Major storm with snow, ice and rain to slam south-central U.S. Friday to Saturday

Old Man Winter will deal a swath of heavy snow, ice, rain and thunderstorms that will hit travel hard across the south-central United States from Friday to Saturday with the worst of the storm likely from late Friday to Saturday afternoon.

The storm has the potential to bring enough snow and ice to shut down travel for a time to the southern Plains to the middle part of the Mississippi Valley and a portion of the Tennessee Valley.

"For many areas, this will be a long-duration storm, lasting two days in many cases," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

In some areas, the weight of the wet snow and ice may bring down trees and lead to regional power outages.

Shipping originating from, passing through or ending up in this swath may be adversely affected.

Download the free AccuWeather app to see how the storm is likely to affect your area.

Southern Plains brace for a major snow, ice storm

At this juncture, areas from the northern part of the Texas Panhandle and the Oklahoma Panhandle to the southern tier of Kansas, northern Oklahoma and southern Missouri have the best chance of a heavy snowfall on the order of 3-6 inches.

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Surprising places you can (sometimes) see snow
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Surprising places you can (sometimes) see snow

Sahara Desert

Photos of the Sahara dusted with snow went viral this week, as the Algerian town of Ain Sefra saw its first snowfall since 1979. "Everyone was stunned to see snow falling in the desert, it is such a rare occurrence," photographer Karim Bouchetata told The Independent. "It looked amazing as the snow settled on the sand."

The Washington Post reports that average winter low temperatures in Ain Sefra are in the high 30s, so it's not nutsfor the town to occasionally get chilly enough for frozen precipitation. But it is the dessert. Average precipitation in December is less than 20 mm (less than a quarter of New York's average) so it's not surprising that it's super rare for an exceptionally cold day to coincide with a wet one.

Bouchetata says the snow stuck around for about a day before melting.

(Photo by Fred Bruemmer via Getty Images)

Hawaii

Hawaii's tallest volcano is no stranger to snow.

Some recent headlines might make it sound like huge snow dumps on Hawaii are a rare and unusual occurrence, but they're just playing into your assumptions about how the cold stuff works.

If your mental image of Hawaii features flawless beaches, juicy pineapples, and simmering volcanoes, you might be wondering where flurries could possibly fit in. But it's true: Hawaiians recently received several feet of snow. Because, well, duh. It all comes down to elevation. You can read more here.

(Photo by Kirk Aeder/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)

Tokyo

Snow isn't super rare in Tokyo, but it's really ramped up this year.

Lots of places in Japan see regular snowfall from fall until spring. But in Tokyo, it's rare to see more than a light dusting or two each winter.

Until 2016, that is.

This year, residents of Tokyo saw their first snowfall—called "hatsuyuki"—more than a month earlier than normal. It was the first time snow fell in November in 54 years. And even during the 1962 storm, there was no notable accumulation of snow on the ground. The unseasonable weather interrupted commuters, but it did make for some gorgeous photos. Here's NASA's explanation for the event:

The November dusting was caused by a cold air mass moving down from the Arctic, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Meteorologists connected the storm to the Arctic oscillation, a climate pattern that affects the northern hemisphere. Usually, high air pressure in the mid-latitudes prevents colder, low-pressure air seeping down from the Arctic. However, weaker pressure systems occasionally disrupt this barrier, and colder air can penetrate further south, as in this case.

(Photo credit KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

Cairo

In December 2013, Cairo and other parts of Egypt experienced their first snowfall in over a century. In Israel, the same storm was described as the heaviest snowfall in over 60 years. But don't be fooled by widely-shared pictures of snow-covered pyramids: There simply wasn't enough snow in those parts of Egypt to dust our favorite monuments.

Unfortunately, though many residents were able to delight in the unusual dusting of snow, the storm proved difficult for Syrian refugees living in temporary camps in the areas affected.

(Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Atacama Desert

The Sahara isn't the only desert to experience the occasional snowstorm.

