Rain is in store for Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix with snow heading for Denver, Flagstaff and the mountains in the region.
A storm packing travel disruptions will take the plunge into California and the Four Corners states into the weekend with snow, rain, wind and thunderstorms.
Not only could flights be impacted at airports from California to Colorado, but adverse weather can also cause problems over major highways in the region.
A bit of rain will fall on San Francisco and the San Joaquin Valley with a moderate amount of snow for Lake Tahoe and Donner Pass into Friday.
The greatest impact over Southern California will be Thursday night into Friday morning, when downpours will affect urban areas and snow will fall over the mountains and passes.
Enough rain can fall to cause urban flooding and slick roads over the Los Angeles Basin to San Diego.
Snow will fall over the Five (Grapevine), I-15 (Cajon Pass) and Highway 14 (Soledad Canyon). The worst travel conditions in these areas will be late Thursday night into the morning commute Friday.
According to Western Weather Expert Ken Clark, "A half a foot to a foot of snow will fall in the southern Sierra Nevada and Southern California resorts."
Snowfall has been lean over the mountains in the region this winter and problems could be ahead for agriculture later this summer as a result.
During the day Friday, snow and rain will progress inland over the Southwest. Chilly rain showers are in store for Las Vegas. The showers are projected to reach Phoenix later in the afternoon and night.
Ahead of the showers, gusty winds can kick up dust over the deserts from California to West Texas.
Most gusts will range from 40 to 50 mph in southern California and Arizona to 50 to 60 mph in New Mexico and parts of Texas. Winds will be higher over the ridges and through the passes.
With cold air moving in high overhead and the lower atmosphere being relatively warm, thunderstorms with hail are a possibility in the region.
"A general half a foot to a foot of snow is in store for the mountains of Arizona, including the Flagstaff area, Friday into Friday night," Clark said.
Motorists should expect slow and slippery travel over the high country along I-40.
Initially, rain will move into Salt Lake City late Friday, but snow can mix in at night over the Basin with accumulations trending upward over the Benches into the Wasatch Mountains, where from 1-2 feet of snow can fall Friday night into Saturday.
Farther east over the Rockies from Colorado to northern New Mexico, this will also be a sizable snowstorm during the first part of the weekend.
This setup could bring a major snowstorm for Denver late Friday night into Saturday night. At least a few inches of snow will fall from the storm, but there is potential for much more (perhaps a foot). March typically brings the biggest snowstorms of the year to the Mile High City and this one could track just right to do the job. Significant snow will also fall on Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
It could prove to be disruptive for travelers in the area including those partaking in spring break activities in a warmer climate or heading to the slopes for a week of skiing. Highways I-25, I-70 and I-80 will be impacted by heavy snow in the region.
As the storm emerges from the Rockies and pushes onto the Great Plains later in the weekend, the risk of severe weather will increase from portions of Kansas and Missouri to the Gulf Coast.
The storm will also bring a surge of warmth to the eastern half of the nation, as well as drenching rain to part of the upper Mississippi River Basin and needed moisture in the form of snow to part of the northern Plains.
Thumbnail image by photos.com. This story was published at 8:00 a.m. PST Thurs., Mar.. 6, 2013.