High-impact Christmas winter storm underway across much of Nebraska
OGALLALA - Santa Claus had no issues traveling through winter conditions in Nebraska on Christmas Eve, but conditions could be another story for post-holiday travelers.
"Santa is an old pro at getting through blizzards with Rudolph's red nose to light the way, so no worries there," WeatherEye Meteorologist Mike Karow said. "Egg nog is a nice calorie-rich drink after burning lots of calories shoveling snow."
A blizzard warning is in effect until Wednesday morning for all of western and central Nebraska. The warning includes Banner, Kimball, Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden, Sedgwick and East Laramie Counties.
"Right now the most likely areas that will see blizzard/whiteout conditions are from Sheridan, Garden, and Deuel Counties and points off to the east, where blizzard warnings start up at 5 p.m. Monday evening," WeatherEye Meteorologist Mike Karow said.
Morrill, Box Butte, Dawes, and Sioux Counties are in a winter storm warning until 5 a.m. Wednesday. Scotts Bluff, South Sioux County and Goshen County were placed into a winter weather advisory.
Karow said snow started falling east of a line from Oshkosh to Gordon Christmas morning. He says the swath of snow will gradually build from east to west through the course of Monday afternoon.
According to the National Weather Service office in North Platte, snow will increase in coverage and intensity, especially across north central Nebraska where snowfall rates could reach one to two inches per hour in Valentine. Ainsworth, Butte and O'Neill.
"Conditions go downhill as far as snow accumulation and blowing snow, especially after sunset for this evening," Karow said. "We're expecting around two to four inches Monday night, with maybe another inch or two of snow on Tuesday. However, the heaviest snow amounts, in the 12"+ range look to target north central Nebraska in places like Broken Bow up through Ainsworth. For us in the southern Panhandle, I think we'll stick closer to total amounts in the three- to six-inch range."
While snow and blowing snow will be the main factors for central and western Nebraska, freezing rain accumulation will threaten Christmas celebrations near the Iowa-Nebraska border.
Sustained strong northwest winds, with wind gusts at 45-55 mph, will reduce visibility to a quarter-mile or less. The gusty winds will also create blowing and drifting snow. Karow says winds remain strong on Tuesday, at 30-40 mph with higher gusts, so blowing snow and the possibility of whiteout conditions carry into much of the day Tuesday. On Wednesday, winds will gradually decrease to 15-25 mph and any snow showers should be done by then.
"Winds will be strongest for pretty much the entire west half of Nebraska," Karow said. "Winds will be 30-40 mph sustained with gusts into the 50 mph range from late Monday afternoon through Tuesday evening."
According to the weather service, travel conditions will become dangerous to impossible throughout the day Monday due to snow-covered roads and whiteout conditions.
"Travel, especially Monday night and Tuesday, in the open country could become hazardous to near impossible with the whiteout conditions due to the strong winds and blowing snow," Karow said.
Karow says the safest bet would be to hunker down for an extra day after Christmas, if you can. He says with winds not nearly as strong on Wednesday, conditions should be a little better for travel.
By Thursday, Friday and into the weekend, things are looking much nicer, according to Karow. He says the area will even do a good deal of melting of the new snow. High temperatures each day reach up into the 40s, with a good deal of sunshine.