A powerful winter storm, which is being dubbed "Winter Storm Gia" by The Weather Channel, is expected to wallop parts of the U.S. this weekend with snow and ice. Snow is expected to travel along a narrow 1,500-mile-long path that stretches from the Midwest to the East Coast — impacting millions of people.
Northern Missouri and central Illinois will be hit the hardest, potentially seeing more than 8 inches of snow by Sunday, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported Friday morning. The Colorado Rockies and northern Mexico should also anticipate heavy snow, the organization warned.
"In much of swath from Missouri to southern Ohio, this will heavy and wet and a strain to shovel," AccuWeather meteorologist Bill Deger said in a blog post. "The snow will be wet and clinging in nature. Weak tree limbs may give way under the weight of the snow and lead to sporadic power outages."
More than 40 million people are currently under winter storm alerts, according to meteorologist Kelly Cass Winter. Major cities such as Indianapolis, Cincinnati and St. Louis have been told to prepare for "significant snowfall" — at least 7 inches in some neighborhoods.
"The snow will be wet and clinging in nature."
It will be the first big winter storm of the season for many cities.
St. Louis, in particular, could see the biggest snowfall in five years, NWS meteorologist Kevin Deitsch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as the city prepares for up to 9 inches. The heaviest snowfall is slated to arrive overnight Friday for the city.
"Winter weather advisories stretch from Colorado and northern New Mexico to West Virginia, including Denver, Kansas City, Des Moines, Louisville, Columbus and Charleston, West Virginia. These areas should expect conditions that may lead to periodic travel delays, including blowing snow, falling snow and slick roadways," The Weather Channel explained online.
While the storm is expected to travel east by Sunday, most cities along the East Coast won't face nearly as rough conditions as the Midwest.
New York City will probably only see a light dusting, though meteorologists urge residents to bundle up: Temperatures will be about five degrees below average for this time of the year, the NWS told AM NewYork on Friday.
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are only likely to see about 1 to 3 inches of snow.
The Washington, D.C. region could see up to 4 inches.
"Snow will overspread the region Saturday into Sunday. A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for portions of the region where there is potential for 5 or more inches of snow. Elsewhere, accumulating snow is still likely," a Twitter account for NWS DC/Baltimore said.
Travelers, beware: Several airlines have already issued warnings that Winter Storm Gia could disrupt services throughout the weekend.
Southwest told customers flying into or out of Denver, Kansas City or St. Louis to prepare for possible delays or cancellations on Friday and Saturday. Baltimore, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Greenville-Spartanburg, Indianapolis, Louisville, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Washington Dulles and Washington Reagan National airports could also face issues Saturday and Sunday, the airline warned.
Delta also suggested those with flights to or from Kansas City or St. Louis to consider rescheduling.
As of 3:30 p.m. ET Friday, nearly 2,000 flights into or out of the U.S. have seen delays and about 260 were canceled, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.