The National Weather Service in Paducah is predicting a major winter storm Christmas night. NWS forecasters upgraded a winter storm watch to a blizzard watch this afternoon.
Forecaster Christine Wielgos says the storm will be a mix of rain and snow starting around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Wielgos says the snow will start in southern Illinois and southeast Missouri, with rain starting in western Kentucky. She says the snow is likely to shift east across western Kentucky overnight and into Wednesday morning.
“At this time, the rain/snow line will be from Paducah to Evansville, somewhere in that corridor for much of the event. Given the intensity of the precipitation rates that we’re expecting, even a short duration of snowfall could result in a significant accumulation," Wielgos said.
Wielgos predicts accumulation ranging from more than a foot of snow in southern Illinois to between six and two inches in western Kentucky. Rain will likely turn to snow between midnight and 6 a.m. Wednesday for much of the Purchase area, and turn to snow in the Pennyrile region after 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Forecaster Mike York says to expect wet snow.
"The big caveat is the temperatures," York said. "It's going to be a heavy, wet snow. It's not going to be dry and powdery. So that's going to limit accumulations a little bit. Otherwise, we do expect even more than we're forecasting."
Wielgos says those planning to travel Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning should consider other options, because of the intensity of the storm. Power outages may be a problem for some areas.
Some sleet is also predicted Tuesday night, but forecasters do not expect ice will be a major problem.
Wind speeds will pick up Christmas morning, and hover around 10 to 15 mph for most of the day. As the night comes on, Wielgos says winds will pick up to 25 mph, and could gust up to 35 mph.