with Kayla is now pushing into Southern California. This could bring a burst of locally heavy rain, possibly thunderstorms, into Southern California Sunday.
Across the mountains, snow will pile up and snow levels will fall to as low as 3,000 feet late Sunday night into early Monday in the mountains of Southern California. The combination of snow and wind will impact travel along Interstate 5 through the Grapevine Sunday night.
Snow will then overspread parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Temperatures will be cold enough for snow across much of this area, but rain or a mixture of rain and snow is anticipated over the lowest elevations.
As the jet stream continues to dig south across the West, snow levels will fall as cold air drives into portions of Arizona and New Mexico. This means snow will fall from northern Arizona, eastward into the central and southern Rockies and adjacent Front Range as early as Sunday.
Kayla Intensifies over Plains Early Week
On Monday, that low pressure system will gather steam in the southern and central Plains. This will spread heavy snow from Colorado and southern Wyoming, into parts of Nebraska, western Kansas and New Mexico.
Incidentally, for Monday evening's Iowa caucuses, we expect at least light snow to spread into far southern and western Iowa, but hold off in northern and eastern parts of the state. The heaviest snow in the Hawkeye State will arrive Tuesday.
The low pressure system is forecast to move northeastward and intensify, reaching the mid-Mississippi Valley Tuesday. Again, the track of the Winter Storm Kayla is crucial, as heavy snow should persist to the north and northwest of the low track from the central Plains into the Upper Midwest Tuesday.
Tuesday into early Wednesday, snow is expected to spread into the northern Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Valley.
Kayla then will move swiftly to the northeast through midweek with precipitation tapering off to snow showers across parts of the Great Lakes by Wednesday.
With the low projected to pass through the eastern Great Lakes and into Canada, mainly rain is in the forecast for the East Coast late Tuesday into Wednesday. It is possible that some sufficiently cold air may be trapped in some valley locations of the interior Northeast to allow a bit of snow, sleet and freezing rain as precipitation first develops, but the storm track does not favor widespread accumulating snow or ice across the region.
Comparing to the Groundhog Blizzard of 2011
An impressive winter storm dropped more than a foot of snow from parts of Oklahoma into Missouri, Illinois and Michigan. Blizzard warnings were issued across eight states, as winds gusted to 50 to 60 mph with the snow.
In Chicago, this event was the third heaviest snowstorm on record with 21.2 inches of snow from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 2011. The Windy City also set a 24 hour snowfall record with an even 20 inches during the height of the storm.
The main difference between Winter Storm Kayla and the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011 is the storm track.
In 2011, low pressure began to develop over coastal Texas and ejected north-northeast into the mid-Mississippi Valley. This track was far enough south and east to allow cold air to reach Oklahoma City, Kansas City and Chicago, where temperatures stayed below freezing throughout the entire event.
Despite Winter Storm Kayla forecast to occur on the same calendar days as the 2011 Groundhog Day winter storm, there will likely be some differences in snowfall this time around.
Early this week, the low pressure is forecast to track farther north and west than the 2011 event. The corridor from Oklahoma City to Chicago should see mainly rain, as they end up near or south of the storm's track. However, this setup could result in heavy accumulating snow for areas such as Denver, Omaha and Minneapolis.