It’s a dangerous set-up that the Central Plains of the US knows all too well, as they find themselves in the middle of cold, Arctic air blowing down from Canada and much warmer, humid air streaming in from the Gulf of Mexico.
During the spring and fall, this clash of air masses often spawns severe storms and tornadoes — but during the winter, the result can be an equally devastating, and much more widespread ice storm.
Beginning on Friday and lasting through the weekend, a slow-moving storm developing over the Southwestern US will bring a stretch of precipitation across the midsection of the country. With cold air at the surface and warmer air from the south moving on top of the cold, this precipitation will fall as freezing rain or sleet for long periods of the weekend for over a dozen states from Texas all the way to Maryland.
Over 30 million Americans are under some type of wintry watch, warning, or advisory from this storm, and 10 million of those fall under an ice storm warning, which is where most of the significant impacts from the storm will occur.
The hardest hit states of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri will see up to an inch of ice coating trees and roads — making travel impossible and potentially bringing power outages to millions of residents this weekend.
The National Weather Service in Wichita, Kansas strongly discourages travel saying, “significant amounts of ice accumulations will make travel dangerous or impossible” and that “commerce will likely be significantly impacted.”
Another office of the National Weather Service in Kansas City tweeted information aimed at those who believe that their vehicles can drive safely on ice (spoiler alert: they can’t).
Ice accumulations ranging from a half-inch to an inch can cause significant damage to trees and bring down power lines for widespread areas. Due to expected power outages and travel impacts, the Kansas Department of Emergency Operations warns citizens to “make sure their home emergency kits are stocked for a 3-day supply.”
Click here for a list of what you should include in your emergency supply kit, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The temperature will be hovering around the freezing mark for long periods of time and will likely move several hundred miles north and south during the day and night on Saturday and Sunday. This will bring a variety of precipitation types to many locations, often turning from rain, to freezing rain and ice, and back to rain again several times.
If you reside in any of these states that will be impacted by the ice storm, it would be a good weekend to stay safe at home, maybe watching the slate of NFL playoff games, which include one that will see impacts from the same ice storm. The Kansas City Chiefs host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 12 PM central time and they are expecting significant icing through the morning, changing over to rain around game time. That will certainly present a danger to those traveling to the game.
CNN Meteorologists’ Monica Garrett and Jennifer Varian contributed to this story.