For many areas, this will be a long-duration winter storm event that lasts more than 12 hours and perhaps as much as 48 hours in some cases. Over the Central states alone, snow will fall on more than a 1,000-mile-long west-to-east swath.
Airline passengers in the Central states from Denver to St. Louis, Cincinnati and Chicago can expect direct impacts due to snow with flight delays, changes and cancellations. Indirect impacts on flights can occur in Detroit, Minneapolis and Dallas.
Snow will first break out over the Colorado Rockies and High Plains tonight.
During the day Friday, rain will surge northeastward across the southern and central Plains. However, as the storm strengthens and the atmosphere cools, a change to snow is forecast from much of central and eastern Kansas to Missouri.
Snow is forecast to spread across the Ohio Valley states during Friday night and reach parts of Ohio and eastern Kentucky during Saturday morning.
The snow will continue through much of the day Saturday over the central Plains and may continue into Sunday over portions of the middle Mississippi and Ohio valleys.
Enough snow to shovel and plow is forecast from central Kansas to much of Missouri, northern Arkansas, central and southern Illinois, much of Indiana, central and northern Kentucky, central and southern Ohio and much of West Virginia.
A general 3 to 6 inches of snow is likely in this swath. However, pockets topping 6 inches can occur with up to 12 inches possible.
"For cities such as Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky and others, this will be the first significant snowstorm of the cold weather season," according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.
"Extra caution is advised when traveling as some motorists may be rusty with their winter driving skills," Abrams said.
For St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, this will not be the first snowstorm of the season, but it could end up being the biggest so far. The storm may graze Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa with a light covering of snow.
Shoveling and plowing operations are likely to be needed in preparation for the NFL playoff game in Kansas City on Saturday afternoon. Snow may continue to fall into the game.
Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland will be on the northern edge of the storm. Moisture from Lake Michigan may produce a little boost in the snow around Chicago. Meanwhile, dry air from the north may keep much of the snow south of Detroit.
During Saturday night, the steadiest snow will retreat eastward to the Ohio Valley.
However, some snow may linger into Sunday over eastern portions of the Ohio Valley as the bulk of the storm affects parts of the southern Appalachians and the mid-Atlantic coast.
Along the southern edge of the snow, ice or a wintry mix is in store from parts of southern Kansas to northern Arkansas, southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee. In a few pockets within this icy zone, there may be enough to weigh down trees and power lines, but the main concern will be for slippery roads and sidewalks.
All or mostly rain is forecast for Nashville, Tenn., but there may be a touch of ice at the onset of the storm Friday night.
Farther south along the I-20 and I-10 corridors, a period or two of rain with perhaps a locally heavy thunderstorm is in store as the storm progresses eastward this weekend.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Alex Sosnowski is an AccuWeather senior meteorologist.