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Freezing rain warnings issued as big chill bites

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET: Winter storm warnings were issued Saturday for parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania in the East and Colorado and New Mexico in the West.

The National Weather Service warned of snow-covered roads with 1 to 3 inches of snow expected to fall in affected areas in the East and locally higher amounts.

In some mountainous areas of Colorado, the NWS said it expected heavy, blowing snow with total accumulations of 10 to 20 inches.


Some 8 to 12 inches of snow were expected to hit the northern mountains of New Mexico, the weather service said.

The Weather Channel said the last week's cold air invasion set the stage for this latest winter storm: "As an upper disturbance ejects out of the southwestern states, it will run into southerly winds on the backside of a high-pressure system centered over the Eastern Seaboard." 

Winter storm watches were also issued for parts of Illinois, including Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.

The weather service forecasts freezing rain will develop in that area, from central Iowa to southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and southern Michigan on Saturday night or Sunday. Travel conditions could be hazardous this weekend, NWS warned.

“Further north into Minnesota and Wisconsin, a couple inches of snow are possible before changing over to freezing rain and then rain,” said meteorologist Michael Palmer of The Weather Channel. Palmer said rain, sleet and snow could also hit the Plains and Midwest over the weekend.

Palmer warned there was the potential for a up to 0.5 inch of ice accumulation for Omaha, Des Moines, St. Louis and Chicago before rain moved in.

“The icy mixture will affect Detroit, Pittsburgh and Buffalo going into Monday,” he said.

“The band of moisture will continue to shift northeastward through the Great Lakes Sunday night and Monday with a variety of wintry weather,” he added. “Rain breaks out in Oklahoma and Kansas late Saturday and spreads northward into the colder surface air Sunday for an icy mixture” for parts of Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.

Palmer warned of “significant travel issues with very slick roadways” and also said some affected areas could see power outages Saturday night through Sunday.

However, he said “a surge of warmer air" would arrive in the Plains and Midwest by late Monday with most areas seeing the ice and snow melt.

NBC staff writer Isolde Raftery contributed to this report.