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30 inches and counting: As bitter chill sweeps over country, Minnesota is setting snowfall records

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A potent winter storm is delivering a mixture of snow, sleet, freezing rain and possible flooding across much of the eastern United States.

Posted: Feb. 20, 2019 5:00 PM
Updated: Feb. 20, 2019 5:00 PM

Minnesota is setting records -- cold, cold records.

Snowfall topped 30 inches Wednesday -- making this month not only the snowiest February in history, but one of the top 10 snowiest months ever for the North Star State, according to the National Weather Service.

It also marked the first time Minnesota has seen more than 30 inches of snow since December 2010, when the weight of the white stuff caused the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis to collapse, the weather service said.

With over 160 million Americans facing the threat of winter weather and flooding, Minnesota closed all public schools Wednesday because of the threat of an inch of snow every hour during the morning commute.

The Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area was bracing for the same -- an inch an hour -- early Wednesday as well. With a handful of exceptions, the federal government closed all offices for the day, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

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Of the roughly 2,600 flights canceled as of Wednesday afternoon, more than 30% of them were scheduled to land or take off from Washington or Baltimore airports, according to FlightAware. Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Newark, New Jersey, airports were also seeing flights called off.

As a potent winter storm is poised to deliver a mixture of snow, sleet, freezing rain and possible flooding across much of the eastern United States through Thursday, residents in the Southeast are being told to prepare for flooding as forecasters predict severe storms along the Gulf Coast. The Ohio Valley, too, faces the threat of dangerous flooding.

Coast to coast

The nasty weather is expected to pound the entire country, as two separate storms -- one on each coast -- are bringing winter weather watches, warnings and advisories to the northern United States.

Warm moist air streaming north from the Gulf of Mexico combined with a colder storm system exiting the Rockies to create a wintry mix Tuesday night that carried into Wednesday.

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Much of the Pacific Northwest is under winter weather warnings or watches. Las Vegas can expect an inch or two of snow, and those living in the mountains of Southern California should brace for heavy snow. Phoenix is under a freeze warning.

Heavy snow warnings are posted from Nebraska to Michigan, with cities like Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; and Minneapolis expecting more than 6 inches of snow.

Other cities that need to bundle up include Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Detroit and Cleveland, all of which are under advisories and can expect to see at least 3 inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain.

East Coast takes the brunt

With 3 to 6 inches of snow expected in Washington and Baltimore, the wintry weather is expected to last into Thursday. As warmer air mixes in, it could leave a thin layer of ice -- around 1/10 of an inch -- on roads and other surfaces in the region.

Snow or ice is expected from Philadelphia northward to Boston. A few inches of snow could fall in the region before switching over to rain.

The heaviest snow, 4 to 8 inches, is expected in the Appalachians from North Carolina into Pennsylvania

The National Weather Service said Tuesday afternoon that some areas near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border will get up to 8 inches of snow.

Students in the School District of Philadelphia -- the nation's eighth largest by enrollment -- were told to stay home Wednesday, but building engineers and those in administrative roles were instructed to report for work.

The South, especially Tennessee, will get wet

A moist, warmer air mass is bringing heavy rain, possibly through the end of the week, from the Ohio Valley into the Southeast. Flood or flash flood watches will extend from northern Alabama and Mississippi northward to Ohio.

Rain has already hit the region, and forecasters say to expect 2 to 4 more inches of rain, with 5 to 7 inches predicted in parts of Tennessee, including Memphis and Nashville, through the end of the week.

Birmingham, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; Lexington, Kentucky; and Charleston, West Virginia, also face the threat of significant flooding.

Multiple waves of rain will affect North Georgia this week. Atlanta is likely to receive 2 to 3 inches of rain, with higher amounts expected in the mountains to the north.

Parts of northern Alabama saw flash flood warnings on Tuesday night. The Birmingham office of the National Weather Service said some areas may get 5 inches of rain by Friday morning.

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