- Heavy snow was expected to spread from the Central Plains to the Mississippi Valley and Lower Great Lakes.
- AccuWeather meteorologists predict travel-halting snowfall in at least 18 states.
- Ongoing warmth could lead to hundreds of record high temperatures across the southeastern U.S.
The first day of 2022 will continue the string of recent wild weather across much of the nation: Severe thunderstorms, heavy snow, bitter cold and freakish warmth are all on the docket.
“From bitterly cold wind chills and travel-disruptive snowfall totals to severe storms and flash flooding, (the weather) will make for a treacherous start to 2022,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Mullinax in an online forecast.
Heavy snow was expected to spread from the Central Plains to the Mississippi Valley and Lower Great Lakes, with up to a foot of snow likely from northeast Kansas to the Chicago Metro area, a Weather Prediction Center forecast said Saturday.
“Significant freezing rain and sleet” were also possible from eastern Kansas into central to northern Missouri and west central Illinois.
AccuWeather meteorologists predict travel-halting snowfall in at least 18 states. Winter storm warnings have been issued for parts of nine states from the Four Corners region to the central Plains, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski reported.
Intense cold will continue to make its presence felt across much of the north-central U.S., where wind chill readings will drop to as low as 50 degrees below zero in some areas, including Montana and North Dakota, over the next few days. “The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes,” the National Weather Service in Montana warned.
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As snow is expected to blanket the central U.S., ongoing warmth could lead to hundreds of record high temperatures across the southeastern U.S., the Weather Service said. Record high temperatures are forecast Saturday from south and eastern Texas, across much of the Gulf Coast, the Southeast and Florida — and from Florida into the Mid-Atlantic on Sunday. Temperatures will soar into the spring-like 70s and 80s.
Heavy snow was also possible late Sunday from the Southern Appalachians of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina and eastward across sections of the Southern Mid-Atlantic from northern North Carolina into southern Virginia, the forecast said.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest was due for a wet first full week of the New Year. Heavy precipitation was expected by late Sunday into early Monday, the forecast said.
In the South on New Year’s Day, another round of severe storms, including the chance for tornadoes, will plague the region. Cities most at risk Saturday include Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta.
“Potentially life-threatening” flash flooding, tornadoes, high winds and large hail were possible from parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys, the forecast said.
In Columbia, Kentucky, water rescues were underway Saturday following flash flooding, WBKO-TV reported.
In northern Georgia, a tornado struck Newton County on Friday evening, downing power lines, overturning vehicles and uprooting trees, according to the National Weather Service in Atlanta. The storm damaged a school building and left a handful of people with minor injuries, the Covington News reported.
Storms also drenched southern California on Thursday as downtown Los Angeles saw record Dec. 30 rainfall with 2.57 inches, breaking the previous daily record set in 1936, according to the National Weather Service.
Snow and ice also halted traffic Thursday on a section of Interstate 5 north of L.A., while mudslides, debris and rock falls cause localized problems on many roads. A campground near a state beach was flooded, leading firefighters and lifeguards to bring 22 people to safety. And some higher foothill and mountain communities saw tree and power line damage, leaving thousands of residents without power.
But wet weather in California may offer some hope for the drought-stricken state. State water officials announced Thursday that California’s mountain snow holds 160% of the water in usually does at this time of year. But officials said it’s still too early to know if there will be enough rain and snow to offset the drought.
Meanwhile, extreme winds in Colorado fueled devastating wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes. Snow was already helping firefighting efforts Friday.
Contributing: The Associated Press