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New Year’s storm to sweep from Texas to Maine, bringing snow, ice, flooding rain and severe weather

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 12/30/2020 Jason Samenow, Andrew Freedman
map: Precipitation forecast through Monday morning from the National Weather Service. Precipitation forecast through Monday morning from the National Weather Service.

A complex storm system that brought heavy snow to the Midwest on Tuesday is beginning its second phase, when it will unleash heavy snow and ice from West Texas to Missouri and severe thunderstorms and heavy rain to the east.

The storm’s first wave brought welcome rain and mountain snow to Southern California on Monday before shooting through the Plains and the Upper Midwest on Tuesday into early Wednesday. It dumped up to a foot of snow in Iowa, including 11 inches in Cedar Rapids, two to three inches in Minneapolis, three inches in Chicago and about five inches in Madison, Wis., and Milwaukee.

This initial wave has moved into Canada but is dragging a cold front into Texas, along which a second storm is forming and is poised to sprint northeastward on New Year’s Day.

“Areas of heavy snow and ice will be found from west Texas into the Great Lakes while heavy rain and severe thunderstorms are forecast from east Texas into the mid-Mississippi Valley,” writes the National Weather Service.

Cities from Houston to Memphis could contend with flooding rain. Severe thunderstorms are firing up between Houston and Mobile, Ala. On the storm’s cold side, West and Central Texas, Oklahoma City, Wichita and Kansas City may deal with disruptive amounts of snow and ice.

New Year’s Eve outlook

As the new storm develops in Texas on Thursday morning, heavy rain is predicted to break out around Houston. The Weather Service is predicting one to four inches of rain in southeastern Texas, with possible areas of flooding.

Heavy rain is forecast to expand northeastward with two to five inches of rain falling in an area from East Texas through Arkansas. Flash flood watches are in effect for much of this zone through Thursday evening.

“Heavy rain associated with the storm will help produce scattered areas of flash flooding over the area, with urban areas, roads, and small streams having the greatest possibility for flash flooding,” the Weather Service writes.

map: Heavy rain predicted from Texas through Arkansas through Friday morning. Heavy rain predicted from Texas through Arkansas through Friday morning.

In the warm, juicy air ahead of the developing storm system, severe thunderstorms are erupting from near Houston through southern Louisiana and into southern Mississippi and Alabama.

“Along with potential for locally damaging winds and possibly hail, risk for tornadoes will increase, as shear becomes increasingly favorable for low-level storm rotation,” the Weather Service writes.

The zone where an “enhanced” risk of severe storm is present includes areas just east of Houston, including Beaumont and Port Arthur, as well as Baton Rouge and Alexandria, La., according to the Weather Service. New Orleans could also see severe weather later Thursday.

On the storm’s cold side, heavy snow is forecast to break out in West Texas. Winter storm warnings have been posted for Midland and Odessa, where up to a foot of snow or could fall. There’s also the threat of freezing rain in the transition zone between rain and snow.

New Year’s Day

By Friday morning, the storm will have lifted out of Texas and will race northeast through Oklahoma and reach Indiana by evening.

Out ahead of the storm, rain, heavy at times, will spread from the Southeast into the Ohio Valley, the Mid-Atlantic and eventually the Northeast. In this area, about 0.5 to 1.5 inches of rain could fall.

In sheltered valley locations in the interior Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, enough cold air may drain southward for some freezing rain to occur (advancing from south to north) from northwest Virginia into south-central New York between the late morning and evening hours.

map: Forecast radar Friday afternoon and evening from the high-resolution NAM model. Forecast radar Friday afternoon and evening from the high-resolution NAM model.

In the Southeast, from Georgia to the eastern Carolinas, a few strong-to-severe thunderstorms could develop in the afternoon and evening.

West of the winter storm, enough cold air will spill southward for freezing rain and snow from western Oklahoma through eastern Nebraska and northern Missouri. Oklahoma City could have some freezing rain Friday morning.

Kansas City is under a winter storm watch for a mix of snow and ice late Thursday into Friday.

Saturday and Sunday

By Saturday morning, the storm will be sweeping through the Northeast and may bring some heavy snow to interior New England with rain along the coast.

It’s not out of the question that a third wave forms along the storm system’s cold front dragging across the Southeast on Saturday, causing more rain to break out.

On Sunday, this wave could bring some rain to the Mid-Atlantic early in the day before spreading showers to coastal New England later in the day and snow in the interior, lasting into early Monday.

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