Severe weather starts off the new year


As a cold front pushes its way into spring-like warmth all week over the southern states, it will help fuel strong to severe thunderstorms across the area.

The weekend is also forecast to start off with measurable snowfall and an icy wintry mix that are expected to cause widespread hazardous travel conditions on New Year’s Day from the Central Plains to the Great Lakes.

Another round of severe storms

On the warm side of the front, ample moisture will help support storms capable of all severe weather hazards including large hail, damaging winds, flooding, frequent lightning, and tornadoes.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Saturday declared a State of Emergency due to severe rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes and strong winds across the state.

“It is devastating that we are once again experiencing severe weather just weeks after the deadly tornadoes hit Western Kentucky. Sadly, some counties have been affected by both of these events,” Beshear said in a press release.

“We will continue to monitor the weather and provide needed updates. Everyone be aware, stay safe and seek shelter when advised.”

Central Alabama, including the cities of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, are under a tornado watch until 10 p.m. CST according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

Severe storms are expected to develop through the afternoon and evening.

As they move through central Alabama, these storms have the potential to produce tornadoes, some of which could be strong, noted SPC. Additionally, these storms may produce damaging wind gusts up to 70 mph and large hail.

The SPC also issued a tornado watch for portions of southeast Arkansas, northern Louisiana and central Mississippi until 8 pm CST.

And a tornado watch is in effect for northern Alabama, northern Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee until 3 am EST, according to the SPC.

Clusters of severe storms containing embedded supercells will continue to quickly spread in the region through the late evening and early overnight hours.

These storms may produce tornadoes, some of which could be intense, noted SPC. Additionally, these storms may produce damaging wind gusts up to 70 mph.

Storms developing in these areas have the potential to produce damaging wind gusts up to 80 mph, SPC said. Storms in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi have the potential to produce hail nearly the size of golf balls.

Flooding will also be a major concern, especially across Kentucky, where cleanup is still ongoing from the tornadoes that ripped through the western part of the state nearly three weeks ago.

A flood warning remains in effect until 8 a.m. Sunday in portions of Western Kentucky as streams continue to rise due to excess runoff from earlier rainfall, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

“It will take several hours for all the water from these storms to work through local drainage systems in urban areas,” the warning said.

Between 2 and 4.5 inches of rain have already fallen and additional rainfall amounts of possibly a half an inch are possible.

Flood watches are in effect from eastern Oklahoma all the way through West Virginia.

Widespread rain totals of 1-3 inches are expected from western Arkansas to western Pennsylvania. Kentucky could see the highest amounts, up to 4 inches through the weekend.

Given that the ground is already saturated across Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee, flooding and flash flooding could be likely, forecasters said.

New year, new (colder) weather

After an incredibly warm December for much of the US, the new year may bring the first prolonged taste of winter for some states.

This could be the first significant snow event of the season for the Midwest, with widespread snowfall accumulations of 4 inches possible from eastern Kansas to Lake Michigan.

Heavier snow bands could result in even higher amounts of 6-8 inches or more along the Iowa/Missouri border and northern Illinois, resulting in widespread travel disruptions.

“Saturday morning, mountain ranges such as the Cascades, Sawtooth, Wasatch, and both the central and southern Rockies can expect 1 to 2 feet of snow with totals exceeding 3 feet in the highest elevations of Utah and Colorado,” the WPC explained.

You can’t have snow without cold, and there will be a major drop in temperatures this weekend.

Wind chill alerts are in effect for over half a dozen states across the northern Plains as subzero temperatures are forecast, with wind chills possible down to 45 degrees below zero.

“The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes,” the NWS said, referring to areas of Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

As the arctic air continues farther south and east it will bring plummeting temperatures to some cities that have not yet felt winter’s chill.

Saturday, Memphis will go from highs around 70 degrees with thunderstorms down to highs in the mid 30s on Sunday, with some snow showers possibly mixed in.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area, which has set numerous high temperature records in the past two weeks, will also have high temperatures on Saturday in the low 70s, but by Sunday, high temps will drop to the upper 30s.

“The strong cold air advection behind this front will usher in the coldest temperatures of the season by far,” the NWS office in Dallas/Ft. Worth said.

Did you say cold? Why not play some hockey? The Winter Classic outdoor game traditionally played on New Year’s Day will be in Minneapolis this year, and it’s going to be a cold one.

The high temperature on Saturday is only supposed to reach -2 degrees, but will be even colder when the game begins at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) with a downright frozen temperature of -5 and a wind chill hovering around -20 degrees.

It could go down as the coldest outdoor NHL hockey game in history if those temperatures pan out.

CNN’s Alaa Elassar and Gene Norman contributed to this report.



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