Snow, ice, torrential rain for 200 million people

A massive storm marching across the nation Tuesday promises heavy snow, crippling ice and torrential rain to more than 200 million Americans over the next couple of days.

Parts of 39 of the 48 contiguous United States will be touched by the massive storm, including every state east of the Mississippi River, AccuWeather said. The worst of it was forecast for Wednesday.

“The ‘real feel’ will be terrible and it will be everywhere,’ AccuWeather meteorologist Elliot Abrams told USA TODAY. “Snow, ice, sleet, flooding, you name it you got it across the country. It will feel cold and it will be messy, misty and miserable.”

On Monday, the storm dropped as much as a foot of snow in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. On Tuesday, sleet and freezing rain rolled into parts of Arkansas, where the National Guard was called in to patch a levee in an area recovering from several inches of rain last week.

As of midday Tuesday, winter weather alerts stretched all the way from Arizona to New Jersey.

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Wintry temperatures will translate to snow and ice across the northern tier from Minnesota to Maine and as far south as North Texas to northern Mississippi. Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, Minneapolis and Duluth could all receive several inches of snow, AccuWeather said.

Freezing rain and ice will be especially dangerous in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

“Hopefully it changes to all rain quickly,” Abrams said. “A quarter of an inch of ice, you might get by. A half an inch and you have branches snapping, wires down, major problems.”

The National Weather Service was predicting 3-5 inches of snow in addition to ice and rain for Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Baltimore was forecast to get a bit more, Philadelphia a bit less, but all three metro areas face an icy mess for commuters.

“When venturing outside, watch your first few steps taken on steps, sidewalks, and driveways, which could be icy and slippery, increasing your risk of a fall and injury,” the weather service warned.

The Weather Channel named the storm Winter Storm Petra. No other weather companies, nor the weather service, is using this name. 

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In the South, several rounds of heavy rainfall, flooding and even some severe thunderstorms are expected Tuesday and Wednesday. Six inches of rain could swamp parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, where flood watches and warnings have been posted. 

Florida was mostly exempt, with temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday reaching the 80s in many areas. Several Florida cities set record highs Monday, including Vero Beach, which tied an all-time February record of 89 degrees. 

The heat was expected to continue in the Sunshine State for most of the week, although even there a chance of rain persisted.

And in Hawaii, a completely separate storm was pelting Maui and the Big Island with rain and snow. As much as 7 inches of snow was forecast to fall on the summits of the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes on the Big Island, the weather service said.

“It’s just going to be a real mess pretty much everywhere,” Abrams said.


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