The Sahara isn't the only desert to see the occasional blast of unexpected snow. In July of 2011 (which is the thick of winter in the Southern hemisphere), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite caught the above image of a rare snow cover in the Chilean desert.

The Atacama Desert is known for being one of the driest spots on Earth. Parts of it get just 1 to 3 millimeters of precipitation each year. It's so arid that NASA uses it to test instruments intended for use on Mars. But an extreme Antarctic cold front managed to beat the odds, dropping temperatures well below freezing and dumping nearly three feet of snow in some areas. It was the largest snowfall there in over half a century.

(Photo by Laura Millan Lombrana/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Texas

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas—in Texas.

When an Arctic cold front hit Southeast Texas in 2004, it brought on the first white Christmas for many in the region. According to the National Weather Service, cold temperatures in this part of the country are usually "shallow"—but in 2004, the below-freezing temps spread through the entire depth of the atmosphere over Southeast Texas. The record-breaking snowfall dumped over a foot in some areas, dusting other towns with a mere inch or two of rare snow.

So if you're crossing your fingers for snow on December 25, take heart: Freak snowstorms do happen. In fact, in January of 2011, a staggering 49 out of 50 U.S. states saw snowfall at the same time. Only Florida missed out on the fun. Or only Florida lucked out and missed the winter slush. It's all a matter of perspective.

(Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)

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This zone of all or mostly snow may be approximately bounded by Interstate 40 and U.S. Route 54.

Where little or no sleet and freezing rain mix in, there is the potential for 6-12 inches of snow from this single storm. Amarillo, Texas and Ponca City, Oklahoma, may end up in the zone of heaviest snowfall. This heavy snow band will likely stay south of Wichita, Kansas.

Ice or a wintry mix will be a major part of this storm.

In part of the mix zone, the storm may begin as rain, then transition to ice and snow or alternate between all three forms of precipitation as colder air arrives.

Areas from northwestern Texas to central and southern Oklahoma to northern and central Arkansas are likely to fall within the icy, wintry mix portion of the storm. However, parts of northwest Texas and northwestern Oklahoma are likely to transition from ice to heavy snow at the height of the storm.

"While a few inches of snow may not seem like much, the combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain can be extremely difficult to remove and very dangerous 

Cities that may be hit hard with a wintry mix include Childress, Texas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Fort Smith, Arkansas; and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Even where the storm starts as plain rain in some of these locations, it is forecast to change to an icy mix and may end as a period of heavy snow.

Areas from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, will be close to where ice and snow can mix in during the latter part of the storm.

Rain may lead to flooding in Deep South

Farther south, rain may be heavy enough to cause urban flooding from Texas to the southern Atlantic Seaboard from Friday to Sunday.

It may be best for timeliness and safety for cross-country shipping and travel interests to seek an alternative route farther north, such as I-70 or I-80, or south such as I-20 or I-10, even though there will be some rain-related delays across the Deep South.

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Snow, ice to winterize Tennessee and Kentucky and aim farther East

Farther east, the storm will continue to produce a swath of ice and snow on its northern flank.

A substantial amount of freezing rain, sleet and snow is anticipated over portions of Tennessee and Kentucky.

The details on the wintry and flooding aspect of the storm for the southern Appalachians to the southern Atlantic coast are beginning to unfold. This could be a blockbuster storm for the interior Southeast.

However, parts of central and western North Carolina, northwestern South Carolina, northeastern Georgia, southern West Virginia and southern Virginia should be preparing for major winter storm, travel difficulties and disruptions to daily activities from Saturday to Monday. Part of this area may be on the receiving end of 1-3 feet of snow.

The worst of the wintry side of the storm in the Southeast states is likely to focus on parts of the I-81 and I-85 corridors.

"The effects of the multi-faceted storm, in particular, power and travel, may linger for days in some areas after the last flakes and bits of ice occur," Samuhel said. "Many of the areas set to receive snow and ice from this storm are ill-equipped to handle a small amount, let alone the amount anticipated from this storm."

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