KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whether you’re traveling locally or heading out of town for the holidays this week, you’re likely already thinking about how the upcoming winter storm will affect your plans.
The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Chill Warning and a Winter Storm Watch for the Kansas City area. The warning runs from midnight Thursday through noon Saturday, and the storm watch, which could be upgraded, is in effect from Thursday morning to Friday evening.
A strong cold front will move through Wednesday night, sending temperatures plummeting.
FOX4’s Weather Team expects temperatures will be in the single digits Thursday and Friday — and they won’t really make it past that until Christmas Day.
But the cold isn’t the only problem. Strong winds, with gusts up to 50 mph possible, will also lead to incredibly cold wind chills of 30-40 below zero at times.
In all, temperatures will likely feel like they are below zero for about 72 hours.
Making things more complicated, meteorologists expect accumulating snow. The NWS is now predicting 2-4 inches of snow for most, and FOX4’s Weather Team is forecasting 1-4 inches at this time.
The strong winds and accumulating snow will create near-whiteout and blizzard conditions for the Midwest, including the Kansas City area.
When to travel
Travel will be very difficult from Wednesday night into Friday night, and experts are urging people to leave for holiday trips before the storm hits if possible.
The National Weather Service released more information on the best — and worst — times to travel as this winter storm moves through the Kansas City area.
The agency said if you’re driving in Kansas City, you’ll be safe to travel Wednesday morning through early evening. But starting by about 9 p.m. drivers should use caution.
If you’re heading north to St. Joseph or Kirksville, it’s safe to travel through Wednesday afternoon. But the NWS says to use caution starting in the early evening.
If you’re driving in mid-Missouri, such as Sedalia, it’s safe to travel through Wednesday night. Around 3 a.m. Thursday, drivers should start using caution on the roads.
When not to travel
The NWS says travel is not recommended in Kansas City starting at midnight Thursday through Thursday evening. By about 9 p.m. Thursday, drivers should use caution if they have to be on the roads.
St. Joseph and Kirksville are in a similar spot. Travel is not recommended in St. Joseph starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday until Thursday early evening. Then drivers should make sure they use caution on the roads.
In Kirksville, the NWS said travel isn’t recommended starting at midnight Thursday through late Thursday evening.
In Sedalia, travel isn’t recommended starting around 6 a.m. Thursday through that evening. By 9 p.m. if you have to be on the roads, use extreme caution.
Other popular travel destinations
Meteorologists also expect this storm system to hit many other popular cities for holiday travel. If you’re heading out of town, here’s what you should know about driving in some nearby destinations:
The Springfield area is also preparing for accumulating snowfall, likely 1-2 inches, and gusty, cold winds. The NWS warns it will likely lead to slick roadways and low visibility starting Thursday morning through early evening.
St. Louis area forecasters are predicting anywhere from 2-6 inches of snow across the region. The National Weather Service says the system will move into the area early Thursday morning and continue throughout the day.
The agency expects the worst conditions in the St. Louis area to be from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., leading to reduced visibility and “treacherous driving.”
The NWS in Omaha said the worst travel conditions will be from roughly midnight Thursday to early Friday morning. The agency still expects at least moderate travel risks from noon Wednesday to about 6 p.m. Friday.
Des Moines, Iowa
The Des Moines NWS is expecting widespread moderate-to-heavy snowfall across most of the state. The agency said the storm will move into northwest Iowa by mid-to-late day and travel conditions will deteriorate from there.
On Thursday and Friday, the NWS said travel might become dangerous or impossible at times. Driving is not recommended on these days. By Saturday, the agency said strong winds might result in blowing snow, causing more travel problems.
It should be safe to travel Wednesday and Thursday morning in Chicago, but forecasters are expecting snow to develop Thursday afternoon. The NWS in Chicago said travel conditions will rapidly deteriorate before the evening commute.
From there, travel will be difficult or impossible from Thursday evening to Friday evening. The snow will stop falling, but still keep blowing around on Saturday, making driving difficult still on Christmas Eve.
The frigid temperatures move into the Denver area on Wednesday afternoon. The NWS in Boulder said it could be the coldest day in the area in over 30 years.
Snow is expected across most of the area starting Wednesday night, making travel hazardous. The NWS said the Interstate 25 corridor and eastern plains could see 2-5 inches, and the mountains could see up to 12 inches of snow.
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