New Weather System to Bring Beneficial Rockies Snow, Southwest Rain and May Create Wintry Mess in Plains, Midwest, Northeast

Brian Donegan
Published: February 12, 2018

Another active week of weather is ahead as a new system is expected to bring snow and rain to the parched Rockies and Southwest, then at least some snow or ice to parts of the Plains, Midwest and Northeast mid- to late-week.

(MORE: Winter Storm Central)

We'll break down this complicated setup below and dive into the some of the forecast details.

Welcome Snow, Rain For Rockies and Southwest

A combination of two weather systems will bring snow and rain to the West this week.

  • Through Tuesday: One upper-level weather system will bring rain showers to parts of Southern California and the Southwest as snow falls from the Sierra into the high country of the Great Basin, canyonlands of Utah and Rockies of Colorado.
  • Tuesday Night-Thursday: A second weather system will arrive in the Northwest, eventually spreading snow to the rest of the Rockies and adjacent High Plains.


Rain and Snow Forecast Through Thursday

This precipitation won't quench the Southwest and Rockies rain and snow deficits, but it will provide some welcome relief.

Snow-water content of the snowpack from the Oregon Cascades to the Sierra, Wasatch and southern Rockies is running well below average for mid-February.

Flagstaff, Arizona, had received only 11.3 inches of snow this season through Feb. 11. In an average season, 60.9 inches would have fallen by that date.

Light to moderate snow was reported in the Flagstaff area Monday, and 1.6 inches had accumulated by late-afternoon at Flagstaff Airport. A couple of vehicles reportedly slid off Interstates 17 and 40, according to the Arizona DOT.

Also, Phoenix has seen less than a half-inch of rain since Oct. 1, which is nearly 3 inches below average through Feb. 11.

(MORE: Wildfire Outlook is Bad News for Late-Winter and Spring in Plains, Southwest)

Plains, Midwest Snow, Ice Mid- to Late-Week?

The next jet stream disturbance and associated Arctic cold front will carve into the Northwest and northern Rockies Tuesday night into Wednesday, which may, in some form, either kick out or combine with the aforementioned Southwest upper-level low-pressure system.

While that sounds ominous, the Arctic front may move along relatively fast without the chance of a decent wave of low pressure or jet stream disturbance to wrap heavier snow – or ice – into the cold air.

(MORE: Snow Ratios: An Important Role in Snowfall Forecasting)

Regardless, this could lead to at least some snow or ice – or rain changing to snow or ice – in parts of the Plains, Midwest and perhaps the Northeast late this week.

This is the forecast weather pattern that could lead to a wintry mess in the Plains and Midwest.

It's too early for exact forecast details, but here's what we know right now.

  • Thursday: Snow may extend from the Rockies and northern High Plains eastward into parts of the western Great Lakes. A few areas of freezing rain and sleet are possible in the upper Midwest.
  • Thursday night: Snow is possible from the Rockies of Colorado and northern New Mexico to the northern Great Lakes and northern New England. Rain may change to snow across the rest of the Great Lakes, parts of the Ohio Valley and mid-Mississippi Valley. A few areas of sleet or freezing rain are possible in valley locations of upstate New York and northern New England.


Thursday Night's Forecast

  • Friday: Some light snow may sweep along the Arctic cold front from the interior Northeast to the Ohio Valley, possibly as far south as the Ozarks and parts of the Tennessee Valley. Some sleet or freezing rain is possible in the southern Texas Panhandle.


Friday's Forecast

It's too early to forecast exact snow and ice accumulations and potential impacts, but for now, this doesn't look like a heavy snow producer in the East and Midwest, for the reasons we cited earlier. However, it doesn't take heavy snow to impact travel conditions

Check back with us at weather.com for updates in the days ahead.


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