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Blizzard watch issued for Thursday

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 11:04 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 11:07 a.m. CST

If you hear loud rumbling, accompanied by flashes of light, late tonight, don’t be alarmed. It’s a February thunderstorm.

And, by the time you’re on your way to work Thursday morning, those raindrops should be coming down as snowflakes. But it’s what’s coming Thursday afternoon and evening that has the National Weather Service Office in Johnston issuing a blizzard watch.

“Rain is expected to overspread the area [tonight] into early Thursday morning before transitioning to a wintry mix ... the precipitation will continue to switch to snow Thursday morning,” the 5 a.m. weather advisory said. “Moderate to heavy snowfall followed by strong and gusty northwest winds will produce blizzard conditions Thursday afternoon into Thursday night ... Thundersnow is also possible, especially over eastern Iowa, which will exacerbate snowfall rates.”

Snowfall totals are expected to vary widely across the warned area, which covers the northern two-thirds of Iowa. Forecasters predict a range of 3 to 7 inches of snow, with minor ice or sleet accumulations also possible.

Winds are expected to shift to out of the northwest at 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph possible by Thursday afternoon. Combined with wet, heavy snowfall, visibility will be low and travel may be nearly impossible at times.

Additionally, accumulations on trees and utility lines, coupled with the strong winds, could result in service disruptions and downed limbs during the storm.