- More than 30 million people in 22 states are under winter weather alerts
- Storm is expected to intensify as it sweeps east, dumping snow at a rate of up to two inches (5cm) per hour
- Blizzard warnings have been issued in portions of Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota
- Heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in the Midwest and Upper Plains
- Temperatures will hit record highs for the month of February in hundreds of US cities across the Southeast, mid-Atlantic and eastern seaboard
More than 30 million people in 22 states under winter weather alerts
The National Weather Service (NWS) has warned the storm will be “extremely disruptive” to those in affected areas, with winter weather alerts extending from California to Maine.
The storm is already being felt in the Cascades and Northern Rockies mountain ranges in the country’s northwest, with up to two feet (61cm) of snow expected in some areas.
Los Angeles and parts of southwest California are also in the storm’s path, with the local NWS office warning of “the coldest storm of the season, and possibly of the last several years.”
Gale force winds accompanied by extremely cold air are expected through Wednesday, and high surf may create dangerous conditions along the coast through Thursday.
Graupel – also called snow pellets or soft hail – is also forecast in elevated parts of the state.
Storm intensifies as it sweeps east
The storm is expected to intensify as it sweeps east, dumping snow at a rate of up to two inches (5cm) per hour across the High Plains, upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions.
Blizzard warnings have been issued in portions of Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, with Minnesota facing the likelihood of gusty winds and one of the city’s top three snowfall events of all time – as much as 25 inches (64cm) from Tuesday through Thursday.
Heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in the Midwest and Upper Plains, from Oklahoma through Ohio.
Icy roads may cause concern as the winter storm system moves northeast later in the week.
Much of the northeast region has seen little snow accumulation this winter, but could see freezing rain and ice from Wednesday through Friday, with parts of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont on alert for a winter storm.
Additionally, an area from northern Texas to western Illinois faces a slight tornado risk.
Record highs and lows
Temperatures will hit record highs for the month of February in hundreds of US cities across the Southeast, mid-Atlantic and eastern seaboard.
Cities like Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee will see temperatures reach about 77F (25C) by Thursday, while cities in Florida could hit peaks above 86F (30C) – usually not seen until May or June.
Other parts of the country will simultaneously face record lows, with temperature readings five degrees colder than average in parts of Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.
Forecasters say this pattern of anomalous weather is expected to remain in place for at least the next few weeks.
North America typically faces dynamic jet stream patterns during the winter that create a battleground of cold and warm air.
Jet streams this winter have been “more extreme”, and have been accompanied by ample moisture from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Climate scientist Andrew Kruczkiewicz said the extreme weather event’s length and severity will be studied for its connection to climate change.