A massive storm that marched across the nation Tuesday promises to bring 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 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.”
As of late Tuesday, winter weather alerts stretched all the way from southern California to Connecticut, a distance of about 2,500 miles.
Wednesday, snow will fall both in the Upper Midwest and the mid-Atlantic. In the Midwest, widespread snowfall totals of 4-8 inches are expected from eastern Nebraska into eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin through the day, the National Weather Service said.
In the mid-Atlantic, the weather service predicted 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.
Philadelphia public schools will be closed Wednesday, officials announced Tuesday.
The central Appalachians should see 4-8 inches of snow, topped by as much as 1/4 inch of ice.
“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.
Freezing rain and ice will be especially dangerous in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania and the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina on Wednesday.
“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 Weather Channel named the storm Winter Storm Petra. No other weather companies, nor the weather service, is using this name.
In the South, several rounds of heavy rainfall, flooding and even some severe thunderstorms are expected Wednesday. Six inches of rain could swamp parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, where flood watches and warnings have been posted.
The deluges will continue for several days; as much as 10 inches are possible in some areas. The rain will soak the area late this week into the weekend. Severe thunderstorms may also be a concern in parts of the lower Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley.
Florida was exempt from the chill: Temperatures soared into the 80s in many areas. Several Florida cities set record highs Monday and Tuesday, including Vero Beach, which tied an all-time February record of 89 degrees Tuesday. Naples hit 90 degrees Tuesday, also a February record high.
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.