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Most disruptive snowstorm so far this winter targets southern, eastern Balkans this weekend

The most disruptive snowstorm so far this winter will target the southern and eastern Balkan Peninsula this weekend.

A winter storm complete with blowing snow, heavy rain and strong winds will spread across the Balkan Peninsula into Ukraine this weekend.

For most of the southern Balkans, this will be the biggest snowstorm so far this winter.

While substantial snow has already fallen in the eastern Balkans, AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys anticipates that this weekend's snow will be more impactful, as it will be blown around by strong winds.

As the storm tracks from the Ionian Sea to the Black Sea, snow will expand from the Dinaric Alps to Bulgaria, Romania and northeastward to Ukraine this weekend. Rain will pour down south of the snow zone with a brief period of wintry mix in the transition zone between the rain and snow.

"I would not be surprised for thundersnow to also be reported in eastern Bulgaria and eastern Romania during the height of the storm from early Sunday morning into Sunday evening," Roys said.

The storm will produce a widespread swath of snow in excess of 15 cm (6 inches) in the Dinaric Alps and from southern Serbia and eastern Macedonia to eastern Romania and central Ukraine.

Sofia and Plovdiv lie within this zone. Around Bucharest, the heaviest snow totals are expected to the city's south and east rather than to the north and west.

"The highest snow amounts will be in the mountains of Bulgaria," Roys said. "For northern Bulgaria and southern Romania, rain will mix with the snow early before becoming all snow."

A transition from all rain to substantial snow will occur in south-central Bulgaria.

Travel will become difficult where the substantial snow will fall, which includes Sofia and Plovdiv. Roads will turn treacherous, flight cancellations are very likely and residents should prepare for disruptions to planned weekend activities.

Travel conditions will worsen as the storm reaches the Black Sea and gusty winds begin to howl along the western coast.

"Blowing snow will then become a concern from eastern Bulgaria to Moldova and nearby parts of Ukraine later Sunday into Monday," Roys said.

Blowing snow will dramatically reduce visibility for motorists and create whiteout conditions at times that are nearly impossible to navigate through. Snow drifts also threaten to clog some stretches of roads further.

Outside of the substantial snow, heavy rain will spread eastward across the far southern Balkan Peninsula this weekend as strong Bora winds threaten to cause damage along the western slopes of the Dinaric Alps.

"Flooding and mudslides are a threat from Albania to western Greece with 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) expected and 150 mm (6 inches) locally," Roys said.

The torrential rain will inundate Tirana and its neighboring mountains. The arrival of colder air will cause the rain to change to snow in the mountains but will likely not be able to catch up to the rain in time to cause snow to fly in the city.

Localized flooding may ensue in northeastern Greece and eastern Bulgaria, where Roys anticipates rainfall to be on the order of 25-50 mm (1-2 inches) with locally 100 mm (4 inches).

In addition to the rain, strong winds will be kicked up across the Aegean Sea from Saturday night into Sunday. Gusts of 65-95 km/h (40-60 mph) will threaten to cause sporadic tree damage and power cuts, as well as dangerously rough seas.

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Gusty winds will continue to whip the Aegean Sea on Monday as frigid air pours across the entire Balkan Peninsula on the storm's backside, holding temperatures well below normal. While rain showers will dampen places along the Aegean Sea, snow showers will linger to the north.

The worst of the storm on Monday will instead focus on Ukraine.

"On Monday, central Ukraine looks to be the area that will get the heaviest snow and even blizzard conditions," Roys said.

Similar conditions may continue to impact Moldova to begin the new week if the storm is slower to depart to the northeast than currently expected.