Winter Storm "Q," which has already dumped a layer of snow in Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, moves with full force into the eastern Plains and Midwest on Thursday, where it could dump a foot and a half of snow in some areas.
In Kansas and Missouri, where forecasters are predicting the heaviest snowfall, flights at Kansas City International Airport have been canceled and several schools districts, as well as Kansas State University, have canceled classes.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for most of Nebraska and Iowa, all of Kansas and nearly all of Missouri. Advisories are posted for parts of South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, northern Texas and Arkansas.
Kelly Sugden, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Dodge City, Kan., told The Associated Press early Thursday that the storm was moving a bit slower than first expected, but was "starting to get back together."
The storm was mixing snow with lightning and sleet showers, Sudgen said.
"Sugden said that while forecasters weren't expecting blizzard conditions to develop in Kansas, the Interstate 70 corridor could get as much as 13 inches of snow, and large drifts would make driving very dangerous."
USA Today, quoting weather officials, says it could be the worst winter storm in the central U.S. since the Groundhog Day blizzard in 2011, which killed dozens of people and left thousands without power.
Road crews across the Plains states and the Rockies have been working to stay ahead of the snowfall, which has been blamed for one traffic-related death so far — in Oklahoma.
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