[UPDATE December 21, 12:10 p.m.] Ready or not, it's almost time and things aren't looking any better. The National Weather Service now has issued a Blizzard Warning, on the backside of the Winter Storm Warning.
The Winter Storm Warning for eastern Iowa is in effect for 24 hours, beginning at 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) through 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 22. Ez Set Garage Door
Beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday night (noon to the north and west of Cedar Rapids), a Blizzard Warning goes into effect. That warning will be in place even longer. It is scheduled to end at 6 a.m. on Saturday, December 24.
The National Weather Service says, "For the Winter Storm Warning, heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches. Northwest winds gusting as high as 40 mph. For the Blizzard Warning, blizzard conditions expected. Northwest winds gusting as high as 50 mph."
[UPDATE December 21 10:45 a.m.] Here's the latest from the National Weather Service:
"Snow and blowing snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph by Friday. Blizzard conditions will also be possible, along with extremely cold wind chills. Wind chills as low as 30 to 40 below zero will be possible, especially starting Thursday afternoon."
A Winter Storm Warning goes into effect at 6 p.m. Wednesday night in eastern Iowa and continues through 6 a.m. Saturday, December 24.
[UPDATE December 20, 3:20 p.m.] The National Weather Service has upgraded most of Iowa to a Winter Storm Warning, effective on Wednesday.
In western Iowa, the warning goes into effect at noon on Wednesday, while the warning begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday in eastern Iowa. The warnings are set to expire as early as 7 p.m. Friday in western Iowa and at 6 a.m. Saturday in the eastern part of the state. At this time, only extreme northwest, eastern, and southeastern Iowa are not included in the warning.
In the Cedar Rapids area, the National Weather Service says,
"Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 4 to 7 inches. Winds could gust as high as 55 mph. Blizzard conditions will also be possible, with extreme cold wind chills as well. Wind chills as low as 30 to 40 below will be possible, especially starting midday Thursday."
In the Waterloo area, 3 to 6 inches of snow are expected with wind chills of 20 to 30 below.
[UPDATE December 19, 2:50 p.m.] The National Weather Service has expanded the Winter Storm Watch for late Wednesday night through late Friday night to include all of eastern Iowa, and almost the entire state. The only part of Iowa not in the watch is the extreme southwest corner of the state.
Currently, the National Weather Service is forecasting 5 to 10 inches of snow. However, they state "uncertainty remains on snowfall totals, but impacts from the combined effects of the wind and snow are expected. Thus, blizzard conditions will be possible. This will also lead to difficulty when gathering accurate measurements of snow during the event. This will be a long duration event, so plan appropriately prior to the start. Plan travel around peak hours of the storm, either before or after impacts."
[ORIGINAL STORY December 19, 8 a.m.] Winter officially begins on Wednesday. Mother Nature appears ready to make us very aware of that fact shortly thereafter. While a major winter storm is still days away, the warning bells are already being sounded.
Last week the Dakotas were buried in snow and had blizzard conditions that just refused to subside. This winter (even though not officially underway yet) is off to a roaring start. It could be our turn next. Here is what we know.
Meteorologist Kaj O'Mara, from our weather partner KCRG-TV9, told us this morning that right now it appears eastern Iowa could see more than 8 inches of snow with this storm, and that's not the worst of it. The snow is expected to start Wednesday night with winds increasing during the day Thursday, causing blizzard conditions. On Friday, blizzard conditions will likely continue, except be even worse. O'Mara believes we'll see sustained winds of 35 miles per hour on Friday, with wind gusts of over 50.
When you consider how light the snow will be, with Friday's high around zero, I wouldn't plan on going anywhere. Travel is likely to be extremely difficult at best and may be impossible.
From the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities:
Here is more of what O'Mara says:
"Wednesday night through Friday night, a major winter storm is likely, resulting in blizzard conditions alongside bitter cold. Look for watches and warnings to be issued for this system as the week goes on. You are encouraged to get holiday shopping and other preps done now before this thing hits later this week. If traveling during this time, have a winter survival kit in your vehicle."
When a meteorologist makes a post like the one below, we'd be fools to not take this storm seriously.
Winter Storm Watches have already been issued for the western two-thirds of Iowa, extending as far east as Black Hawk County, including the city of Waterloo. The watch may be expanded to the eastern third of the state as early as this afternoon. The watches in western Iowa begin early Thursday and continue through the early part of the day on Saturday, which is Christmas Eve.
Overhead Spring We'll continue to keep you up to date this week. Please stay aware and stay safe.