Weekend snowstorm set to hit U.S. Midwest, move eastward

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A massive storm is forecast to move eastward across the United States this weekend, spreading enough snow over a 1,000-mile (1,609 km) swath to slow down travel, while delivering its strongest gut-punch to the country’s midsection, AccuWeather said on Friday.

The system, which started as a rain over Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, is turning to snow as its eastern leading edge hits colder air over Missouri, and will blanket the country along the Interstate 70 corridor to the Atlantic Ocean, AccuWeather said.

Up to 16 inches (41 cm) of snow are expected to fall on western Missouri and the St. Louis area, with many other affected areas to the east getting about 6 inches (15 cm) and ice developing in parts of Kansas, Arkansas and Kentucky, it said.

“It’s going to be a mixture of all sorts of precipitation there,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Walker. “I think it certainly will be leading to icy spots, especially on bridges, overpasses and untreated surfaces.”

While the storm will spare the heavily populated Northeast, it likely will disrupt air and auto travel from Kansas City to Indianapolis, and will bring the heaviest snowfall so far this winter to Cincinnati and the Ohio River Valley, he said.

“It’s a pretty typical winter storm,” Walker said by telephone from AccuWeather’s headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.

Although the Kansas City area is expected to get up to 6 inches of snow, it should be over by the time the Kansas City Chiefs begin their National Football League playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday afternoon, Walker said.

“By game time, it’ll just be cloudy and cold,” he added.

St. Louis emergency management officials are bracing for auto travel disruptions and possible power outages, but based on current forecasts, are not expecting to be overwhelmed, spokeswoman Tracy Panus said.

“This is not the first storm we’ve had in the St. Louis area,” Panus, who is with the St. Louis County Police Department of Emergency Management, said by telephone. “We’re ready to go.”

As the system moves eastward, it will actually hand off to a second coastal storm on Sunday that will bring 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) of snow to the Washington, D.C., area before it moves off the coast that night, Walker said.

“There could be a period of ice that we’re concerned about across portions of central North Carolina and back into the mountains,” he added.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis