Snow, sleet beginning to hit

A winter weather advisory has been issued for the Chicago area as a powerful storm churning through the southern Plains is beginning to make its mark on Chicagoland with sleet, freezing rain and some snow.

The area will be hit with snow, sleet and rain in this storm and it will be all snow by late afternoon. The heaviest snow is expected to fall between 3  and 7 p.m.

North of I-80, snow accumulation could reach 3 to 6 inches by Wednesday morning. Some area could get 7 inches if the switch from rain to snow occurs sooner than expected, or if there is lake-enhanced snow.

South of I-80, including much of northwest Indiana, accumulation of less than 3 inches is possible because of an extended period of rain or a rain mixed with snow and sleet.

The storm bore down on the southern Plains on Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow and creating blizzard conditions in Oklahoma, Texas and parts of Kansas still digging out from a winter storm last week.

Highways in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and parts of Kansas were closed by the heavy and drifting snow that cut visibility and forced flight cancellations at airports across the region.

A man was killed Monday when his car slid off Interstate 70 in Sherman County, Kansas, near the western border, Governor Sam Brownback said. And in northern Oklahoma, one person died when the roof of a home partially collapsed in the city of Woodward, said Matt Lehenbauer, the city's emergency management director.

"We have roofs collapsing all over town," said Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill Jr. "We really have a mess on our hands."

The storm was slowly moving out of Texas on Monday, while residents of Kansas City in turn were preparing for a foot or more of snow into Tuesday.

Tornado watches were in place Monday evening in parts of Mississippi and heavy rain was expected through the night in parts of Alabama and Georgia, according to the National Weather Service. The weather service Monday also issued flood watches for parts of the Carolinas and an ice storm warning for portions of West Virginia.

Some 17 inches of snow fell near Amarillo, Texas, according to the National Weather Service. Other areas in the Texas Panhandle reported more than a foot of snow and Texas Governor Rick Perry activated Texas military forces to be ready to respond to calls for assistance.

Amarillo could break the all-time record for the amount of snow in one day of just over 18 inches set in 1934, said Kristin Scotten of the National Weather Service.

Airports in Amarillo and in Lubbock, Texas, were closed and Interstate 27 between the cities was shut because of blowing snow, state officials said. Wind gusts of 75 miles per hour (121 km per hour) were clocked at the Amarillo airport.

Visibility was near zero on some roads around Amarillo, said Paul Braun, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesman.

"I am hearing that we have a lot of vehicles that are stalled in the main lanes of our roadways and they can't be seen because of the blowing snow," Braun said.

Texas State Trooper Gabriel Medrano said the snow was too deep to measure in Lubbock.

"We are having a lot of problems getting our troopers to these crash scenes," Medrano said. "Our troopers are getting stuck out there."

In Oklahoma, a state of emergency was declared for 56 of 77 counties, with northwest Oklahoma hit hardest in the storm. All highways in the Oklahoma panhandle were closed because of blizzard conditions.

Parts of northwestern Oklahoma could get 16 inches to 24 inches of snow, with high winds creating drifts up to 6 feet high, the National Weather Service said.

"It's the biggest in the last several years, really," said James Hand, emergency management director in the small town of Mooreland. "Last year, we didn't have anything to shovel."

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