Environmental, Science

Pre-Thanksgiving Cold Wave to Plunge Into Central, Eastern US This Weekend

snowfall possible
Snowfall possible for this weekend. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)

By Alex Sosnowski,
Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com


Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- AccuWeather reports a storm is poised to bring the first snowfall of the season to parts of the Midwest, including Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee, this weekend.

Snow will fall on approximately 25 million people from parts of Nebraska and South Dakota to portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Ontario.

People getting an early start on their Thanksgiving ventures will experience travel disruptions including airline delays through some of the major hubs of the Midwest this weekend.

Enough snow will fall to cause slippery travel along thousands of miles of highways, including interstates 35, 75, 80 and 90/94 in the Midwest.

The snow will blanket areas from the central Plains on Friday to the central Great Lakes region Friday night through Saturday.

Exactly where the swath of heaviest accumulating snow falls will depend on the track and strength of the storm.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brian Wimer, “In the Midwest, the most likely area for several inches of snow to fall is from central Iowa to northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and into part of central Lower Michigan.”

Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago, Saginaw, Michigan, and Milwaukee are among the cities that will likely receive enough snow to shovel and plow.

While a light snowfall is initially expected in the swath from southern Iowa to Toledo, Ohio, a southward shift in the track of the storm could bring heavier snow to these areas.

How much snow accumulates, especially on road surfaces, will depend on the rate of snowfall. The storm will start off as rain in portions of the Midwest. As surfaces cool with the falling snow, road conditions will transition from wet to slushy and snow-covered.

“Where it snows at night or snows hard during the day will be the places that have the most problems on the roads in terms of slippery travel,” Wimer said.

Temperatures will be near or above freezing during part of the storm. The snow will fall during the midday and afternoon hours in some locations. Both will contribute to some of the snow melting as it falls or being mixed with rain for a time.

The worst of the storm in Chicago and Milwaukee will be during the day Saturday. In Detroit, the heaviest snow will occur later Saturday afternoon into Saturday evening.

“Colder air will be drawn in during the second half of the storm,” Wimer said.

The injection of cold air could cause snowfall to ramp up suddenly.

Regardless of the amount of snow, untreated wet and slushy areas will freeze at night as temperatures plunge into the 20s and even dip into the teens in some locations. The freeze-up will occur Friday night on parts of the Plains and Saturday night in portions of the Midwest.

There are indications the storm will strengthen upon reaching the Great Lakes region. If this occurs quickly, wind, blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility could be added as impacts from the storm.

“For portions of Wisconsin, northern Illinois and central Michigan, it will seem like a storm in the middle of the winter, rather than a storm during the middle of November,” Wimer said.

Should the storm develop to its full potential with added moisture from the Great Lakes, some locations could receive a foot of snow.

Farther south and east over the region, a period of snow or flurries is likely to reach the lower Great Lakes and central Appalachians with a surge of much colder air this weekend.

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis, “This does not look like the setup to bring long-lasting lake-effect snow following the storm.”

A light covering of snow may extend to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, New York. A few inches of snow are possible over the higher ground in northwestern Pennsylvania to the ski resorts south of Buffalo and on the Tug Hill Plateau region of upstate New York during Saturday night into Sunday morning.

However, bands of heavy lake-effect snow will only briefly swing through the Great Lakes following the storm.

“Based on the latest information, systems are moving along too fast to get 1-2 feet of lake-effect snow in the storm’s wake off lakes Erie and Ontario,” Travis said. “That being said, travel along portions of I-80, I-81 and I-90 can be dicey for a time due to squalls and blowing snow.”

For those flexible with their Thanksgiving travel plans, the weather will improve from west to east across the Midwest Sunday and Monday. Much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation will not experience weather-related travel disruptions from Monday throughWednesday of next week.