A major winter storm system is expected to wallop parts of the U.S. with heavy snow and rain over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, meteorologists have warned.

The Upper and Middle Mississippi Valley could get heavy snow on Friday, with potentially freezing rain set to fall over parts of the Carolinas and Southern Appalachians this weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

“The snow will result in reduced visibility and hazardous driving conditions,” the weather service said.

The system is already producing snowfall in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, with heavy snow in parts of Minnesota and Iowa coming down at rates of one to two inches per hour. Fifty-one million people are under winter storm warnings, watches and advisories from the Upper Midwest into the Southeast and the interior Northeast.

In a weekend forecast, NBC’s “TODAY” weather anchor Al Roker said the storm system could bring six to 12 inches of snow stretching from the Dakotas down to Missouri.

Rain is also expected to develop over parts of the Middle Mississippi Valley on Friday night going into Saturday morning, with isolated pockets of freezing rain also possible, according to the weather service.

The weather service said the rain would expand into the Tennessee Valleys on Saturday and change to snow by the evening, with snowfall expected over parts of Arkansas.

Overnight Saturday, the rain is expected to move into parts of the Southeast as it changes to snow over parts of the Tennessee Valley, the weather service said.

Snow is also expected to develop over parts of the Central/Southern Appalachians, with pockets of rain and freezing rain potentially developing over the Carolinas and Southern Appalachians overnight Saturday into Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, strong gusty winds are expected over parts of the Northeast from Friday afternoon into Saturday morning amid high pressure over East-Central Canada and an area of low pressure moving northward off the Carolina Coast towards the Northeast Coast.

Light snow is expected to reach parts of the Northeast on Friday, with heavy snow expected to fall over parts of southeastern Maine overnight on Friday.

Roker said the system was expected to move south before making its way up the eastern coast into Sunday and Monday, bringing heavy wind and rain if it continues along its expected track.

On Sunday, a wintry mix is expected to hit parts of the Southeast, including Atlanta, as a significant ice storm unfolds across the Carolinas.

Heavy snow along the Appalachians is also expected to ramp up in coverage and intensity as snow moves into the mid-Atlantic, including in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

By Monday, a mix of rain and snow is likely for the Interstate 95 corridor, with the heaviest snow expected north and west across interior locations.

Chantal Da Silva

Chantal Da Silva is a breaking news editor for NBC News Digital based in London. 


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