A major winter storm is forecast across much of Nebraska this weekend, and forecasters already are warning travelers to rethink their plans.
Heavy snow and strong winds could create near-blizzard conditions in central and western Nebraska, with most of the problem occurring Saturday night into Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Eastern Nebraska, including Lincoln and Omaha, are expected to receive rain, with a slight chance of snow Sunday night.
Snowfall totals across the state will vary, but 5 to 10 inches are possible in the Panhandle, the weather service said. Wind speeds of 25 to 40 mph are possible, which would limit visibility.
“It's going to be nasty for traveling,” said Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., The World-Herald's weather consultant. “People are not going to want to be on roads in general in the western half of the state on Sunday.”
Travelers wanting to reach Colorado or Wyoming this weekend would be best off traveling on Saturday, said Mike Moritz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Hastings.
“If you're going west of Lexington on Sunday, it's going to be real challenging with winter storm conditions,” Moritz said.
Even motorists heading to Denver would be advised to arrive early on Saturday, Sosnowski said, because of the likelihood that temperatures will drop quickly during the day, which could lead to icy roads.
Moritz and his colleague Becca Mazur, a meteorologist with the weather service office in Cheyenne, Wyo., said forecasters aren't certain what track the storm will take.
People should pay close attention to forecasts because the area receiving the heaviest snow could shift in any direction, they said. Mazur said forecasters have greater confidence in the timing of the storm. Sometime from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, the snowfall rate is likely to ramp up quickly in central and western Nebraska, she said.
The storm itself will be fairly fast-moving, with snowfall tapering off late Sunday morning into the early afternoon. But because strong winds are forecast to continue into the day, visibility and travel will continue to be a problem.
In Omaha, temperatures are expected to be high enough this weekend that the precipitation will fall as rain, not snow. Rain is likely Saturday night and Sunday, with Saturday night temperatures dropping into the low 30s and the Sunday high topping out in the low 40s.
“There's a good side to this — if people can stay off the roads and enjoy the storm's benefits,” Sosnowski said. “Every little bit helps.”
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