Coast-to-coast storm to cause travel headaches for millions

More rain is expected in flooded areas of the South, and Chicago could get its biggest snowstorm of the season.
Image; The weather over the United States on Feb. 24, 2020.
The weather over the United States on Feb. 24, 2020.NOAA

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By Kathryn Prociv

A storm that dumped heavy rain from the desert Southwest and Four Corners regions to the central Plains of the United States headed east Monday, with snow likely for the Midwest and Great Lakes and rain in the Southeast.

The National Weather Service issued winter alerts for 14 million people across parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, including Chicago.

Winter weather advisories or watches blanketed parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas, as well as a swath from northeastern Missouri, across Illinois and into northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

Parts of western Kansas saw more than 2 inches of rain over 24 hours by Monday morning, according to the weather service in Dodge City. Snow showers were seen across northwest Nebraska, and the weather service in Chicago warned of possible lakeshore flooding Tuesday through Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the rain will change to snow across the Midwest and Great Lakes, with heavy snow possible. Winds will also increase, with gusts up to 40 mph possible that could cause blowing snow. These strong winds will also produce waves of 8-12 feet along the Illinois shore of Lake Michigan, where a Lake Shore flood watch goes into effect Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon. Rain will also move into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

By Wednesday, snow will fall during the first half of the day for the Midwest and Great Lakes and should wrap up before sunset. A word of caution though: Even after the snow ends, gusty winds will remain through the evening. Rain will continue for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, while an icy mix hits parts of New England.

Travel delays are expected from the Midwest to the Northeast through Wednesday.

Rainfall totals through Wednesday are forecast to be 0.50-2 inches across the Southeast, with the heaviest rain totals possible across Georgia, South Carolina and northern Florida.

More than 140 river gauges remain in flood stage from the Mississippi River Valley to the Gulf Coast. This additional rainfall is expected to aggravate the ongoing flooding across that region.

Snowfall totals through Wednesday will be 1-4 inches from Missouri to Michigan, with a swath of 6 inches or more possible across northern Illinois into central Michigan.

With Chicago currently forecast to pick up 5-9 inches of snow, this could be the city's biggest snowstorm of the season. The storm to beat is a two-day snowfall on Halloween that dropped 4.6 inches at Chicago-O'Hare International Airport.

Highs Monday were forecast to be 10-20 degrees above average across much of the eastern third of the nation. Tuesday and Wednesday will feature much of the same with high temperatures feeling more like March than February. Later this week, however, the next cold blast arrives dropping temperatures 10-20 degrees below average for nearly the entire eastern half of the continental U.S.

Phil Helsel contributed.